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FIRST Championship Ignites Students' Scientific Savvy: Discovering the Excitement of Science and Technology
04.14.09
 
FIRST Robotics competition> High resolution image
Students compete in the Washington, D.C. regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center, Saturday Feb., 28, 2009. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
More than 10,000 students from 28 countries and 533 custom-built robots will swarm Atlanta's Georgia Dome, April 16-18, to compete in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, and discover the excitement of science and technology. Students engage in three robotics competitions under one roof: FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST LEGO® League.

"Today, facing the challenges of our fragile global economy and climate change, and addressing worldwide public health concerns, we need innovative thinkers to help solve society’s increasingly-complex problems," said the competition's founder Dean Kamen. "Handling robotics challenges and working alongside professional engineers, FIRST students develop the skills necessary to be the architects of the solutions we need." Kamen founded FIRST, a not-for-profit organization, to inspire young people's interest and participation in science, technology and engineering, and motivate them to pursue career opportunities in these fields.

"We have 16-year-olds securing patents and 10-year-olds offering advice on climate change issues to government officials," Kamen continued. "I am encouraged to see so many positive contributions by FIRST students; each one of them is becoming his/her own economic stimulus package for the workforce of the future." Students vied for a spot at this weekend's FIRST Championship by competing in regional competitions for several months, displaying sportsmanship and excelling at competitive play. Along their journey, students learned business and marketing skills, as they secured sponsors and developed partnerships among schools, businesses and communities. Their hard work will culminate in three levels of robotics competitions during the FIRST Championship.

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Championship for high-school students is now in its 18th and largest-ever season. This year's challenge, "LUNACY," honors the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, when NASA landed a man on the moon.

In the "LUNACY" game, robots are designed to pick up 9" game balls and score them in trailers hitched to their opponents' robots for points during a two- minute and 15-second match. Additional points are awarded for scoring a special game ball, the "Super Cell," in the opponents' trailers during the last 20 seconds of the match.

In January 2009, FRC teams viewed the game field and received a kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system and a mix of automation components -- but no instructions. Working with mentors, students had six weeks to design, build, program and test their robots to meet the season's engineering challenge. Once these young inventors built a robot and a strategy to compete, their teams participated in regional competitions that measured the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of the students.

The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is a challenging mid-level robotics competition designed for high-school-age students who want a hands-on learning experience to develop and hone their skills and abilities in science, technology, engineering and math.

The FTC World Championship features this year's game, "Face Off!," which was developed with input by professional robotics designers across the country. The challenge mirrors many real-world challenges that robotics engineers face today, such as navigating uneven surfaces, manipulating odd-shaped objects, using sensors to determine the environment and withstanding physical stress.

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a global robotics program for ages 9-14 (up to age 16 outside of the U.S. and Canada). This year's challenge is "Climate Connections." At the FLL World Festival, students will present their research and solutions for solving climate issues, and showcase LEGO MINDSTORMS robots using engineering concepts.

To prepare for "Climate Connections," students learned about past, current and future climate conditions with team coaches and mentors; this allowed them to learn more about the science behind the challenge and to better understand the work of professionals in that field.

Students who participate in FIRST are eligible nearly $10 million in scholarships from science and engineering schools across the U.S. More than 25 FIRST scholarship providers will be featured in Scholarship Row, where representatives will offer information about their schools' science and engineering programs.

FIRST programs are implemented by 86,000 dedicated volunteers and supported by more than 3,000 corporate sponsors worldwide.

Related Links:

> NASA's Robotics Alliance Project
> FIRST Robotics
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