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Slashdot Goes to the FIRST Robotics Competition (Video) 41

Posted by Roblimo
from the machines-are-getting-smarter-and-stronger-every-day dept.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has robot competitions all over the United States. FIRST was founded by inventor Dean Kamen. According to Wikipedia he has said that the FIRST competition is the invention he is most proud of, and he predicts that the 1 million students who have taken part in the contests so far will be responsible for some significant technological advances in years to come. In any case, Robert Rozeboom (samzenpus) was at the Michigan FIRST championship with camcorder in hand, and brought back some great shots of robots at work -- or maybe play. They fired off volleys of Frisbee-like discs, ran into each other, and climbed metal pyramids, either independently or under the control of their human masters. There was a pretty good crowd in the stands, too, to cheer on the robots. Or more likely, to cheer on the robots' human masters, since we're not yet at the point where robot masters invite their robot friends to competitions where they show off their humans.

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Slashdot Goes to the FIRST Robotics Competition (Video)

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  • by ThorGod (456163) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @02:47PM (#43464675) Journal

    I was a rookie judge at one of the FRC events this year. The whole experience was inspiring. The teams function much like non-profit organizations with the business of designing robots to achieve that year's challenge. They take in funds and output competent students and competitive robots. It's amazing to see how involved some of their outreach is. Some teams setup mini competitions for their local elementary or middle schools. Not to forget all the electrical, mechanical, software, general, and team skills the students learn along the way.

  • Student on a team (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chris Denniston (2861939) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @03:13PM (#43464925)
    I'm a high school senior who has been on the school's robotics team for 2 years and it's really one of the best thing the school has to offer for kids interested in programming and engineering. It's one of the few organized clubs where nerdy kids can come together and talk about stuff they like and actually do something they like. I worked on programming and electronics and it's really the only way I've seen to learn how to build a program with other people correctly, a skill that I believe is going to be incredibly valuable in college and beyond.
  • Re:Student on a team (Score:5, Interesting)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @03:26PM (#43465045) Homepage Journal

    Well as someone who was in FIRST a decade ago, and is now an adult, it was probably the most useful experience of my pre-college life. Your impressions probably aren't far off.

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @05:05PM (#43466245)

    I second that. Last year, I spent only two hours helping. This year I signed up as an inspector and spent all of Thurs, most of Fri and Sat at San Jose event. It is interesting to see how teams operate. I think most of the action is in the pit area (that's where everything has to come together). Some had all members working on the robot and those not hands-on were working the bench or logistics (getting stuff, watching what other teams do). Then some teams have a few members working but others seem to just "hang out" (hey, adults are like that at many work places). And some teams had the adults doing much of the work (not a good thing, the youngsters should do everything). Adults (mentor and advisors) should be the ones "hanging out." Let the students experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.. It was loud, fast pace, go-go-go... I'm signing up next year.

    Some teams were very well honed in their craft, others such as first time teams were just struggling to get their robots passed inspection, getting systems to work (i.e. frisbee toss), and couple groups barely made it (i.e. cleared their bumpers and submitted their BOM 15 seconds before closing time of 8 pm). I tell ya, this real world stuff can be a real PITA. There was a team had a solenoid jam while waiting in line for upcoming match. Like mad they stayed with it (didn't ***freak out***) and finally fixed the problem. One team had problems with their shooter, and had a match coming up. Another team saw their predicament and gave their time slot for the practice area (you can score points with gratiuous professionalism, FIRST is not winner-take-all like a demolition derby). This team was able to troubleshoot their shooter before the match.

    One team that impressed me is where they changed entire chassis (from primary to alternate robot) on Thursday and finished it time for inspection sign-off. This major change is something most teams would never attempt (not enough time). How they do it? They designed and built entire robot including chassis. When they sought sponsors, they seek money, parts, and materials donations. Some sponsors want to design and build the chassis, students then do the rest. Because all team members intimately knew their hardware, it was not too big to make a major change.

"You're a creature of the night, Michael. Wait'll Mom hears about this." -- from the movie "The Lost Boys"