Students ‘Ring it Up!’ for FIRST Tech Challenge

(L to R) Andrew Deshields, Guillermo Ortiz, and Isai Rocha are on the Bot Squad team at SOAR High School. The team was one of nearly two dozen robotics teams from high schools across the country that took park in the FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament at Desert Christian High School on Saturday.

LANCASTER – The Bot Squad from SOAR High School spent the past 10 Saturdays – and countless hours during the week – designing, building, and programming their robot.

“We spent one month of prototyping, and it was basically trial and error,” said team member Isai Rocha. “Each of us took apart different sections and different parts of the robot, and once we were finished, we came together and basically built the robot itself.”

Their hard work paid off.

Bot Squad Team 5011 from SOAR High School and Garagebots Team 72 from Lancaster High School formed the winning alliance that nabbed the top spot at the FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament on Saturday.

The robotics tournament was hosted by PHI Robotics at Desert Christian High School, and brought together nearly two dozen teams from high schools across the country.

Students from Quartz Hill High School’s robotics team took part in the tournament.

“The purpose of this competition is to make it to the Los Angeles Regional competition, and from there, winners from the regional competition will make it to Worlds [Championship], which is in St. Louis,” said PHI Robotics volunteer Taylor Bachtelle.

Saturday’s FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament is also known as the Ring It Up Challenge, where students use home-built robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams.

Ring It Up! is played on a 12’x12’ diamond shaped field. Two alliances comprised of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a 30-second autonomous period followed by a two-minute driver controlled period.

The objective of the game is to score more points than your opponent’s alliance by placing plastic rings onto pegs on the center rack. Teams are also challenged to detect special “weighted” rings to earn a special multiplier bonus. (View a video below that details the Ring It Up! Game or read a one page summary here).

Four local high schools competed in the tournament Saturday – SOAR High School, Lancaster High School, Paraclete High School, and Quartz Hill High School.

More than 100 spectators came out the cheer on the students.

Paraclete High School’s robotics team also competed Saturday.

Proud parent Wayne Ringelberg came out to support his son, Nathan, who is part of Paraclete High School’s Robotics team.

“They just started last year and they’ve already progressed quite a bit to where they’re actually pretty competitive,” Ringelberg said. “It’s been great for Nathan to get involved in a project like this.”

Tournament organizers said the story of the day was the “Spirit for FIRST Award” which went to Team 6685 from Downtown Magnets High School in Los Angeles.

The team only had one member that showed up with only a box of parts and no robot, said organizer Kathy Stinson. PHI Robotics took the guy under their wing, and after a short trip to the PHI garage, a quick robot was built for Team 6685, Stinson said.

The robot passed inspection, and Team 6685 was able to compete, ranking 10th place for the tournament with a robot that was only seven hours old. Team 6685 ended up taking home the “Judges- Spirit for FIRST Award,” Stinson said.

For more information on the FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament, visit  or view the video below.