The Spartan Six (L to R): sophomores Evan Wenger, Erik Stolz, Colton Hook, Natan Getschel, Kendall Richter (not pictured, #6: The Robot).

TJ Robotics team “The Spartan Six” made it to the final round of the State Competition.

On February 28th at the FIRST Tech Challenge State Competition, one of TJ’s four teams that made it to the State Finals, won every match of the qualifying portion of the day, and was the number one seed going into finals. “The Spartan Six” looked like they were going to win it all, but lost a heartbreaking match in the last round of the finals. The TJ sophomore robotics team was still proud to take home the 2nd place trophy, and are optimistic

The TJ Robotics teams enjoy a new level of success at the First Tech Challenge regional competition, sending three teams to the state finals.


Last year at the First Tech Challenge competition, inaugural-year rookie teams from Thomas Jefferson High School were pleased just to have robots that could compete and not fall apart, and they went home happy without any state playoff berths.  This year things were different.

“At one point I looked up at the scoreboard and out of 26 teams competing from around the metro area, TJ was in first, second, fourth, sixth and eighth places.  Wow!  We’ve picked up our game a lot in just one year,” said Matt Spampinato, one of the four robotics coaches here at TJ.

On Saturday, February 9th, at the regional FTC Robotics challenge at Highlands Ranch High School, TJ’s record number eight teams earned three spots out of seven for the State Championship finals, which will be held in Loveland, Colorado, on February 22nd.

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2014 FIRST Robotics Challenge Game Announced.

This spring, one team comprised of the Thomas Jefferson High School CCT Magnet Advanced Robotics class will participate in the FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) Competition.  On Saturday, January 4, 2014, this year’s challenge was unveiled at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science via a live national NASA broadcast from New Hampshire. Students were introduced to the goals and challenges of this year’s game: Aerial Assist!


AERIAL ASSIST is played by two competing Alliances of three robots each on a flat 25’ x 54’ foot
field, straddled by a truss suspended just over five feet above the floor. The objective is to score as
many balls in goals as possible during a two (2)-minute and 30-second match. The more Alliances
score their ball in their goals, and the more they work together to do it, the more points their Alliance
The Spartans will meet up with their competitors on the DU campus on April 3-5. This year’s competition focuses much more on teamwork, as teams must work closely with their alliances to score the maximum points. Team captain, Spartan junior Peter Golledge, is excited and up for the challenge: “I feel really good about this season. We learned a lot last year, and I believe that this year we actually have the knowledge and equipment to win!”
Click here for all of the details! 

TJ Robotics students now have an official practice field of play for the upcoming First Tech Challenge Block Party.


Teachers unveil the practice field of play for the upcoming competition. photo by Eileen Adair

Robotics teachers and parents spent a recent Saturday building and assembling an exact replica of the First Tech Challenge Block Party field of play. Students will have access to this practice field from now until the regional competitions in December and January.

“It’s unusual for schools to have the entire field of play at their fingertips. Thanks to our resources and some great volunteers, our students will have no surprises come competition day,” explained Matt Spampinato, CCTM director and Robotics instructor.

To learn more about the challenge and visualize how the field of play works, visit the Block Party Challenge Animation.

The Saturday work day included building and assembling the ramp, the hanging bar, the teeter-totters with baskets, the red/blue team divisions, and the flagpoles for the corners of the field. Working in small groups, the build team was able to efficiently accomplish the task at hand. Based on the focus of Robotics, it was fitting that teamwork was involved in creating the practice field. It was important to have teachers and parents help build, as it was a good way to show their support for the hard-working students.

The payoff could be seen on the students’ faces the first time they walked in and saw the field on Monday morning. The challenge and competition rules have been on their minds, but having a visual brings it one step closer to reality: “The students have been imagining what the competition will be like, but now some of them have different design ideas based on being able to use measurements on the actual field. I think using this practice field will really help our chances for success,” said Eileen Adair, Robotics instructor.

Speaking of success, teams now have an extra incentive to be the first to accomplish the task of having their robot hang from the bar. Principal Ms. Suzanne Morris-Sherer is going to provide a prize to the members of the first team in each of the three classes to accomplish this task: “You know I’m a competitive person, and we want TJ to be the best at everything it does! So I thought it would be fun to put a valuable prize on the line to push teams to be their very best.” The prize is a mystery at this point, but Spampinato likens it to the gold Doubloon nailed to the mast in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

As Spampinato said, “Who doesn’t want to be the first team to ‘see the whale’ and earn that gold coin? That’s what it’s all about!”

Stay tuned for the prize winners, photos, videos, and reports on how the students are progressing with this challenge.

Beginning and Advanced Robotics classes get underway with First Tech Challenge Block Party.

Beginning Robotics student Sean Count gets ready to conquer the Block Party challenge.  photo by Matt Spampinato

Beginning Robotics student Sean Count gets ready to conquer the Block Party challenge. photo by Matt Spampinato

All robotics students are now designing, brainstorming, building, revising, and testing their early concepts for constructing robots that will meet the challenge of FTC Block Party.

Assignment number one for all groups is to build a basic chassis for their robots.  Students are being asked to answer these simple but important questions:

What are you doing?
Working in small groups, we are researching, brainstorming, designing, and building a multipurpose Tetrix chassis that will be used for both an autonomous and tele-op controlled base for three other robotic mechanisms used in the First Tech Challenge.

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BEST Robotics revealed its new challenge, Gatekeeper, at the annual kickoff at South High School.

An initial prototype robot, built by BEST engineers. photo by Matt Spampinato

An initial prototype robot, built by BEST engineers. photo by Matt Spampinato

On Saturday September 14th, this year’s challenge for the BEST Robotics competition was unveiled for the teams that will be competing in just six weeks’ time. This is the first year that TJ Robotics will be involved in the BEST competition, going up against 26 other Colorado middle school and high school teams, including fellow DPS schools East, South, and DSST.

BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) is particularly committed to promoting the involvement of inner city schools, which often have limited access to programs of this nature. Additionally, BEST does its best to increase participation of women and minority students. The organization is adamant that the mentors and coaches do not build — or even touch — the robot; this is all completely student driven.

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First Tech Robotics revealed its new game, Block Party, at the annual kickoff at the CU Engineering School.

Louis Ship (left) and teammate Brennen Scott work on an engineering challenge at CU Boulder. photo by Matt Spampinato

On Saturday September 7th, students and teachers from the TJ Robotics classes in the CCT Magnet attended the annual kickoff event for the First Tech Challenge, where they learned what the competition game will be for this year.

“It was really meaningful to be at the CU Engineering School for this event, because we are hoping that our students will be pursuing post secondary options in engineering fields.  This was a great opportunity for them to see what it’s like at the next level,” said Robotics Instructor and Magnet Director, Matt Spampinato, who was in attendance at the opening event.

This was not only an opportunity for students to learn the details of the upcoming challenge, but also a time for them to bond with fellow robotics students from across the state.  “It’s great to be here,” said an enthusiastic Brennen Scott. “I’m planning on attending CU Boulder and majoring in Engineering…this is where I want to be!”

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Just wanted to give everyone an early preview on what this year’s amazing TJ Robotics Pathway Program will look like.  We have three competitions: one in-class, curriculum-based, two after-school, club-based:

First Tech Challenge
Kickoff Date: 9-7-2013 Competition Date: TBD
Three class sections with one team each – all students will participate:
Spartans #1: Coach: Stacey Fornstrom, Beginning Robotics (24 members)
Spartans #2: Coach: Eileen Adair, Beginning Robotics (28 members)
Spartans #3: Coach: Matt Spampinato, Advanced Robotics (22 members)

Rocky Mountain Best (http://www.rockymountainbest.org/)
(This is a new one for us! Community member Laurie Harrison has agreed to sponsor our team and pay for the kit of parts and entrance fee! I have attached an info sheet on this exciting program!)

Kickoff Date: 9-14-2013 Competition Date: 10-26-2013
After-School Robotics Club – Any student can join
One Team: The Spartans
Coaches: Spampinato, Adair, FornstromFirst Robotics Challenge (http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc)
Kickoff Date: January 2014 Competition Date: TBD
After-School Robotics Club – Any student can join
One Team: Spartanica Robotica
Coaches: Spampinato, Adair, Fornstrom

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Photography by Richard VanZetten

As TJ’s Robotics classes compete in the First Tech Challenge (FTC), the club finishes up their robot for the First Robotics Challenge (FRC) Ultimate Ascent.

Students and mentors (from left: Stacey Fornstrom, Janie Eslinger, Mohamed Tambal, and Erich Deutch) work on their robot disc launcher.

Students and mentors (from left: Stacey Fornstrom, Janie Eslinger, Mohamed Tambal, and Erich Deutch) work on their robot disc launcher.

Click Here to listen to Podcast!
Imagine a room full of dedicated students, all working together to create a robot that performs a certain function.

That’s a regular day in one of TJ’s brand new Robotics classes. This class is a new offer, brought to us by the already intriguing and inclusive program, the Center for Communication and Technology Magnet (CCTM). This may be its first year, but Robotics is already shaping up to be the fifth major offered by the CCTM next year. TJ’s CCTM director, Newspaper, Video Intern, and now Robotics teacher Matthew Spampinato spoke highly of this new addition to the CCTM. “When I walked through the doors of Magnus Arena last April, it really changed everything for me,” said Spampinato about his visit to a First Robotics competition last year, which was being coached by fellow teachers Stacey Fornstrom and Matthew Santambrogio.

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