Sporting competitions seem to be what we obsess over, frankly. So if we can put engineering, science, technology into a format of healthy, fun competition, we can attract all sorts of kids that might not see the kind of activity we do as accessible or rewarding.
Dean Kamen - Co-Founder of FIRST
This weekend was the FIRST Robotics Fingerlakes Regional competition held at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and let me tell you, it was some intense competition! There were some seriously tough robots, big hits, and high scores.
If you're unfamiliar with FIRST Robotics, they are " an international high school robotics competition that gives students real-world engineering experience." (From the FIRST website). The students and their mentors are given only six weeks to design, build, and test their robots that solve a different problem every year. The teams then attend their respective regional competitions - ours at RIT hosts teams from Ohio, Pennsylvannia, and New York - to compete and try to win to attend the world championships in St. Louis, Missouri. All of the teams are made up of only high school students, with them being the driving force behind the build season as well as being responsible for driving and maintaining the robot.
This year, the competition was First Steamworks, which "invites two adventure clubs from an era in which technology relied on steam power to prepare their airships for the ultimate long distance race" (From the game website). The game reveal and animation video can be seen at the previous link, but for an overview, teams must use their robots to collect gears and deliver them to their "airships", where they will be used to power up propellers. In addition, teams can shoot fuel - whiffle balls - into a hopper 10 feet off the ground to gain more points.
I am super proud to be the software mentor of FIRST Robotics team 5590, otherwise known as the Alumiboti - yes, we know our name is cheesy and we love it. Our students all come from St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Buffalo, New York. We have an awesome group of 15-20 students that spend 3 days a week for those 6 weeks of build season dedicating themselves to making the best robot possible. We have a team of great engineers and mentors that volunteer their time to help teach engineering solutions to the students. Overall, it is a great atmosphere, and something that is not found anywhere else outside of FIRST.
Being a part of a competition that is based around a certain age group brings challenges that are unique. Minus one or two students, I have to teach the same programming concepts to the next "generation" of FIRST students. Our school has AP Computer Science, so certain students have some basic prior knowledge of Java, but the notion of programming a tele-operated and autonomous robot is foreign to them. Luckily they are there to learn and build, and I could not be more proud of what they have accomplished. We finished 7th out of 49 teams, just narrowly missing entry into the semi-finals.
For a team that is only three years old, what we were able to do and accomplish was pretty incredible, and I'm excited for what future years have in store as we get better and learn more. #omgrobots
- Year : May 2017
- Event : FIRST Robotics Mentoring
- Awards/Honors : 7th Place