Piedmont had one First Tech Challenge (FTC) team, Scotbotics, for many years which was a community-based club composed of high school students. In the summer of 2016, families with children that had common interests in RC cars and drones began to discuss developing an additional FTC team for middle school students. With a generous donation of both funds and workspace from a local businesswoman, the Piedmont Pioneers, FTC team 11201, started. The 2016 season was a fantastic learning experience. Three of the founding Pioneer members are also founding members of our team. One member continues to mentor the Pioneers on a weekly basis. For the past two FTC seasons, members of our team have qualified for the FTC Regional Championships in Northern California.
Fast forward to the 2018-19 FTC season. Piedmont Makers hosted the first FTC Qualifier in Piedmont. One of our lead mentors, Helen Potter, was the Tournament Director, and several mentors and students worked at the Regional FTC tournament. At the same time, FIRST Lego League had taken off among the younger children in Piedmont. In the spring of 2019, we visited many local FRC teams and also began to reach out to the FIRST organization and universities to recruit mentors for our team. Two FRC teams in Berkeley demonstrated their 2019 robots at Piedmont Makers events to generate interest among students and the community. From these experiences, we realized that there was tremendous support available to help get a FRC team started.
After three years of strong growth at all levels of robotics in Piedmont, we clearly had enough interest, skills and maturity to start a FRC team in Piedmont. A good analogy for FTC versus FRC is regular math versus honors math. Piedmont Unified School District offers many advanced curriculum options to students. We wanted to offer a more advanced robotics option for students interested in continuing to develop their skills that would be supported by the School District as well as the Community.