Dryden-supported Teams Perform Well at FIRST Robotics Championships
FIRST High School Robotics Competitions
The high school-age robotics teams supported by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center performed well at the national robotics championships held by the FIRST organization – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – April 15-17 in Atlanta.
The Eagle Robotics team 399 from Lancaster High School in Lancaster, Calif., and the Cyber Penguins team 585 from Tehachapi High School joined in an alliance for one match during the elimination rounds on the second day of competition. Although neither made it to the finals, both were ranked in the top third of their divisions, which included more than 80 teams each.
In the separate FIRST Tech Challenge competition for teams using a smaller robot, the PHI robotics team 452 made it to their division finals on an alliance with two other teams, but the alliance was defeated in the divisional finals by another alliance that went on to win the overall championship.
"Basically, we did very well in the competition," said NASA Dryden engineer Dave Voracek, who mentored the Lancaster High team. "The experience for the students was great during the competition."
Each team played 10 matches throughout the weekend, Voracek explained. The Lancaster team, which had won the Engineering Inspiration Award at the Colorado regional competition several weeks earlier, had installed a deflector shield on their robot which helped earn them the 20th ranking out of the 86 teams in their division. They went on to the elimination matches with the eighth seeded alliance, which played the top-seeded alliance in the quarterfinals. Although their alliance played tough, they lost in the best two out of three series by scores of 18 to 15 and 16 to 14.
Tehachapi High School's Cyber Penguins robotics club, which had won the coveted Chairman’s Award at the Las Vegas regional competition April 3, finished the competition in similar manner.
NASA Dryden research pilot Mark Pestana, a co-mentor of the Tehachapi High team, said the Cyber Penguins ranked a respectable 29th in the same 86-team division that produced the event's champion, an alliance of teams from Redondo Beach, Calif., Milford, Mich., and South Windsor, Conn. The Tehachapi team even played a small role in enabling that alliance to win, loaning one of the winning alliance teams its batteries after the other team's batteries failed.
Dryden controls and dynamics engineer Joe Pahle, co-mentor for the Power through Higher Innovation (PHI) team 452 in the separate FIRST Tech Challenge for teams using smaller, less-expensive robots, said the team advanced to the finals of one of two 50-team divisions, but their alliance was defeated in the divisional finals. The "Garagebots" team, also mentored by Voracek, finished 40th in the same division. The winning three- team alliance from that division went on to defeat the champions of the other division to claim the 2010 Tech Challenge championship.
"This is the second year in a row that the students from team 452 have made it to their division finals," Pahle said.
More than 500 teams from 30 countries competed in three levels at the 19th annual FIRST robotics championship competition at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The majority competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition for high school teams, and smaller numbers in the FIRST Tech Challenge, also for high-school-age teams and the FIRST LEGO League for middle school students. After many years in Atlanta, next year's FIRST Robotics Competition will move to a new venue in St. Louis, Mo.
Founded by noted inventor Dean Kamen, the annual FIRST robotics competitions are intended to promote student interest in mathematics, science and technology-based career fields and related academic curricula. The program is designed to mentor students in project management, financial planning, scheduling, community service and outreach, and seeks to influence a culture where science and engineering can be recognized and celebrated as a strength of a nation. More than 3,000 high school robotics teams participate in the FIRST robotics program.
In addition to co-sponsoring the Lancaster and Tehachapi high school robotics teams and supporting the PHI and Garagebots Tech Challenge teams, NASA Dryden also partially supports the "Robolopes" team at Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, Calif.