We’ve gotten a bit behind in some of our kudos and elbow bumps, but we didn’t want to let anymore time go by without giving a shout out to all of our SOFIC Challenge teams from this past summer.  Please join us in congratulating all these fine teams for persevering through the challenges of COVID-19, when it was new to everyone, and getting through this complex challenge, hosted by USSOCOM and SOFWERX, in partnership with FCDI/AMRoC Fab Lab.

Their regular robotics season have just started and they face new challenges with virtual competitions and finding safe, productive ways to meet.  But they were at the head of the class mastering the COVID-19 learning curve during the SOFIC Challenge, and we salute them all!

Meet all the 2020 SOFIC Challenge Teams!

Butterfly Bandits , Orlando, FL

Team Bio: The members of our team have participated in 5 unique robotics competitions in the past, giving us a variety of skills across our team that helped us be successful during the SOFIC challenge.

SOFIC Challenge Solution:  An XYZ Assembly allows us to grab the mug from any location in the box and a VEX motor actuates a rack and pinion that allows the two 3D printed parts to clamp the mug in any orientation.  The XYZ mechanism then carries the mug to the conveyor belt where it is delivered to the claw of the arm which hands the mug off to the person requesting it.

Lessons Learned:  Our team learned how to cooperate and communicate over long distances to complete a complex and time-consuming task.

Dunedin High Talons, of Dunedin High School

Team Bio: Dunedin Talons is a group of artistic students with one of four pure  high school robotics programs in Pinellas county. We have all four levels of the state CTE curricula with a VEX team that has been competing for several years. Powered by the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce

SOFIC Challenge Solution: This build evolved from 6-axis robotic arm to a fully engineered self-contained affordable solution. The purpose for building this robot in its 3D printer like form is for fit and function. Also, to meet the constraints of the contest in the simplest design.

Lessons Learned: This learning curve was through the roof for everyone involved.

Team Tampa Prep, Tampa Preparatory Academy

Team Bio: Based at Tampa Preparatory School, the team originally started with 11 members in brainstorming sessions and had 8 students who contributed in the CAD portion of parts for the robot arm named H.E.L.I.X. This summer the main build was accomplished off-site with fewer members.

SOFIC Challenge Solution:  Our robot, H.E.L.I.X., is a mobile, floor-standing robot composed of an “X-drive” omnidirectional drive base and a custom-designed arm with five degrees of freedom. H.E.L.I.X. will use a pneumatically actuated clamp to pick up the coffee mugs, and the arm will be able to extend up to roughly 66 inches high. A Google AIY Voice system has been implemented to prompt new visitors, recognize speech and provide verbal feedback of commands that the user gives Helix

Lessons Learned: We learned that making parts out of metal need to include metal cutting costs which could be substantial if we do not have the equipment to make the cuts. Also, team members learnt how to use a CNC to cut thinner aluminum parts.

Team Velociraptor, Palm Harbor Univ. High School & Carwise Middle

Team Bio: Affiliated with AVA Coding. Although we are different individuals, we came together to create something unique.

SOFIC Challenge Solution: Our robot is designed to resemble an actual arm using artificial actuators to function like a wrist, elbow, and shoulder to pick up the mugs. With facial recognition, the robot can recognize when a human approaches it and is ready to greet them with a warm voice.

Lessons Learned: Working with Unix Shells and intel processor (Nvidia).

SOFIC Challenge 2020 Winners


Vex Team 6430 Trinity Dragons, Lutz – 1st place

Team Bio: A community club based in Lutz, we are 14-year old girls who met through musical theater, and seek to merge our passion for performance with our love for learning and engineering.

SOFIC Challenge Solution:  In order to fulfill this challenge, we have developed a robot using primarily modified VEX V5 components and our philosophy of KISS: keep it simple & sane.  By combining several simple mechanical principles, we built a robot that performs a complex task.

Lessons Learned: Through this experience Annie learned how to program using C++, use CAD Autodesk, and compare/contrast/build a virtual four-bar lift.  Olivia learned how to build with metal components (vs. Vex IQ plastic systems), program a V5 animated face, and build a robust scissor lift; and Eva succeeded in building several mechanisms she has never attempted before.

D&R Robotics, Apollo Beach – 2nd

Team Bio: D&R Robotics is a community team of homeschoolers. As a team of only two, we decided to combine our individual interests of programming and mechanical interests to make a robotics team. We each have skills the other doesn’t,   that are necessary to succeed in the robot challenge.

SOFIC Challenge Solution: To deliver the mugs we built a floor-standing robot that operates with vision and motor encoded sensors to operate autonomously. The robot directly hands the mug to the visitor to give a more interactive experience while communicating with voice lines. It picks up upside-down mugs with a clamping mechanism after scanning with a vision sensor camera.

Lessons Learned: Having a detailed blueprint from our design proposal to guide us through certain parts of the building process helped us approach the challenge much quicker and efficiently.

McLane Middle School Vibots, Brandon – 3rd place

Team Bio: The Vibots hail from  McLane Middle School in Brandon. The Vibots are an all-girl STEM team that compete in numerous engineering events. Team captain Kayla Pagan is also a member of her JROTC unit at Lynnard High School.

SOFIC Challenge Solution: Our solution was to use basic components to build a humanoid type robot that can be positioned behind a table, rotate on a turret, use a claw to retrieve a souvenir cup and hand it to a visitor. We decided to place a robot torso on a stool to give it the same height position as a person sitting at the booth. Due to the difficulty of removing cups from a box on the floor we decided to place the cups on a platform behind the table.

Lessons Learned:  The team learned how to use both the VEX V5 and Raspberry Pi to program the robot exposing them to new robotic technology.

Team TBTA, Largo High School & Palm Harbor University High School – 4th place

Team Bio: Team TBTA is affiliated with Tampa Bay Technology Organization, Palm Harbor University High School and Largo High School. Originally, Team TBTA started with less than nothing, the SOFIC Challenge was the first robotics competition they had ever competed in and the team had no idea how they were going to finish their robot. To help, Team TBTA decided to expand and incorporate members from Palm Harbor University High School’s World Champion Robotics Club, and now Team TBTA thinks they have a shot at winning it all!

SOFIC Challenge Solution: TBTA approached the challenge with a unique, two-phase, non-drivetrain robot that is able to store and hand up to 14 mugs autonomously to visitors. Phase I, the distribution phase, stores 3 mugs at a time and features a rotating table as well as a parallel lift to quickly and precisely interact with visitors; Phase II, the supply phase, features a multi-axis claw that expands inside the mugs to efficiently transfer all 12 mugs from the carrier to Phase 1. Known as Dr. Krunklehorn, Team TBTA’s robot is able to hand a mug to a visitor in under 20 seconds, while also resupplying another mug.

Lessons Learned: As Team TBTA’s first Robotics challenge, we learned how our first design almost never works and it takes over 100 hours and 10 designs to complete a fully functional, autonomous robot!

Congratulations to all these amazing teams!