About Coyote Robotics

Coyote Robotics is a Northern Virginia non-profit organization that is dedicated to inspiring students to follow careers in math, science, and technology through the fun and engaging FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition.

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The program had its genesis in the summer of 2006 when the Alexa Warden, Director of the GW Community School, approached Gary Lindner, GWCS Math Department Chairman and Network Administrator, with the desire to provide GWCS students with the opportunity to participate in various science and technology competitions, such as the robotics competitions sponsored by FIRST. During the 2006-2007 school year, GWCS offered an elective class called “Applied Mechanics”, intended to achieve this goal. During the first two years, the Applied Mechanics class researched possible events in which to participate, and actually participated in the “FIRST VEX Challenge” robotics league and the “Rube Golberg/Chain Reaction Contraption” contest sponsored by the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburg, PA. Beginning with the 2008-2009 school year, the class was renamed “Robotics: Design & Programming” and refocused on the FIRST Tech Challenge program.

2006-2007 School Year

Ben, Andy, and Danny working on the robot.

Our first year, our “Coyotes” FVC Team 365 of Andy Feeney, Danny Woolston, Ben Schaps and Dan Morrill built a robot to play that year’s game, “Hangin’ Around”, which used softballs to score. After attending some workshops and scrimmages, and spending some late afternoons at school, we participated in the Virginia Championship of the FIRST Vex Robotics Challenge at Longwood University in Farmville. With Andy adjusting the software after each match, all the boys fixing and improving between matches, and Ben and Danny driving, the team finished ranked 14th out of 29 teams after the qualifying matches. We moved up to Captain the 8th-seed alliance of 3 robots for the elimination round, but lost in the quarterfinals to the top seed and eventual champion. Thanks to Andy’s programming skill, our robot had one of the most effective autonomous routines, whereas many teams had none.

2007-2008 School Year

While e (Coyote), our 2007-2008 robot.

For 2007-2008, the program was renamed FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) in preparation for a migration away from the Vex hardware platform, and our team number was changed to 965. The game for the season, called Quad Quandary, used 1-inch rings of 3” PVC pipe as the scoring elements which were scored in a variety of ways. Our Coyotes Team returned with Ben and Danny from the previous season, and added Joseph Esposito, Brendan Towle, William McCarty, Joe Ramsay-Clark, Patrick Maton, Josh Butler, Adam Lowenthal, and Aidan Doyle.

Our first competition of the season was the Virginia FTC Championship in Charlottesville in early December. Ben, Danny, Joseph Esposito and Brendan made the trip, and the team finished the qualifying rounds ranked 12th out of 46 teams. Again we captained the 8th-seeded alliance for the Elimination Round, but again fell to the 1st seed alliance in the quarter finals.

In February we took and improved robot, now named “while (e) {coyote}”, to a scrimmage at the National Building Museum Family Engineering Day in DC. We and our randomly assigned alliance partners won 6 of 8 qualifying matches, and we were in 4th place. We teamed with the 2nd place team against the 1st and 3rd teams in a Play-Off an won the day with our alliance partners! A week later we participated in the Maryland FTC Championship but failed to make the Championship round.

While e (Coyote), our 2007-2008 robot.

By the end of March we had organized a second team, “Killer Penguins”, and took two robots to an event at Manassas, where we competed well and had fun. Finally, in mid-April, we took both teams and robots down to Virginia Beach for the 1st Annual ECPI Robotics Tournament. Out of 11 teams, the Coyotes with Joseph Esposito and Brendan finished qualifying in 4th place while the Killer Penguins with Joe Ramsay-Clark and William McCarty placed 5th. The Killer Penguins were invited to join the 3rd seed alliance, so both teams advanced to the elimination round. The Coyotes and their alliance partner lost a close semi-final match to the 1st seed alliance. The Killer Penguins and their alliance partner won a close semi-final match against the 2nd seed alliance, then beat the 1st seed alliance in a close final match to take the championship! We took home a nice trophy, $100 Best Buy gift cards for Joseph and Brendan, plus $1,000 scholarships if they attended ECPI. Our successful season was crowned by a $2,500 FIRST Robotics Scholarship awarded to Danny Woolston leaving to attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona.

2008-2009 School Year

Students work on the robot at the 2009 FTC Maryland Regional Championship

In our third season, FTC changed to the new Tetrix hardware platform, so we needed to learn to use the new hardware and software. The game for the season, Face Off, used plastic street-hockey pucks to score, which had to be retrieved from loaders mounted on the field walls or from the floor, and included having one robot start on a platform off-field and descend a ramp into the playing field. Team 965 returned Ben Schaps, Joseph Esposito, Joe Ramsay-Clark, and William McCarty from the previous season, Andy Feeney from our first season, added Annie Cosgrove-Davies, and Joseph Mathewson, and renamed themselves “Murphy’s Law”.

After a steep learning curve and a mad scramble to produce a working robot named “Snaphoo” (that continued in the hotel the night before and all day during the event), Andy, Annie, Joseph Mathewson, Joseph Esposito, William McCarty, and School Spirit Leader Blake Colling-Hottell made the trip to Charlottesville in early December for the FTC Virginia Regional Championship. We struggled all day with hardware failures, damage, software changes, weak alliance partners, exhaustion, and disappointment. We improved each match, and made a respectable showing, but did not qualify for the elimination round.

We learned a lot in Charlottesville and saw a lot of good ideas. In January Callie Askew joined the team and we worked hard to improve our robot and prepare for the FTC Maryland Regional Championship in late February. Andy, Annie, Ben, Joseph Esposito, Joseph Mathewson and Callie made the trip to the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata. After a last-minute Friday-night hardware modification, Snaphoo driven by Ben scored many pucks and provided stiff competition. Unfortunately, our poor luck of the draw gave us only weak alliance partners. With finished qualifying rounds 23rd out of 39, and again missed the elimination rounds.

Coyote Robotics at ECPI

Determined to get it right, when worked hard again to improve our hardware, software, and driving before defending out title at the 2nd Annual ECPI Robotfest in Virginia Beach at the end of May. Unfortunately, the event conflicted with our Prom so we went down without our seniors, taking only Joseph Esposito, Joseph Mathewson, Joe Ramsay-Clark, and William McCarty. The boys worked hard all day constantly modifying and improving the hardware and software. Reaching the finals, and exciting three-game match ended in a tie, requiring an extra “Sudden-Death” overtime game. When our alliance partner’s robot failed to respond, Will was forced to take on two other great robots by himself. Driving like a master, scoring, defending, and driving back up the ramp in the last few seconds, Will brought the trophy home again with a win, 131 points to 117.

2009-2010 School Year

In September 2009 we added a second class and a second official team, #3749 Lambkins. Team 965 Murphy’s Law returned Joseph Esposito, Joseph Mathewson, William McCarty and Callie Askew from the previous season and added Drew Rose, Anne Marie McDonald and Josh Barton. The Lambkins started with returnees Joe Ramsay-Clark and Patrick Maton, adding Wendy Carey, Blake Colling-Hottell, and Jon Stephens.

Early version of the Murphy's Law Robot

The game for the new season, Hot!Shot!, used plastic whiffle-baseballs, dumped from tubes of 15 in each corner of the field and scored by shooting them around the field, into rotating goals, and off-field. Both teams began prototyping shooting mechanisms, and took already well developed, functioning and programmed robots to the workshot/scrimmage in Richmond in late November, two of only 3 or 4 functioning robots out of 13 teams.

Fresh from that success, and dealing with a growing program that included a full 25% of the student body, we decided to organize a separate non-profit organization to help fund and operate our program. Coyote Robotics was born at an organizational meeting on December 1, 2009. The elected officers were Joseph Esposito, President and Student Director; Gary Lindner, Vice- President and Mentor-Director; Holly Gillcash, Treasurer and Mentor Director; Genie Barton Mentor Director; and Callie Askew Student Director.

Blake works on the Lambkins Robot.

Unfortunately, the next few months proved frustrating. The December 19 Qualifying Event-North in nearby Oakton was postponed by a big snowstorm. The January 23 Qualifying Event-West was cancelled due to lack of volunteer support. The Qualifying Event-North rescheduled for January 30 started off OK, but 6 inches of snow fell after we arrived and we had to shut down, pack-up and leave by 12:30 PM.

Finally, the FTC Virginia Regional Championship arrived February 27 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. For the first time, we arrived at a tournament with our robots complete and ready for competition, the software complete with a variety of very-efficient autonomous routines, and plenty of time to practice driving. A Friday afternoon arrival allowed us to unpack our equipment, set up our pit table, get our robots inspected Friday evening and to get in enough practice to get bored. After a good night’s sleep (by most of us), FTC 965 Murphy’s Law comprising of Callie Askew, Joseph Esposito, William McCarty, Joseph Mathewson, Drew Rose, Anne Marie McDonald and Josh Barton, as well as the Lambkins comprising of Patrick Maton, Joseph Ramsay-Clark, Wendy Carey and Blake Colling-Hottell, arrived at University Hall calm, well rested, and pretty confident.

The VA Championship Alliance

Their confidence was well founded separated into two different divisions for qualifying, Murphy’s Law won 5 of 7 qualifying matches to finish ranked 2nd in their division of 18 teams. Lambkins won 6 of 7 qualifying matches to finish ranked 3rd in their division of 20 teams. Murphy’s Law Captained the 2nd seed alliance in their division play-offs, they advanced to the division finals, but fell in a close battle, partly the result of an untimely communications failure between their computer and their robot. However, their alliance finished in 4th place overall and they took home nice medals.

Lambkins, set to Captain the 3rd seed alliance in their division, instead accepted the invitation of Team 2843 Under the Son, Captain of the 1st seed alliance, to join their alliance. They breezed into the division finals, won the division in a close 3-game match, and triumphed in two straight close games to emerge in the Championship Alliance! In addition to a lot of fun and excitement, Lambkins took home a nice trophy (our third robotics trophy), nice medals, and a high place in the lottery to get an invitation to the FTC World Championship in Atlanta in April.

Upon our return, we merged our two teams and began a major redesign and upgrade of the Lambkins robot, keeping only the parts that worked very well. We also waited with crossed fingers for an invitation to Atlanta. After seventeen days on pins and needles, we received our invitation and are headed to the FTC World Championship in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta April 14-17 2010! Go Coyotes! Fear the Lamb! Coyote Robotics is now madly raising funds and organizing our trip to Atlanta. And just yesterday we learned that our President Joseph Esposito received a $40,000 FIRST Robotics Scholarship at Bucknell University, one of his many top college acceptances.


Coyote Robotics would like to thank our sponsors for their gracious support of our team:

About Coyote Robotics

Coyote Robotics is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring students to follow careers in math, science, and technology through the fun and engaging FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition.
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