Of FIRST Robotics “Lunacy” and A Shout Out to “Dancin'” Woz

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collect and score Orbit Balls in trailers attached to the opposing teams’ robots.” (You can read more here.) But how you do in Lunacy is just part of the idea behind FIRST, which doles out more than 20 awards covering things like mentorship, respect and collaboration, spirit, design elegance, and engineering features. (For more on the inspiration behind the event, check out this post from FIRST founder and Xconomist Dean Kamen.)

I spoke to some of the teams, including one from Cambridge Rindge and Latin in Xconomy’s home city, and a team from Fairfield, CA. Now I had to speak with the Fairfield team, partly because they traveled so far for the event—team members told me they wanted to get out of their region and meet teams from farther away—and partly because I started my professional journalism career in that fair city, home to Travis Air Force Base (I was the police and Air Force reporter). I was happy to learn that my old paper, The Daily Republic, is still in business.

There was lots more happening, but I am going to let my colleague, Juha-Pekka Tikka, who attended the San Diego regionals, describe the action in more detail. Meanwhile, here are some notes from a conversation I had with Xconomist John Abele, a founder of Boston Scientific and the chairman of FIRST. He gave an insightful overview to the “coopetition” and the reasons behind it. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

FIRST Boston 2009 finals—Abele said the game was purposefully made complicated—because it is important in life to learn to take into account complicated scenarios with “second and third level derivatives,” plan and budget for dealing with them, and then execute your plans by both competing against and cooperating with others. “It’s systems thinking,” he says.

—Related to the above, Abele says: “If you can design a game, you can design a company, a business.” And, as in business and life, “You’ve got to go through enormous frustration to win.”

—A main goal of FIRST is to elevate science and engineering to the level of sports in our society. To that end, Abele says, “I want the prizes to be on the same shelf all the other prizes are on.”

—On getting kids motivated in learning: “If kids want to study, all the problems we worry about—No Child Left Behind—they get left behind.”

You can find all the award winners here. The following teams will go on to the overall championship competition in mid-April in Atlanta:

Regional Winner 1—Team 61, Upton, MA
Regional Winner 2— Team 190, Worcester, MA
Regional Winner 3—Team 1099, Brookfield, CT
Engineering Inspiration Award winner—Team 178, Farmington, CT
Rookie All Star Award winner—Team 2877, Newton, MA
Regional Chairman’s Award winner—Team 88, Bridgewater, MA

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Bob is Xconomy's founder and chairman. You can email him at bbuderi@xconomy.com. Follow @bbuderi

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