The La Cañada Flintridge Golden Gears First Technology Challenge team made history recently, becoming the first team from the city to qualify for the U.S. West Super Regional Championship FTC Tournament.
This weekend, the Golden Gears squad — which includes six members who all attend either La Cañada High School or LCHS 7/8 — will be among 72 teams competing in Spokane, Washington.
“It’s pretty crazy. We’ve never gotten this far,” said Stephen Krider, the Golden Gears’ team captain. “Normally, we only get to regionals, so I’m really excited. I’m expecting for our team to have fun, but I don’t have really high hopes for advancing past this one — although, if we get good partners and bad opponents, we have a good shot.”
The Golden Gears are a community-based robotics team that for the past six years has been operating out of his family’s garage, where Krider spends at least an hour per day and sometimes as many as four.
The team soon will make the 18-hour trek north together, with their robot carefully packed in a protective Pelican case inside a U-Haul trailer.
Krider, a sophomore, and Tyler Reese, a junior, are the longest-tenured members of the team, which also includes sophomores Ethan Cohen and Forrest Swain. Julia Krider and Laila Majid, who are both in 7th grade, are junior team members.
Stephen Krider is the main engineer, Swain is an assistant engineer, Cohen handles computer-aided design and Reese is the programmer and electrical engineer. During competitions, Cohen and Reese are the primary robot operators.
Following three years in Lego League contests, starting when Stephen Krider was a 4th-grader, this is the Golden Gears’ third year participating in FIRST Tech Challenge, which requires teams to construct a robot to do a set of tasks in a short time frame.
The Golden Gears’ robot, which is about 18 inches tall and 18 inches wide, rolls around on eight specialized wheels and weighs about 65 pounds. It features mechanisms designed entirely by the team and built using a variety of techniques, including 3-D printing, sawing and milling.
The season, which begins in September, takes place at different schools and includes 15 teams from Monrovia and the surrounding area.
The Golden Gears had a scare last month at the L.A. Regional Championship Tournament at Monrovia High School, where their robot was severely damaged upon unloading. Its fragile front end — the most important scoring device — was destroyed, but the team kept its cool and got to work restoring the robot before the first phase of the tournament.
“I realized, ‘We can fix this,’” Stephen Krider said. “At the tournaments, everything gets bashed into pieces, we just have to deal with it.”
And so the Golden Gears rallied after starting the day 18th place out of 30 teams, winning the semifinal match by nearly 100 points and then overcoming the prestigious Bomb Squad Robotics team in the final.
“We had won!” said Krider, who hopes to study engineering in college. “My team and I were ecstatic.”