NFPA/ Festo Present Awards to High School Robotics Tournament

For 18 years, the Oakland County Competitive Robotics Association (OCCRA) in the greater Detroit, Michigan area has been facilitating robotics tournaments for local high school students. I recently attended their Diversity tournament, which is unique to OCCRA with all-girls matches required as part of the total scoring. I had the pleasure of walking the pits and presenting awards with Sam Skelton of Festo Corporation, who has served as a mentor, judge, and supporter of the OCCRA program for years. Sam presented the Strategic Design category award to Avondale High School while I awarded the Best Use of Pneumatics to Walled Lake Western High School.

The team that made best use of pneumatics used air components in three different design functions, including one that maximized the gripping force of the robot’s trash can holder by using the blind end of the pneumatic cylinder. Additionally, this was the team’s first experience with fluid power, and the team captain championed that new knowledge to guide her team to a successful design. OCCRA encourages students to use fluid power by allowing robots using pneumatics an extra 5 lbs. in weight for a total of 120 lbs. Festo Corporation further supports the use of fluid power on the student-built robots by donating pneumatic components as a platinum sponsor of OCCRA, which it has done for just over three years.

The robotics competition consists of a series of four local competitions and a county championship tournament. In each of these matches, the teams are randomly paired with an alliance partner who shares the points won. The object of the game is to score the most points by using robots to gather balls and dump them into the trash cans they are carrying. Then the robots must dump the balls into additional specified dump stations. There are currently 22 teams involved. Normally between 20 – 25 teams participate each year, of which 45% also go on to participate in FIRST® Robotics Competitions.

Entry fees to the program are competitively priced at $350, and OCCRA offers a free replacement parts maximum of $150 per season, per team. All robot parts must be student made with no outside machining, welding, etc. Learn more about the OCCRA league here.

Robotics programs nationwide are always interested in obtaining more mentors and judges to help guide students through these tournaments. If you are interested in serving as a mentor on a robotics team near you, we can help! Contact Stephanie Scaccianoce at

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