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The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

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Ethan Tisdale
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(He/him) Ethan is a sophomore and it's his first year on staff. He is an intern. Ethan was born on Leap Day.

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Q&A with FTC Iowa Dean’s List Finalist Jinann AbuDagga

Trobotix co-captain Jinann AbuDagga represented Iowa as a Dean’s List finalist at the FIRST Championship in Houston, on April 17-20.
Jinann AbuDagga ’25 poses with her Dean’s List finalist award at the FTC Iowa Championship. Photo courtesy of Scott Anson

The FIRST Championship is the last competition of the FIRST robotics season, taking place over four days in the middle of April. The championship features all three of FIRST’s programs: FIRST Lego League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). At the FIRST Championship, students from 58 countries compete in their respective programs to be crowned the championship winner. 

Attending the FIRST Championship is no easy feat for teams. In Iowa especially, competition is fierce, and performances can change drastically from match to match. However, the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Dean’s List program opens up another opportunity for students to attend and compete in the FIRST Championship. If students are chosen to be finalists at their state championship, they are automatically entered as finalists in the FIRST Championship. At the championship, students will compete to be named one of 10 FTC Dean’s List winners. 

Jinann AbuDagga ’25 was named a Dean’s List Finalist at the FTC Iowa Championship in March and attended the FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas on Apr. 17-20.


WSS: What exactly is the FTC Dean’s List? What is the selection process like? 

Jinann AbuDagga: FTC Dean’s List is given to a select number of students. It’s specifically for students who will continue FIRST in their community as they graduate. Your peers and your coaches nominate you, you can nominate up to two people from a team. Me and my friend Tiff both got nominated this year and we had interviews with a board of judges. The judges then choose two people from each state [four from Iowa], and those go on to worlds. At worlds, they choose 10 people from FTC to be Dean’s List winners. 


WSS: What kinds of activities did you participate in at the championship? 

JA: When I first arrived, I went to a Dean’s List lunch where they announced the 10 winners. Not me; it was still amazing to be a finalist at the lunch, though. They had college admissions people there speak, they had previous Dean’s List winners speak. Dean Kamen, the founder of Segway was there, he’s the one who started the award. The Air Force was there, a bunch of people were there that we got to meet. Then I talked to college admissions people, specifically from Harvard, MIT and WPI. I walked the pits, which is like the display of teams’ robots and teams’ work. I also went to the Innovation Fair, where I met people from many different engineering companies and whatever for internships and other things. 

Jinann AbuDagga ’25 poses for a photo at the FIRST Dean’s List lunch ceremony. Photo courtesy of Jinann AbuDagga

WSS: What kinds of connections did you make at the championship? 

JA: I met a lot of amazing people. Specifically,  the biggest connection I got out of worlds I’d say, is I met the college admissions person from WPI. That suddenly became a school I was interested in. I never heard about it before, but it has one of the best robotics programs in the world, and they were interested in me applying, and they encouraged me to apply for their summer program, which I just submitted my application for. I also met a team from Texas, who is Muslim, a team led by a mosque that started many other teams so it grew into like a community. I wouldn’t even call it a team. That was very awesome to me, because I’m a Muslim Arab, and I got to see other people like me at the event. We connected, and we’re planning on starting a couple teams in the Palestine region together, as well. And then another thing is, I got to meet this team from Morocco, and I just got to talk to them, have fun with them. We had lunch together. It was super fun. 


WSS: What takeaways did you make from the championship? Any inspiration for the upcoming season? 

JA:  I got so much, specifically from the other team from Iowa, T.H.O.R Robotics. They’re in the Des Moines region. I went to their pit and viewed their engineering portfolio and notebook, and it opened my eyes to what else we could do for our portfolio and notebook because I do help out with that on the team. For example, I really liked the way they divided their notebook out into sections and the way they organize that. It’s a little different from the way we’re doing it, and I’ll definitely take that into consideration when creating next year’s notebook.

Team 9974 T.H.O.R displays an impressive engineering portfolio in their pit. Photo courtesy of Jinann AbuDagga

WSS: What was your favorite part of the championship? 

JA: My favorite part of worlds was connecting with a bunch of individuals who are like me and have the drive to be good people.


WSS: What was your favorite part of this season overall? 

JA: I feel like the league tournament this year was super fun because our team has been the best it has been since I joined and we were able to win Winning Alliance Captains. Be the first captain to pick teams as well. And we were able to win the Inspire Award, and I feel like our hard work definitely paid off. 


WSS: What do you look forward to next season? 

JA: Next season I look forward to continue to improve as a team and hopefully qualify for worlds next year because I had an amazing experience going on my own, but I feel like it would be 10 times better with the team.

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Haneen Eltyeb
Haneen Eltyeb, Videographer
(She/her) Haneen is a junior and this is her first year on WSS staff, working as a videographer. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies (then overanalyzing them), learning about the latest cyber attacks, fixing jewelry and spending time with friends and family.
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