Teams Collect Prizes Like Moon Rocks in Regional Robotics Contest

Most of the teams that gathered at the San Diego Sports Arena last week came from the American Southwest—from places like Flagstaff, AZ, and El Centro, CA. One team came all the way from Pennsylvania. Another came from Brazil. But these teams didn’t come to the arena to play hockey, football, or some other sport.

They came to show that they could build a better robot. They came for the San Diego regional FIRST Robotics Competition. As a foreign visitor seeing this kind of competition for the first time, I was amazed and had incredible fun just watching it.

The sports arena was filled with strange-looking robots, cables, containers, bolts, joysticks, duct tape, rock music, cheering, and teen-agers—thousands of spirited, excited teen-agers. The San Diego event, which ended Saturday, is part of an annual high school engineering contest organized by FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. It drew dozens of high school teams for an event that requires students to spend six weeks building robots to scrimmage against each other in a game.

Miss Daisy was a regional winner

Miss Daisy was a regional winner

I work as a newspaper reporter in Finland, and I haven’t heard of anything like this in Europe. I was amazed by the passion and enthusiasm that FIRST has inspired among the high school students. These students help each other, love what they are doing, and show it.

The student-built robots don’t look like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie. These robots are heavy plastic boxes, about four-feet tall, that whirl on wheels. Others look like modified shopping carts.

The robots in the 2009 competition were designed to play a game called Lunacy, which is played on a small court. The robots are supposed to scoop up “orbit balls” as if they are on the moon collecting moon rocks. During the first 15 seconds of each match, the robots play the game by themselves in autonomous mode. Six robots compete at a time, divided into two teams selected five minutes before … Next Page »

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