If you're involved in the FIRST community in Florida, then you are almost certainly aware of Middleton Robotics. The program is housed at the STEM magnet program at Middleton High School in Tampa, Florida, and has made a big name for themselves. Having one FIRST Robotics Competition team, currently two FIRST Tech Challenge teams (formerly three), as well as participating in VEX with two teams, Middleton knows how to compete.
At ROBOTICON Tampa Bay, we had the opportunity to speak with Manu, the President of Middleton Robotics. He is a three year veteran of FIRST Tech Challenge Team 3846 Maelstrom, but for his senior year switched to FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1369 Minotaur. This switch is because of the sheer volume of scholarships that are made available exclusively to FIRST Robotics Competition team members, meaning that seniors are best-served long-term as a Minotaur team member.
Coming into his Freshman year, Manu had no real robotics experience. However, knowing about Middleton's reputation as a world championship club is what attracted him to the school and the STEM program in the first place. Having the ability to participate in a program with teams in a variety of leagues has given him a better understanding of the similarities and differences between challenges. After switching from FIRST Tech Challenge to FIRST Robotics Competition, he noticed that there are a lot of similarities between the programs. The larger scale, however, allows for more people to be involved in the build, as well as adding a need for more detailed communication.
One of the big challenges he experienced was in the schedule of the competition. FIRST Robotics Competition starts its season in January, meaning that, for the first half of a new school year, you're having to learn the old game, despite it not having a lot of real-world value. Fortunately, ROBOTICON gives students who are new to the program the opportunity to experience a competition environment and practice with last year's game and robot before their new season begins.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.
Daniele is a student at Florida Polytechnic University who is studying Computer Science with a concentration in Cyber Security. In High School, she was introduced to the science and technology world through the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a robotics foundation where students of varying ages can compete through tasks that their robots perform. With help from mentors she met through FIRST, she became interested in programming and developing. Today, Daniele is a special events host for F5 Live: Refreshing Technology and PLuGHiTz Live Special Events and a co-host for both The New Product Launchpad and FIRST Looks.