High School Teams Readying Robots for Competition in March
CLEVELAND-This year 44 teams of high school students will compete in the 2008 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Buckeye Regional Robotics Competition on March 20-22 at the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center in Cleveland.
This annual event combines a spectator sport with science, technology, engineering and math. Teams from Greater Cleveland and throughout Ohio, as well as from Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin will be competing. For a complete listing of the teams registered for this event, go to http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/OEP/first/regional/teams.htm
This year's game is FIRST Overdrive. The exciting competition is comprised of two-minute, 15-second matches played by two alliances of three teams each. Each team's "driver" remotely maneuvers their robot around a track and guides them to knock down two 40-inch inflated Trackballs from a six-foot, six-inch overpass. The alliances earn points each time their robots cross their own finish line and each time their Trackballs cross their finish line by going either over or under the overpass. Extra points are scored if the Trackballs are in their starting positions on the overpass at the end of the match. While trying to accomplish all this, each alliance is also trying to keep the other alliance from scoring points.
All of the teams learned what this year's game would be and received identical parts kits in early January. Since then they have been working side-by-side with teachers, mentors and professional engineers to design and build a championship robot. This challenge has given the students a glimpse of what engineering is all about and provided them the opportunity to gain knowledge of and experience in teamwork, time management, task sequencing and computers.
The six-week period the teams had to complete this task has ended. Their robots have been shipped to the Wolstein Center, where they will stay in storage until the first day of the Buckeye Regional.
Once uncrated on March 20, the robots may need some last minute work before being weighed. Then they will be inspected, like a cage fighter before stepping into the octagon. Practice sessions that first day may reveal weak spots that need tweaking or damage that needs to be repaired.
After opening ceremonies on March 21, seeding matches begin. Each team gets a chance to play in several seeding matches, which continue through the morning of March 22. As they work their way through each match, they watch the other teams' strengths and weaknesses. This comes into play at the end of the seeding matches when the top eight seeded teams get to choose the other two teams they want in their alliance for the championship rounds played that afternoon.
Teachers, parents and relatives, fellow students and mascots cheer their teams on from the stands. An announcer gives a play-by-play account of the action. At the end of each match, the score is revealed and a round of cheers erupts. Another flurry of activity begins as the teams leave the playing field and six more teams take their places to begin the next match.
The Buckeye Regional is sponsored by NASA's Glenn Research Center along with corporations and academic and nonprofit organizations throughout Ohio. It is one of 41 regional competitions across the United States and in Canada, Brazil and Israel that lead up to the championship event in Atlanta, Ga. on April 17-19.
NASA, through its Robotics Alliance Project, provides sponsorships to assist teams in developing self-sustaining FIRST programs in their local areas. These sponsorships cover the cost of entry to one regional event ($6,000) as well as the parts kit. These sponsorships are targeted at new FIRST teams that need assistance in getting their program started within their local community.
FIRST is a nonprofit organization founded to interest and inspire students in math, science and technology. FIRST represents a cooperative effort among students, teachers, communities, corporations, educational institutions and government agencies. For additional information about FIRST, go to http://www.usfirst.org
For further information on Glenn's educational programs, visit:
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