Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

FIRST Robot Competition Wraps Up 76

CritterNYC writes: "CNN is carrying a brief article on the FIRST Robotics Competition in Florida (as originally reported on Slashdot here). This is the competition that Dean Kamen (Ginger inventor, etc) organized. Couple of interesting pics." Any FIRST participants out there who can link to pages describing their schools' projects? If anyone from CNN is reading, it would be great if you had some higher-res shots, too :)
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FIRST Robot Competition Wraps Up

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 09, 2001 @07:15PM (#303684)
    Here [] are all the teams

    and my brother's team []

  • I visited the site and looked at the team members' pages; please tell me thomas is your brother :)

    Name/Alias: Cheezman

    Age: 16

    Grade: 11

    Favorite Class(es): Basket-Weaving

    Interest(s): Girls

    Position(s) on team: just there to look good

    Reason(s) for joining team: to make our team look good

    Brief history of your self: I was born and now i am eye-candy for the ladies

    Other(for anything else you want to say): if any hot girls wants a date, call me and i'll see if i can fit you in.

  • Now my brother's famous, and all I've done is contribute a stinking patch or three to the defunct Utah-GLX project :-P
  • I thought I would respond to a few of the excellent points other readers are making.

    I think the FIRST program is an excellent one; it is a great idea to have students work together with mentors from industry and academia. It's a great experience for them, and it helps put the focus on science and engineering education, which is often quite lacking in pre-university levels.

    That said, however, I think realistically speaking, it is incredibly hard to pull together the support to do this project at smaller and more rural schools which don't have major industries and universities nearby. In addition, many smaller schools may not be able to pull together a large enough team to compete. If we step aside and think "outside the box" for a moment, I think we can all agree that there are many ways to promote science and engineering. For instance, when I was in HS, I participated in the Physics Olympiad and a local bridge-breaking contest. Yet both of those leaved much to be desired (ie, very few students competed on the US Physics Olympiad Team). We can encourage math and science in alternate ways which do not rely on expensive equipment or corporate sponsorships, and can reach many more students in the process.

    To respond to another reader, I agree we shouldn't be "pushing" kids into science and engineering. Nothing could be worse. However, I think we should be making an effort to reach ALL kids out there who do have a genuine interest in science and engineering. We all know of examples of just how a few brilliant individuals can make major contributions to a field, and it is shameful to think that in all likelihood, we may not even be aware of such individuals, who may chose to go into alternate career paths. It is our loss.
  • by RobertFisher ( 21116 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @11:07PM (#303688) Homepage Journal
    I read through the FIRST contest website. Definitely very interesting, and I think all the students and sponsors deserve a round of applause.

    HOWEVER, if you look a little bit closer at preicsely where the teams are coming from, you will find that a disproportinate number come from schools in the immediate vicinity of high tech belts around major urband areas. (The San Francisco Bay Area appears to be the largest geographical segment). As such, this contest is quite similar to the long-running Wsstinghouse (now Intel) competition, where students in major urban areas working in collaboration with major researchers from academia and industry compete against kids who lack any support from sponsors, and whose only research tools are their local libraries and the web. While the FIRST website did not provide further demographics, I am quite willing to believe that its participants are similar to those of the Intel winners -- largely upper-middle-class to upper-class HS students from urban areas whose parents are college educated, often in the sciences.

    What about the REST of the kids out there?

    I think we should give serious thought as to what we are doing to encourage the REST of the kids out there to pursue math, science, and engineering careers. FIRST and Intel are great ideas, but I for one am skpetical that we are really targeting the students who need our attention the most -- those with genuine ability and inclination to pursue math and science, but who lack the support to make it to the FIRST competition in Florida, or who lack a sponsor to help them win Intel. I think many of us in science and engineering can point to a small number of folks who have had a major influence in supporting our careers; without that support, many of us would not be here today. The fact that we are turning our backs on large numbers of students with both the ability and the inclination to pursue science and engineering is a deeply disturbing notion that should give anyone pause.

    The web is the universal medium of our age, which has broken down many geographical and class barriers. Can't we use it to reach the rest of the kids out there?
  • > I agree we shouldn't be "pushing" kids into science and engineering. Nothing could be worse.

    I personally know of some students who are involved in FIRST who have other interests. I know of two people on my brother's FIRST team, one was studying to be a doctor another a teacher.

    Also the team has a very natural and good dynamic to it. It allows parents and students across corporate culture (in this case, since the team is sponsored by DuPont, but the participants don't have to be related to DuPont employees) to come together to do something positive. Managers, mechanics, and business people all coming together to work on something together and outside of their normal corporate duties is really awesome to see.

    As to the original question. I think as they see the value in participating they can and will. The DuPont sponsored team is open to all students of school's in the greater Wilmington area.
  • HERE [] are some fairly high quality pictures and a few low-res mpeg movies capturing the action from the FIRST regional held at Kennedy Space Center earlier this year.
    Pay special attention to movie 3 catching the fine art of balancing the bridge - a key component to high scoring in this years challenge.
  • by PotPieMan ( 54815 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @07:27PM (#303691)
    I agree entirely. At my high school, the Junior Engineering and Technical Society [] (JETS) started competing in FIRST during my senior year, when I was preparing for International Baccalaureate exams. I would have really enjoyed this, and I know those who actually found the time got a lot of great experience from it.

    This year, the team from my high school [] was aided by engineers from the University of Florida [] College of Engineering [], NASA, and various companies. The members learned problem solving skills and people skills that can't be learned in standard classes.

    By the way, I went to part of the competition this year to support this year's team from my high school. (They did pretty well until the last day.) It was amazing - literally thousands of people cheering for the teams. It's great to see people be so enthusiastic about engineering.
  • So - what is he doing slacking off playing with toys instead of working to get this Ginger thing out and transform the way we travel in cities?

    Come on Dean... we're all ready for the revolution - you can play battlebots when you're done

  • Why the hell didn't anything like this exist when *I* was in highschool??

    God - imagine how many cool opportunities are available to H.S. kids today. Heck - my high school now offers Cisco certification classes.

    Not only do you get certified (CCNA, but hey you're 17) you also get a grade and credit towards graduation.

    How freakin' lucky and these ungrateful kids don't even know it.


  • I go to DeVry calgary, and the devry calgary IEEE team competes in various autonomous and non-autonomous robotics competitions. One such competition is where a flying helicopter has to fly a course, doing certain things, recognizing heat and cold, etc. Devry calgary frequently beats USA schools such as MIT..etc. Shows good things for canadian schools eh? heheh

  • Well, good thing I didn't post it. I'm not sure if I know you "in real life" at school, but many congratulations.
    You know, I think you guys had waaay too much fun with that wrench image... :)

    Oh yes! Shameless plug time! Chips Online [](actually, the print cousin) will have full robot coverage next month. Watch that space.

  • To my understanding, the point of FIRST has not been to monetarily fund the increase in science interest in education nationwide. Rather, the goal has been to get more kids thinking about science the way the majority of them now think about sports.

    Dean's position has been that he wants science and engineering to get as much attention as major league sports, that he wants scientists and engineers to be heros and role models to children. If this were to happen, instead of all the kids being out on the basketball court working on their jump shot in the vain hope that they could make it to the NBA, they would be at home working on their homework in the more realistic hope that they could someday invent something of real value.

  • I think we should give serious thought as to what we are doing to encourage the REST of the kids out there to pursue math, science, and engineering careers.

    I've seen this phrase a thousand times, and it has just struck me: why do we have to push kids into engineering?

    Sure, we're always going to need some engineers, but why do we have to have more and more, quicker growth of engineers? What's wrong with pushing out new computer tech a bit slower, if it means that we get people that actually like what they do? Let the kids study art or architecture or English or economics or philosophy if they want to.

    It won't hurt us to slow down a bit.

  • HAH! Our team, team 98 consisted of 8 students and 1 teacher. No corporate sponsor(aside from the local Bosch Structural Aluminium distributor giving us a load of that stuff to work with, which, i must thank them very much) or any engineers to work with. I was the jack-of-all trades guy, working on the electronics, drivetrain, pneumatics, and chassis. I was also the lead machinist, making many of the machined parts on the robot. We worked out of a small room in the back of a class room and had a very small room for our machine shop. The school allocated funds came out to be just enough to pay for the Nationals at Epcot in Florida and that was it. We turned out 74 out of 83 teams in Galileo Division. Not too shabby for a totally student run team and about 1/5 the size of comparable teams (like 108, 218, etc). Cheers.
  • That's truly terrific, but it's also the exception.


  • by edwinolson ( 116413 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @08:47PM (#303700) Homepage

    A typical FIRST team costs about $40,000 (most donated by companies) and provides a wonderful experience for about 10-30 students (depending on the school.)

    For $40,000, robotics contests like MIT's 6.270 or 6.186 can provide an experience for about 200 students. FIRST's large robots eat up money at an astonishing rate.

    I'm not saying FIRST should be done away with-- it gets businesses involved in education, but before people get too carried away-- keep in mind the gigantic cost of FIRST.


  • I think you don't really know what your talking about. A lot of the teams come from innercity urban areas. In particular, the high school we work with (Edison Technical and Occupational High School) is in innercity Rochester, NY. 75% of the school is on free-lunches. And just in Rochester, there are two other city-school teams. Also, three of the Chairman's Award Finalists (the Chairman's Award is the highest award given by FIRST -- it is given to the team that best exhibits the ideals of FIRST) were from innercity Pontiac, MI. I also know of about 20 teams from Manhattan, NY.

    There are lots of teams from other areas besides middle class suburbs. Is it easier for teams to be from there? Yes, because a lot of the infrastructure is already there. But it doesn't mean that's where all or even the majority of teams are from. And yes, area's with some sort of engineering infrastructure will have more teams (witness Michican) but that's because of the availability of sponsors.

    The FIRST competition is about giving everyone chance. It doesn't matter where you come from or how much money you get. It doesn't even matter whether or not you win anything. It does matter that we're showing high school students that science and engineering are cool and that they really can accomplish something. And that's why I do it.

    Matt Leese
    Team Leader
    Team 73

  • Beatty Machine Corp is a large national company? They were the national champions this year and frankly, before I did FIRST I'd never heard of them. They also happen to be the only repeating national champion FIRST has ever had. And contrary to what you said, students do work on the robots for the winning teams. This is a complaint that's leveled at many of the more prosperous teams without any real truth behind it. The reason most of these teams have better robots and more funding is because of the level of support at the lower levels. It's suprising to find out that the teams that have the most money actually don't get that from corporate. Instead, mid-level managers agree to "eat" the costs associated with the program. The reason they'll do that? Because they're engineers are so supportive of FIRST that they convince their boss to put the money in. I've also seen teams that have lots of money who can do almost nothing. It's not money nor will it ever be.

    Matt Leese
    Team Leader
    Team 73
  • by Merk00 ( 123226 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @07:34PM (#303703)
    A bit of info about the FIRST Robotics Competition [http]. The FRC pairs engineering companies and high schools (and colleges in some instances, such as my case) to design and build a robot to score points in a game. There are 6 weeks between when the problem is released and when the robot has to be shipped. After that, there are a series of regionals (13 this year) and a national competition. The robots have to be under 5 feet tall, have a footprint of no more than 30"x36" and weigh no more than a 130 lbs.

    The control system used is built by InnovationFIRST []. It consists of three Basic Stamp 2X controllers where one is user programmable. These are remote controlled robots but sensor input can be taken from the robot and used to preform certain tasks (for instance, several robots could "autobalance" on this year's bridge).

    For more information on FIRST [], the following websites might be of interest.

    Matt Leese
    Team Leader
    Team 73

  • I just wanted to respond quickly as I run to class.

    Yes, right now there is an artifically large concentration of FIRST teams in certain high-tech areas. However, it is the goal of the organization to eventually offer teams whereever there is interest. FIRST is relatively young for an undertaking of such magnitude and hopefully in the next 10 years ( 2001 was the 10 aniversary ) it will be available to all students.

    Also, as a quick aside, for the middle schoolers out there, there is a Lego League, which is far less costly than the other competition, but still encourages the ideals of FIRST. I believe the cost of the competition is around $500.

  • by zysus ( 123604 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @07:29PM (#303705) Homepage

    I'm a College Student Mentor for a FIRST Team based out of RIT. My team page can be found here []

    I just wanted to comment on some of the posts. This is not a battlebots clone. Far from it. The goal is not to disable/destory the other team, and although the game itself changes from season to season, it has been trending towards a cooperative effort.

    The messages and encouraged behavior while somewhat idealistic are exatly what today's highschool students need. If anything, (refering to some other posts i skimmed) it will prevent violent behavior by providing kids with afterschool activities. I encourage everyone looking for a way to fill free time to check out []

    I can say personally that FIRST ( this being my first year ) was a great experience and very personally rewarding to feel as if you are making a difference in others' lives.

  • My school's highest computer course was html until last year when they offered a class in basic. It sucked, but hey I got to take a class outside of it at the local university in C. That was the most useful class I took in high school by a very wide margin.
  • You can check out Team 449's entry at []. The competition was pretty cool, although Dean and Woodie's ideas about competition vs. coopertition (coopertition is their buzz word which means having everyone cooperate rather than compete) made the game much less exciting than last year. There's a petition going around for more competition and an easier scoring system next year. Dean and Woodie seem like extreme non-violent pacifists (They both took verbal pot shots at BattleBots calling it the WWF of robot competitions. Woody came out against Revolutionary War reenactments, pretty silly of him IMHO).

    Something else that might be of interest to some of you is my PalmBot [], a Palm controlled robot inspired by the PPRK. I got to bring this to the Nationals, and even got to meet Bob Metcalfe, creator of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, who happened to be a judge.

  • Yeah, me too! I was running around for the entire four days we were down there. Luckily I have Spring Break this week. Our team (449) also got knocked out in the first round on Curie. We came in 8th, and were allied with the team that came in 4th. Which alliance were you on?
  • I think these sorts of competitions are exciting and very educational for the students, I strongl support them. When I was a high school student in B.C. Canada we participated in the Physics Olympics held at University of British Columbia. We had prepared for months, building aparatus and solving problems in electronics. We really had no hope in winning, or so we thought, yet we walked away with the provincial championship that year. My involvement with the club and its teacher/sponsor have profoundly influenced my life and the educational choices I made. If we want to encourage interest in science we should make it fun.

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    Domain Names for $13
  • As an afterthought, this sort of "thought provoking" entertainment would be much more beneficial to our younger generations than the violence/sex filled smut that gets delivered to them from our current entertainment industry. We would see the decline in Columbine style massacres and violence in our schools.

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    Domain Names for $13
  • You are a product of our current generation of violence filled entertainment that I spoke of in my last comment. I prove my point... What ever happened to decency, civility and general respect for are fellow men and women?

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    Domain Names for $13
  • Yeah, we're such bastards for letting their jackass pilot crash into one of our planes, then having them keep our people hostage....
  • just to be fair, I must present the other side of the coin...

    blah blah blah broken homes blah drugs blah alcohol blah academic pressure blach blah commericialism blah blah lack of traditional values blach blach blah blah too many choices blah blah DOOM blah blah global capitalism blah geek profiling blah blah

    In other news, ain't nothing change, ain't nothing strange.

  • I felt this necessary to point out. If anything, FIRST is the opposite of battlebots. This year, given the game, it's 4 robots on the field working together to get as many points as possible. There was no ramming, smashing, or destruction of any sort. You do -> you lose.
  • I always wished I had joined in it, never had time I guess. But I knew people in it, and like other extracuricular activities, they gained more from robotics than from any classes. This is what we need more of in K-12. It is the learning that one gains from activities such as this that stay with someone, not what they learned in some Health class. These are our future engineers, and hey, they may actually enjoy their jobs.
  • Greetings from one of your alliance partners and co-national champs, team 279 Techfusion. As one of the engineers from our team, I hope you had a wonderful time and thanks for being our partner.

    For anyone not involved with FIRST, what are you waiting for? It's a ton of work but it is a seriously good cause and a lot of fun besides. FIRST nationals is a truly fun experience. If you ever get the chance to go, do it.

  • Here's a link to our robot. [] We didn't win though :-(
  • []

    Check it out... there are some cool pictures on this site.

    PS: Please don't mod this up... only reason it isn't anonymous is so people will see it as a reply.
  • My school, Los Altos high school, was in the top 16 places at the National competition. We pride ourselves on the fact that the robot was completely built by students. The only thing that the adults at the building site did was supervise so we didn't, say, cut our hands off or something dumb like that.

    Our team placed 4 in our division.

    go Eagle strike!

  • here's a link to the page for plymouth-canton/plymouth-salem's team lightning. I wasn't directly involved, but I know a lot of people who were on it, and I helped out a bit (indirectly) last year.
  • It still annoyed you, didn't it?

    I think it worked =]
  • dunno what you're rambling about. if it didn't annoy you, you wouldn't have replied in the first place!

    my actual account userid ranks in at under 60000, this is just, as you can see, an annoy and cause irritation account.

    ironic, considering this troll count is newer than yours is.
  • Or rather, this troll account was created BEFORE your account was
  • My school, Rockville High, in Vernon, CT, collaborates with United Technologies Corp and East Hartford High School to compete. It looks like they did quite well.

    They are called RAGE - Robotics and Gadget Engineering

    Visit [] for more info.

  • A few years ago I remember seeing a contest between robots trying to get the most ping pong balls in their goals (I think it was MIT sponsored), does anyone if this contest still exists?
  • and yet .Net is a vision of a heavenly net and SOAP is a viable standard?!? GIVE ME A BREAK NYT times...

    as if .Net represented only microsofts view of the future of the net...this piece is a tad sickening...
  • I am on team 365 as well, and I would like to express my sincere disapointment at this last post. If it originates truly from our alliance, it would seem that they have had their head in the samd for the last 4 months. FIRST has the ideal of "Gracious Professionalism" basically meaning that everyone has put the same ammount of blood sweat and tears into their robot and deserves our respect. This is in severe disregard to this ideal, and is one of the major differences between our competiton and any other robot competition. Although it does feel good to win, it does not mean we should worry about our heads exploding.
  • This was the second year of competition for the GSGIS Mech Techs (team 422), whose website can be found here []. Also, many team websites can be found on FIRST's page. []

    For those who think this is Battlebots for high-schoolers, you should really do some research; FIRST does their best to be as far removed from Battlebot-style games as possible. This year, for example, the game involved a radical new concept: four robots on the field at a time, all on the same team. You all shared the same score (with one exception), so if something went wrong for your teammate, you took the hit with them. In the end, it was in everyone's best interest to make sure that every team built the best, most reliable robot possible. This is meant to simulate real-world engineering challenges; as Dean explains, companies like Coca-cola do better than their competitors by creating better products and advertising more, not by blowing up PepsiCo's international headquarters. In the real world, teamwork is the only way to get things done, and if you go out and destroy the competition there is no-one to team up with.

    While I was at one of the regional competitions, I saw a great example of this. There was a team who had basically been logistically screwed; their parts didn't arrive in time, they didn't have enough help from their community (in terms of engineers), and their robot was even shipped upside-down! They put out an SOS over e-mail before the competition, and when they arrived there were three teams (ours included) lined up to help them out. Their robot wasn't the best out there, but it went from completely unfinished to running in a few hours. At the end of the comp, they won a judges' special award for having the courage to swallow their pride and ask for help. Everyone cheered.

    In real life, teamwork is more important than competition. If only the nations of the world could learn that lesson...

    Take care,

  • This is a very good point, and one I feel FIRST does its best to overcome. Dean Kamen, for one, continues to encourage those to whom he speaks to seek out the disadvantaged children, not the ones already interested in math and science. In a recent lecture to the Richmond Joint Engineer's Council [], Dean stressed that it was the responsibility of the engineers to reach out to those who don't know about what they do; preaching to the choir only does so much good.

    I don't know much about the Intel program, but I feel that FIRST sets itself up fairly well to seek out disadvantaged students through a grass-roots approach. The most prestigious award in the FIRST competition is the Chairman's Award, given to a team who best promotes the spirit of the FIRST competition. This award is given to teams who mentor other teams, as well as teams who went through hell to get into the competition. It helps keep everyone focused on the primary goal of FIRST at this time: to reach out to every school system, so that every student has an opportunity to participate.

    One serious obstacle that I see is the cost to compete. At at least US$5000 for each team to enter one competition (which does not include travel costs, extra parts, or uniforms), teams have to pull major corporate sponsorship to participate at all. That is actually part of the competition; students are supposed to learn how to convince money sources that they have a worthwhile project, just as real engineers have to convince people to fund their ideas. However, I think that any drop in this cost--while extremely difficult to accomplish--would pull in more teams. Most teams spend upwards of US$15000 to compete, and there is no question that richer teams get many advantages over poorer teams. However, I think that dropping that minimum cost would really help pull in more teams.

    The only problem is that it may be impossible to do.

    Take care,

  • Here [] is a link to the group my younger brother work with. Just wish they had this stuff back when I was in high school.

    btw I had problems viewing the page but it may have just been IE.

  • Pictures from the 2001 Competition - ( [])
    Pictures from the 2000 Competition (hi-res) - ( [])
  • It was called the "Science Olympics"
    It was funny.
    They had to do stupid stuff, like take 5 straws, and make a thing to protect an egg when you drop it. He said it was just redicoulas, all the other teams were like trying to shove the eggs up there noses or something. Needles to say, they came in pretty good.
  • I've been a member of US FIRST team 451 for the past two years. In fact I helped found this particular team. The FIRST competition is probably the best experience I have ever had in high school. The competition itself is amazing. Its like a basketball game, a dance party, and nerd heaven all mixed into one. It was amazing. Unfortunately, I think some of the bigger teams had robots which were designed and built by the engineers.
  • I can't believe I forgot about it this year. I havnt missed the FIRST Nationals in about 4 or 5 years. I've never been on a team, but it's so much fun to watch and get into as a spectator.
  • This may be slightly off topic, but it's not intended as a flame.

    I'm just curious as to why the front page says this news item has 1 byte in body? Another Slash bug or some other anomoly of the system? The article before this only had 4 bytes in body (apparantly).

    Just curious is all

  • I've got to say, I liked this one. Very Funny. hehe
  • After that weekend i can barely move... I fell asleep in most my casses today... well anyway I think overall it was a great competition this year, my team Cordzillia team 37 came in 20th place. We were knocked out of the first round of the curie division finals, but man what a ride. I jsut want to say to all those out there who we were allied with, if we had a highschoring match or not, thanx for doing your part in making that great weekend possible!!! If anyone wants to exchange some stories about this weekend e-mail me... Later!!!

  • Actually it says 1 bytes in body. I'm a little concerned about the grammar. Perhaps the captain and the mysterious Cats finally got to /.
  • I'm sorry, but that's really more of a "crap-flood" than it was a troll.

    Please, try harder next time.

  • I actually saw what I think was last year's competition on TV the other week. It looked damn cool. Too bad this wasn't around when I was in High School... the thing didn't start until the year after I graduated. Hell, it might have actually kept me in engineering.

    Cest la vie.

  • dude, if you want to think that you annoyed me, then go right ahead. evidently, you know not of me, thus your terribly uninformed comment.

    I've been reading /. long enough that very little of the crap that gets posted to the forums ever annoys me.

    though, I shall admit, sometimes I do rather enjoy being the jackass to rain on other's parades.

    But, then again, that's life, isn't it?

  • what an amazing coincidence. my other accounts are all older than this one, too. With the exceptions, of course, of my mockery & copy-cat accounts. Nothing is more fun than obfuscating a legit post by clothing it in the style of Lover's Arrival, The. It is just fun - in a sick, bored sort of manner.

    However, being that I really could care less who's account was made first, who started reading /. first, I really don't see why you think that you annoyed me. Could it simply be that I'm one of the few that actually reads all the posts? Could it be that every now and then, I just feel like posting a reply to some of them - at random, even?

    Could it be that I just felt it would be the kind hearted thing to do by informing you that there is more to trolling than crap-flooding?

    Afterall, you've now replied to me twice... so what is that saying?

  • So the lazy teams with less intelligence should benefit from the hard work of others?

    How communistic!

  • If you don't like it, don't watch it. Plain and simple. You can't stop it or you would violate freedom of speech. All Anonymous Cowards are created equal and shall not be denied their freedom of speech.
  • Even though i live on the other side of the world and was hence unable to attend or be a part of the competition, i was able to catch the (albeit too short) cnn spot. The thing that impressed me the most was the aspect of the competition where the teams were thrown together the had to work in unison to achieve a single goal. Here they learn their most valuable lessons in co-operation, the benefits of which far outweigh the significant engineering skills obtained
  • "One of these kids as a result of how they are being steered will win a Nobel Prize. One of these kids is going to cure some disease or invent some new technology to make the world better," Kamen said.

    Either that, or they will get jobs working for Microsoft, and become robots themselves ...

  • Our team webpage can be found at I was one of the drivers for our robot, called M.O.E. (Miracle of Engineering). We were in the Newton division, and although we had some bad luck early in the competition, we got picked by team 71, Hammond and went on to win our division and the whole competition.

    My National Champion medal and my team jersey signed by Woody Flowers (National Advisor to first, and professor at MIT) is proudly displayed in my room. :-)

    If anyone from our alliance is reading, I'd like to thank them for a job well done, you deserve the National Championship.

    The world needs more people like Dean Kamen, and the many engineers and parents who helped out our team.
  • hehe, just wanted to point out that my brother is on team 254, one of the teams from the 2nd place alliance :) His team can be found here [] He was the main driver for the team, and also one of the VERY few freshman to have that honor.
  • The web site for my team, OVERCLOCKED (team 246), can be found here. []

  • Keep resting your case buddy. All that this shows is that the closed source development model works at all, not how well or in any long term timeframe. Surprise, surprise indeed.

    Try thinking about this from a different the end of the competition what do you have? a bunch of mediocre robots and a few really good ones. Now what do you suppose would happen if the teams all compared notes and shared blueprints after the competition? The average robot would be substantially better next time around, eh? Do you think that this type of across the board improvement would work with a closed source model?

    Failing to understand what the open source advantages are doesn't make them go away.
  • You have a real talent for missing the point. I was responding to someone flippantly pointing out that closed source development can work. Of course it can work. There is no cause for surprise and that's what i was objecting to. The second point I was trying to make was that the open source model offers a special set of advantages for future generations of a given technology which closed source does not.

    However, both the original poster and I were referring to the differences in the open vs. closed source models and the results in the development of robots. If you feel that my social or moral evaluation of the differences is wanting, that's because I offered none. If that's what you're looking for, how's this: The closed source model rewards the best teams by giving them shiny prizes for their robots. That's great. The open source model rewards *all* participating teams by giving all of the participants a greater knowledge base and the benefit of shared experience. That's even better.

    My guess, however, is that you would see either as equally desirable because you, of course, would be a member of one of the superior teams. Right.
  • His password is "Mozilla-M69-dumps-core-on-Heidi"
  • I'm a member of the Purple Haze team at the Science Academy at LBJ High School(Austin, TX). Our alliance took 3rd at the Lonestar Regional in Houston. Check out our page at It sucks right now but hopefully we'll have pics soon, we've been too busy working on the robot to work on it at all. *begin shameless plug* check out our student run network at
  • Yeah, my high school, whitney young, was part of first. Even though we only competed nationally and came in 29 place (out of 30) it was a good time. We could've done a lot better, but we didn't really understand the game (not seeing the playing field before the competition and all) so out design wasn't the most optimal. We don't have a site (yet), but we're taking part in an unofficial competition in about a month and hopefully we'll have a site up by then.

    -Impossible []

  • My school's page can be found at []. We placed 8th in our division in the finals.
  • I participated in my school team for the 1996 FIRST competition, and along with our applied engineering instructor and our mentor and about ten other students. It certainly made my second semester of senior year more than just ditching classes for volleyball in the sun. Our team was probably the tiniest in comparison with the other schools who showed up with 30-40 students, half a dozen or more mentors. It was our first robotics competition (first large scale competition at that), so we were also starting out from scratch.

    Even though I was no budding engineer, had no clue as to how to build a robot, the experience proved that there was much more involved than the actual science of robotics. Rather, a great deal of our activities centered around logistics, such as contacting and securing sponsors, working out schedules, ordering and keeping track of work equipment such as the rendering computers and parts. Man, installing WinNT 3.5something and then 3D Studios on a P-75 w/32MB RAM was a royal pain in the ass, but that was the state of the art computer in our lab at the time. Needed it for the computer rendering part of the competition. Since our team was so small, every brain and pair of hands was put to work. Because of that, everyone needed to learn every aspect involved in the operation.

    Our mentor, Bob, kicked ass. At the time, he was a graduate student doing his thesis on robotics at a nearby university. He never acted authoritarian, rather more like another high school student :) Our robot was peanuts for him, but his humor and expertise really encouraged us to think and work together.

    The week of competition was memorable. Our robot wasn't fancy or professional-looking in comparison with the others, but it was the result of our own hard work. Our team was dwarfed by most of the participating teams (some teams'cheerleading sections outnumbered our entire team). We didn't have any fancy setup, just our robot. Never felt happier seeing so many people enthusiastic and cheering each other on. It was the first time that I saw the 'macarena' done in mass :) (either it hadn't made it to the West Coast, or more likely, everyone in our team didn't get out much in the last few months. Nonetheless, it sure looked goofy).

    The costs of entering the competition was definitely high, and without support from the sponsors, there was no way a team can buy the equipment and parts and show up to Florida for the competition. Our school is located in the SF Bay Area, but it was still difficult getting enough support for even a ten person team then. If this was hard, then it would probably be downright impossible for schools in less developed areas to participate. I haven't been following the competition since 1997, so maybe the FIRST organizers found ways to encourage more schools to join in.
  • I agree, funding is probably the greatest hurdle for a team, especially a new one.

    Back in '96, there were only two schools from California, and both came from the SF Bay Area. The majority of the schools were indeed from the East Coast, around urban centers. Now, there are quite a few coming from the SF Bay Area. Why? With large universities like UC Berkeley or Stanford nearby, and the multitude of hi-tech companies in the Silicon Valley it's much easier for schools to find sponsors and mentors, especially if they are starting out.

    What FIRST should do to encourage other schools in more remote regions to participate is to perhaps initiate some form of partnership program between business sponsors with contacts in those respective regions. Try to encourage nearby colleges or universities to join in to provide mentors or even funding.

    Or, it could be more of a grass-roots operation-not sure how that will work, as each city or town has its way of going about its business. However, as long as people perceive something like this to be worth it for their kids, then they'll find some way.
  • Actually the SharingFIRST site at MIT helped espouse the "Open Source"/Collaborative development approach. []
  • Look at the winning teams in each category -- you'll find large corporate sponsors or prestigious colleges.

    I was on a FIRST team three years ago as a member of the University of Idaho / Moscow High School team. We had very little money and no experienced team members in machining, welding, electronics, etc. As a result, we did poorly. I'm glad we did. It gave us a chance to observe the winning teams and how they worked. I also was able to talk to several of the high school students on the team that wound up winning the competition. He's what we saw:

    Observations of winning FIRST teams:

    1. The only teams that did well had large corporate sponsors. In our competition, one company entered four teams - they all paced in the top 10. This one company had turned the FIRST competition into their own inter-company rivalry.

    2. The students I talked to on the winning team didn't build most of the robot. They were allowed to draw pictures of what they thought it should look like (with help from engineers from the sponsor) and the sponsors chose the best design, and modified it to their liking, and built it for the students. The students were allowed to decorate it, put stickers on it, etc.

    3. If you watch the winning teams in the pit areas, you see large amount of brand-new expensive tools (portable lathes, drill presses, laptops, 5-foot tall roll-away snap-on tool sets, etc.) Also, you will rarely see a student actually work on the robot. They hand tools to the sponsoring engineers, but only the adults actually fix the robots.

    4. The parts kit you get with your registration does not change much from year to year, so you can design (for example) a drive system one year, and spend all of the next year perfecting it, so that this design is done and already built for the next year. The winning team was working on their robot for three months before they got the rules for the next competition. Since the nature of the competition does not change a great deal from year to year, you can reuse a lot of last year's work.

    I think the students we worked with got a lot more out of the competition than the students on the winning teams - they designed, built, maintained, and drove THEIR robot. They learned about problem solving, choosing the right material for the right application (given the loading forces, etc.), team work (the students had to work together to built the robot.), and that if all you want to do is win you wind up sacrificing a lot of things.

    If anyone has ever been a part of Olympics of the Mind, you'll find that this is a much better way of getting students interested in engineering and science (at least it was when I participated) I saw third-grade teams beat college teams because the materials and tools were limited to the point that money and professional machining skills had little benefit to the final outcome.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!