For the fourth consecutive year, TechPlayzone, Hillsborough Community College - Brandon Campus, and the Florida Advanced Technological Educational Center of Excellence (FLATE) partnered to host a FIRST Lego League (FLL) qualifying robotics tournament for 15 Tampa Bay teams. The robotics tournaments allow bright and creative students to compete in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.
TechPlayzone, a science and technology center in Riverview, FL, sponsors two FLL robotics teams: the champion Techno Whizards and the rookie Programming Thunderbots. Team members, along with their parents, volunteer at the qualifying tournament which provides an opportunity for other FLL robotics teams to advance to the next level. The two teams can't compete in their own tournament because they use it as a fundraiser. On December 8, 2012 the event attracted over 200 elementary and middle school students from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Bradenton counties to the HCC-Brandon campus with excited teams hoping to secure a bid to the Tampa Bay Regional Competition. After a very competitive day at HCC-Brandon, the Wired Wildcats and Knights of Technology both from Pinellas County, along with the Cyborgs of South Tampa won bids to the Tampa Bay Regional FLL tournament.
As TechPlayzone's rookie team, the Programming Thunderbots, cheered on the winners of the tournament, they felt pangs of anticipation. The veteran Techno Whizards team had already secured a bid to Regionals by winning the Championship Award at Rushe Middle School in Pasco County the previous weekend and the rookie team was hoping to secure their Regional bid on December 15th at Middleton High School. The teams work hard to advance to the next level.
The qualifying tournament at Middleton High School was hosted by one of their high school robotics team. The FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) Team Minotaur hosted the tournament as a fundraiser for their robotics program. The tournament had 17 teams competing with the understanding that Tampa Bay FLL Regionals would be held at Middleton on February 9, 2013. The rookie Programming Thunderbots team took the Award for Best Robot Performance. Their robot scored the highest points of the day. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to secure a Regional bid. The Championship Team was Mulrennan Middle School's Mustechs of Valrico. The other teams advancing to Regionals are: Winthrop Charter School's Rookie Team - Winthrop Mindstorms of Valrico, Panther Tech of Fort Myers, and the Ibots of Tampa.
The next FLL qualifying tournament will be at Coleman Middle School in Tampa on Saturday, January 5, 2013. The public is welcome to watch the robot games and interact with the teams. The Tampa Bay FLL Regional at Middleton will free and open to the public. There are six Regional tournaments in the state of Florida. Eight teams from each Regional tournament will advance to the State FLL tournament to be held at the University of Central Florida in Orlando in March 2013. Finally, one team will represent Florida at the FIRST Lego League World Festival in St. Louis, MO. For more information about the Florida FIRST Lego League organization, visit www.flrobotics.org. For information about Tampa Bay FLL teams, visit www.techplayzone.com or call (813) 684-7329.