FIRST Global Inclusivity Conference 2023: A Report

Last weekend, a couple of our team members attended the 2023 FIRST Global Inclusivity Conference, hosted by team 5773 Ink & Metal in San Francisco, California. There were a wide variety of teams and mentors from several different countries in different parts of the world, and we all presented our teams and then talked about problems we were having. Then, we talked with mentors (some of whom were in the official FIRST organization) in order to get advice about our robot, our process, our designs, and our team.

#16221 at the Vermont FTC Championship, Feb. 11, 2023

The Manchester Machine Makers, FTC #16221, at CVU on February 11, 2023 for the Vermont FTC Championship.

What a day! We brought Ahnold up to CVU for the Vermont FTC Championship tournament on February 11, 2023. The team started out before dawn in order to arrive in time to present to the judges in the very first slot at 7:30am.

Then it was on to the robot inspection, where the officials made sure that everything about our robot and game elements was legal. Turns out we’d made a mistake on the size of our custom element, so they clarified that for us and we were able to adjust our ducky rings to suit before our first match.

There were two practice fields laid out for teams to use as needed, which gave plenty of room for everyone to test functionality and work on driving skills. We made sure that our autonomous worked well, and that our drive team knew where to place the robot on the field, and practiced retrieving cones and scoring them. Since we don’t have a full field set up at our workshop, we’d only had the chance to explore the real space of the field once before, with the Cookie Clickers in Bennington.

Coaches meeting, drivers’ meeting; our drivers were Takoda and Isaac, and Carter was the drive coach. Zach was our team’s “human player”, having studied the rules so that he was prepared to set out cones and scoring elements correctly and promptly. The schedule was devised, and the matches began!

The opening ceremony featured a young woman from Afghanistan’s all-female FTC team, who had escaped and were now scattered around the world where they could continue studying engineering. She lives now in the Brattleboro area and is attending college in nearby Massachusetts.

Ahnold worked beautifully! Our autonomous routine was absolutely consistent throughout the qualifying rounds; and our drivers were able to score cones reliably, worked with our alliance partners to create circuits, capped with our custom element, and even managed to park in the right place by the end of the matches.

Between the matches, judges and other volunteers came around to see how all the teams were doing. The atmosphere was one of friendly competition, and we went around and admired other robots, loaned equipment if needed, and generally enjoyed the community. We got some great ideas from the Robohawks for a drivers’ station console, too!

We came into the competition hoping to be in the top 10 out of 19 teams. As the matches went on, we were consistently above that measure! We began to hope.

At the end of the qualifying rounds, not only had we achieved a top 10 ranking, we were fourth overall, and that gave us a sure spot as an Alliance Captain in the semi-finals!

We had enjoyed a very successful round with Mansfield Mechanics United early in the day, and so we were pleased when they accepted our invitation to be our partners. Visions of Nationals danced in our heads…

Unfortunately, our last qualifying round had involved a collision with the arena wall that misaligned something, or perhaps broke it. One of the wheels wasn’t working correctly. Although our medic gave the wheel assembly a thorough check and verified that it was turning easily and correctly, Ahnold limped through the semi-final matches and was not able to advance to the final rounds.

We cheered on the CVU Redhawks, the CVU Robohawks, Hive Mind and Bubbert Innovations as they played out three full rounds of the finals for an edge-of-the-seat finish!

Vermont will be sending both CVU teams to Nationals to represent our state. However, our day didn’t end there!


The Manchester Machine Makers succeeded beyond our wildest dreams on the field last Saturday. We also were recognized as a team and individually for our achievements:

Isaac Vernon was chosen (once again!) as a Finalist for the Dean’s List Award, which will be selected and announced at Nationals. The team sure did nominate him for a reason! We’re proud of you and glad to have you as our team’s Captain.

The Manchester Machine Makers was recognized in third place for the Innovate Award. From the FTC Award Descriptions information sheet:

The Innovate Award celebrates a team that thinks imaginatively and has the ingenuity, creativity, and
inventiveness to make their designs come to life. This judged award is given to the team that has an innovative
and creative robot design solution to any specific components in the FIRST Tech Challenge game. Elements of
this award include elegant design, robustness, and ‘out of the box’ thinking related to design.

More importantly, the team earned first place out of all Vermont teams for the Control Award, recognizing our programming for both driver-assist functions and for the most consistent Autonomous Period performance of any team that day, with a solid 20 points per round!

The Control Award celebrates a team that uses sensors and software to increase the robot’s functionality in the
field. This award is given to the team that demonstrates innovative thinking to solve game challenges such as
autonomous operation, improving mechanical systems with intelligent control, or using sensors to achieve
better results. The control component should work consistently in the field.

Thank you!

A big thank you to all our supporters:

  • Engineered Printing Solutions for their generosity of funding and support of our members with their time, ideas, and opportunities;
  • Burr and Burton Academy for allowing our team to use its space for storage and meetings;
  • Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering for their Hands-On Science and Technology Grant, giving us the opportunity to experiment our way to success;

And a huge thank-you to all of our donors, friends, family, community members, FIRST volunteers, and fellow FTC Teams for supporting us in our quest to become engineers!

Ahnold will be at BBA along with our Engineering Portfolio while we enjoy our February break and then have some more fun with robotics this spring.

Ahnold, coming home to BBA with his Control Award trophy!

CVU, Here We Come…!

We’re on our way! We’ve polished up our portfolio, practiced our presentation, and now we just need to pack everything into the car tomorrow for the early morning drive up to Hinesburg, VT.

We encourage all our friends and supporters to stop by and cheer for all the Vermont FTC teams.*

Qualification matches begin at 10am – watch live at!

Event Program

* But especially, cheer for us!

Work in Progress: Collaboration

On November 20, 2022, we had a great combined meeting with the Cookie Clickers from nearby Bennington. We each introduced our robots, discussed our design decisions, built, drove, and played.

We showed off our two-pronged approach: we have, at this point, built two mostly-complete robots. One uses a jointed arm as the collection and delivery mechanism, and one uses a slide lift to accomplish the same purpose. A big thank-you to the Vermont Academy for Science and Engineering for support in this endeavor!

We compared our claw designs; we have basically settled on some kind of pincer for handling the cones, but haven’t yet settled on a final design. We were able to show the progress we’ve made on our various prototypes, and the Cookie Clickers likewise showed off their manipulator and how it works.

Although our team’s space doesn’t allow for a full field, we had our mats set out with a few junctions so that we could drive around — mostly for fun, because who doesn’t like making a robot go?

Our teams then split in two, so that we could make alliances between us. We had a large paper gameboard of Power Play, designed and shared by team 12611 (Paper version: 3D version: and had our alliances claim junctions to understand some of the game’s strategy.

We all had a great time! Flash forward to January 29th, 2023, when we joined them at their space on Main Street in Bennington.

The Manchester Machine Makers, hosted by the Cookie Clickers in Bennington, Vermont
The Manchester Machine Makers, hosted by the Cookie Clickers in Bennington, Vermont

Each team presented robots, in preparation for the Judges’ presentation at the upcoming Vermont State Championship competition on Feb. 11, at CVU in Hinesburg. While neither robot was completely finished, it was great to see them both actually on the field!

We are looking forward to joining the Cookie Clickers again at the competition!

Isaac: What I Did Last Summer

Isaac with engineers at EPS this fall.

I had a great experience working at EPS in the engineering department this summer!

I worked as a mechanical engineering intern, and worked with a team of practiced engineers to design printers for a variety of customers and applications. This internship gave me a much better understanding of how the industry works, and helped me refine my own engineering skills, especially in computer aided design!

I went through one project, a fixture for holding parts steady while they were printed on, from beginning to finish, which provided a better overall sense of how the different departments in the company meshed along with their respective role in creating a final product.

Overall, it was a very beneficial experience for me, and I would be happy to do something similar in the future!

Real Engineering: A Visit to EPS

On November 11, the Manchester Machine Makers visited the workshop of Engineered Printing Solutions in East Dorset, VT. There, we shared our work with engineers who have real-world experience in robotics! We enjoyed a tour and got some fantastic suggestions about improving our designs.

Additionally, their donations have allowed us to experiment with new designs and try to get the right parts and tools for the job (as opposed to the usual club methods involving duct tape and rubber duckies).

A huge thank-you to EPS – we are very grateful for your partnership!

Work In Progress: October

So it’s been a while since we’ve posted, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been sitting on our duffs! No indeed, our workshop has been filling up with assorted springy poles, rulebooks, and robot parts, along with kids to put them together.

This season, the challenge involves “creating circuits” by placing cones over the aforementioned springy poles. If your cone is the one on top, you’ve claimed the “junction” and can count it as a connection point. Translating that to requirements was the first task. We spent the first couple of meetings throwing ideas around.

Because there are many ways to approach the basic problem of lifting and placing cones, the team decided to try more than one prototype. Zach set about designing an arm, which is a new assembly that the team hasn’t tackled before; while Isaac designed an improved slide/pulley lift based on the lessons that we learned last year.

We have shifted our coding practice over to Blocks, so that the entire team can work on the programs. Aleks has explored the “ExportToBlocks” functionality in the FTC codebase, changing over our instance-based classes for our assemblies into static, global members so that it can be used from Blocks OpModes.

We are always open to new members – there is plenty left to accomplish! So if you’re interested in joining our team, drop us a line or talk to Isaac, Takoda, Aleks, or Zach at school.

New Members Welcome!

The Manchester Machine Makers, a First Tech Challenge Robotics Team, are recruiting team members for the 2022-2023 season. We are open to students grade 7-12 in Bennington County. Our current team members hail from from Burr and Burton Academy, Long Trail School, and Maple Street School. We meet twice a week: Wednesdays from 5:00-7:00pm and Sundays from 10:00am-12:00pm.

Know a lot, a little, or nothing about robotics? All abilities are welcome, and we encourage students to come to a meeting, talk with team members and learn what we are about.

For more information email us at and plan to attend our next meeting on Wednesday September 7 from 5-7pm at Smith Center, Burr and Burton Academy. The kick-off event for First Inspires FTC Challenge Power Play is Saturday September 10 where we will learn what our challenge will be for the year with the culminating Vermont State Championship scheduled for February 11, 2023.

The Manchester Machine Makers have been building awesome robots since 2019! We look forward to welcoming you to our team.