If you’ve read my missives for a while now, you know that one of my major passions is FIRST Robotics. For the uninformed, FIRST is an attempt to make science and technology as exciting to the masses as sports or entertainment. Anyway, this year about 1,000 high school teams will compete in what’s been called the Superbowl of Smarts, the FIRST Robotics Competition.
The FIRST (an acronym meaning For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) season begins in January, where the "game" for the year is announced. These games vary dramatically year to year (collect 30" tetrahedrons made of PVC piping and stack them on goals 6′ tall, herd kick-balls to students who have to throw them over a 7′ wall into goals, collect and stack plastic storage bins, collect soccer balls and deposit them into movable goals while moving the goals into certain locations) but always involve teams of robots. The robots are quite large (5′ tall x 3′ long x 2.5′ wide, 130lbs typically) and are powered by a single 12v battery. Robots (and their teams) are randomly assigned partners in alliances, and these alliances play the games against other alliances. The fun part is that your opponent in one round might be your partner in the next, so robotic destruction is NOT a good idea. (This is not BattleBots or RoboWars!) The robots are largely the creations of the students, who are assisted to one degree or another by adult mentors who frequently come from industry (typically sponsor corporations).
From the time the game is announced, the teams have only six and a half weeks to conceive, design, build, test, practice, and SHIP their creations! Then a month and a half of regional competitions begin (30 of them around the US, Canada, and now in Israel), culminating in the Championship Competition (the aforementioned Superbowl) in Atlanta at the end of April. It is utterly amazing to see the Georgia Dome filled with about 20,000 teenagers screaming their lungs out over a technological contest.
The official Kick-Off of the FIRST season is this Saturday. I will likely be writing many tales of the efforts of Team 811 in the coming weeks.
COMMENTS FROM theSpoke:
First really rocks, I’ve participated two years now, I’m a member of Brazilian Team #1382. We were vwey well received in the first competetion, we’ve competed in NJ regional the two years we went there.
I’m crazy to know what’s this years game. The clue as always is very hard to understand.
Good luck for you and Team 811, if you want to make contact with 1382 please, visit us at http://www.tribotecteam.com
Given my current travel schedule during build season I’m not going to be around Team 811 much. Man, I miss build season. I’m really glad that you will be blogging about FIRST. It is a totally great program.