by Rayyan Mohamed ’25, cover image by Justin Kim ’24
As the school year kicks off, the Cheesy Poofs make their return to the robotics lab. However, this year, a lot has changed. New metal components line the worktable, new tools jammed in the drawers, students learn to use new software programs, and the lab is filled with an even larger group of people. What makes this season truly different is the Cheesy Poofs’ departure from their VEX robotics program, opting instead for a new competition: FTC.
The Team 254 VEX program spanned an impressive 16 seasons from 2007 to 2023. Previously in the 2021-2022 season, Team 254 won the VEX World Championship title. This award-winning reputation extends beyond VEX; their FRC team recently competed in and won the Bellarmine-hosted Chezy Champs tournament. Briefly in 2008, The Cheesy Poofs participated in FTC, but have only returned to the game this year.
This year’s FTC competition is named “CenterStage”. It is a complex game where robots engage in 2 vs. 2 matches on a square field, divided into two distinct phases: an autonomous segment and a driver-controlled period. In the 30-second autonomous phase, teams run their fully automated code using cameras to detect and score colored pixels, the primary game element, on the board. After, the 2-minute driver control period begins, as teams attempt to fill their boards with the most pixels. And as the match comes down to the last 30 seconds, the endgame phase commences. To gain points during the endgame, teams can elevate their robots onto preset poles, ensuring that they remain suspended above the ground. Additionally, teams can launch paper “drones” into a designated endgame zone.
FTC is often described as a combination of VEX and FRC, as it shares the field setup and robot dimensions of VEX while resembling the manufacturing, programming, and overall complexity of FRC. The Robotics program here at Bellarmine is looking forward to the season.
In mid-November, Bellarmine will host an FTC tournament for the very first time. In addition, expect the return of the Cheesy Poofs to competitions in December.