Northern Illinois is home to some wonderfully dedicated FIRST Robotics teams who want to share their enthusiasm for all things robotic with the local community.

In fall 2012, mentors and students from Flaming Monkeys (3352), Metalheads (0081), Rockford Robotics (2039), Stateline Robotics (4655), and Winnovation (1625) met with the Nick Povalitis of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to develop a plan for hosting an event in Rockford. Because so many teams want to continue to “play” with robots during the off season, the group agreed a competition that was open to public was a great way to promote FIRST Robotics.

During early development meetings, we worked to define the scope of the project including location, field and equipment logistics, financing, recruiting volunteers, recruiting teams to participate, and promoting event to community.

As much of the Northern Illinois Region is defined by the Rock River, students promoted name our event the Rock River Off-Season Competition, or R2OC for short. The whole group then worked to brand the event by designing a logo, website and other promotional materials.

We were fortunate to have Bob Trojan, a local businessman and longtime supporter of Rockford manufacturing, join our organization. He was instrumental in encouraging local firms to sponsor the event.

Our inaugural event in July 2013 brought 21 teams, 175 volunteers, and 1000 spectators to Rock Valley College to see robots compete. In addition, attendees could see demonstrations from FIRST Lego League and FIRST Tech Challenge teams, visit corporate sponsor booths, and interact with team members. Attending teams even donated 1400 books to our community connection, Reach Out and Read.

We continued to build on our 2013 success in ongoing years by expanding the tournament to 32 participating teams.

Here what others have to say about R2OC.

John Petrick (announcer): “I have emceed many regional robotics competitions through the Midwest, and this one ranks up there with the best, the organization, facilities, fans.”

Bob Trojan (local manufacturer): “Seeing the playing field, erected the night before and walking through the pit areas where each team worked on their robot was magic. The passion of so many students and mentors could easily be felt. Everyone was having fun.”

Participating Team: “One day format was wonderful and made event very assessable to my team. Finding a way that every team could participate in elimination rounds was wonderful and a great example of gracious professionalism. The entire competition was fantastic.”

Participating Team: “It was amazing to think it was so perfect on your first attempt. I think you have set the bar pretty high for upcoming years.”

Participating Team: “It was nice having FLL and FTC there. It helped with a number of our parents that want other younger siblings to join FIRST that had not had the opportunity to see other divisions.”