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HS Students Compete In FIRST Robotics Competition 73

A trio of teams have banded together to succeed in the 'FIRST Robotics Competition'. The teams Bobcat Robotics from South Windsor, Connecticut, Highrollers from Las Vegas, Nevada, and Gompei and the HERD from Worcester, Massachusetts combined to create a versatile robot geared to succeeding at a number of odd tasks. "These young people had six weeks to perfect their machines. And they had the enthusiasm of any athletic competition. From tie-dyed shirts to human hair dyed in school colors, competitors from 23 countries showed that math, science and brains can provide a lot of excitement ... Whether it is computer programming, wiring a motor or scouting rivals to develop strategy, students said the skills they develop often go beyond the contest. Clearly, the event has piqued the interest of major sponsors such as NASA, which will broadcast webcasts of the competitions."
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HS Students Compete In FIRST Robotics Competition

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  • FIRST is great. I was involved when I was in high school. We need to get the word out even more so that people will know more about it and will support it more!
    • I hate to bite, but I was in a similar competition in middle school, so my first response to FIRST is "so what?"
      Robotics competitions in all ages aren't all that uncommon, so is this a slow news day? I mean, what would make this important would be if it was something more than a glorified exercise in Lego Mindstorms.
      • by Puls4r ( 724907 )
        You, sir, are completely incorrect regarding what first is.

        Lego Mindstorms? Really?

        Do they use CNC machines, Lathes, Mills, and turn out a robot that weighs over 150 pounds, puts out more torque than many small automobiles, and costs well over $20k after all is said and done?

        Corporate sponsership? 8 million dollars in college scholarships? Summer internship ships at intel, motorola, nasa, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Texas Instruments?

        No. Sorry. Lego Mindstorms is nice, but it's not even close in scope. You sh
        • To back up the troll a bit, maybe he went to the FIRST website [] and just looked at the FIRST Lego League (FLL)information. The FLL group is for 9-14 year olds and actually does use the Lego Mindstorms system. However, the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is much more involved as the parent notes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hax0r_this ( 1073148 )
      FIRST is ok, I did it for two years, but it isn't something that most /. readers would find terribly interesting to participate in.

      Really, the name says it all. "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology". The program does all of that, and it is great for getting kids who would otherwise never have such opportunities involved in some fun stuff.

      What FIRST is NOT however, is a robotics competition. The years I participated the rounds were 2-3 minutes long, and 20 to 30 seconds of that ti
      • There are lots of robot competitions for students, but I'm not a student anymore. Does anyone know of non-student competitions (preferably in Europe, but for other readers, post freely)? I would really like to participate in one, but don't know where to look.
      • When were you involved in FIRST? With the exception of this years competition (autonomous mode wasn't really strategically necessary this year) the autonomous modes for 2005 and 2006 seemed to be quite interesting really. Also, while custom circuits cannot directly communicate with the mechanical parts, if a team has a good programmer (I've seen some teams do this) you can make the motors act as though they are directly connected to the custom devices. In addition, the provided function is just so that t
  • As someone who was involved in FIRST for the last three years, I wouldn't say that the competition has just now piqued the interest of major sponsors such as NASA - I'd say that they were integral to the development of FIRST from the beginning, most especially NASA.

    The summary also gave the impression that the three teams combined to create one robot - well no, each team has a seperate robot in FIRST, and this years' competition allowed three teams per side.

    On a personal note, oh how I miss FIRST. Last year (my senior year) was when I had the greatest enthusiasm for the program, and I did indeed dye my hair blue and orange. It's a shame that was also my school's last year before the team disbanded. I would strongly encourage any slashdotter to volunteer for a local FIRST team - the whole robot-making experience leaves a lasting thirst for engineering that mentors can help shape into a high schooler's bright future.
    • As someone who was involved in FIRST for the last three years, I wouldn't say that the competition has just now piqued the interest of major sponsors such as NASA - I'd say that they were integral to the development of FIRST from the beginning, most especially NASA.

      Indeed, I competed with my high school in the U.S. FIRST robotics competition in 1995, and there were serious contenders sponsored by major companies like Proctor and Gamble back then. Actually, I think they sponsored two teams - one that used T
    • "the whole robot-making experience leaves a lasting thirst for engineering..."

      Not just engineering, but also programming, game theory, management, and accounting. I personally cant imagine anyone having a thirst for accounting, but I've seen it happen.

    • As a faculty member in engineering, I totally support FIRST robotics and FIRST lego league.

      At the same time, it seems that the results skew toward pushing students into ME, not EE or CS (or my favorite, CHE).

      Although the robotics could involve neat sensing and computing (EE) and algorithm development (CS) the students take home message is that all engineering is levers, gears, etc (ME). The high schoolers don't do much with the automation side of things (their adult mentors sort most of that out usually) a
      • by Version6 ( 44041 )
        The high schoolers don't do much with the automation side of things (their adult mentors sort most of that out usually)...

        I would say that depends on the team. My son's team (which competed in the nationals--we've just been home an hour or so) did all the work--hardware, software, control systems. Their rule is "The coach doesn't touch the robot." They placed several rings in the autonomous period (at both regional and national competition) using only the camera (unlike teams whose adult advisors added ultr
        • I have heard that there are reasons why the rules allow adult "mentors" to essentially design and build the entire robot. As I understand it, actually driving the robot in competition is the only thing that adults can't do--they can even be the strategist on the field. I think they should get away from that. Kids that age really are young adults, and do have amazing capabilities if you give them some basic training and support. What's the best way to learn? Do it yourself!

          I think they allow mentors to do that much of the work on the robot to make things easier on rookie teams, since it's very rare for them to have enough skilled students before they get established. When i was on team 100, the adults would help the students when they needed help, but rarely actually do any work that a student couldn't have done in their absence (for the most part, the only work adults did on the robot was the same stuff students did (like if they needed to file a shaft so it fits in the whe

        • by gatzke ( 2977 )

          Right, it depends on the team. But in my experience, it seems like the electronics side of things is MOSTLY done by adults and the kids are just there to build mechanical things and run the remote during competition. In regionals, a lot of robots don't attempt anything during the autonomous period (in my experience).

          At the same time, HS kids should know something about mechanical things with some intuition as to how to put gears and levers together. They may not know a lot about programming and the proba
  • by Bob54321 ( 911744 ) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @06:11AM (#18739873)
    I am pretty sure I have heard of previous robotics competitions... so FIRST much be an acronym and not capitalized for emphasis. Anyone know what it stands for?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology
    • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @06:34AM (#18739947)
      But most people forget that, just like most teams forget what the actual prize is - by the time the finals roll around, the kids are so pumped to be doing this the actual prize is almost an afterthought.

      Returning from our first FIRST regional in NH in 97, my boss asked me how it went. I told him I'd been teaching for 17 years, and this was the first time I had to sit down and put my head between my knees becasue I was about to pass out watching my students do something academic.

      In retrospect, it is the single most effective thing I've seen in now 27 years of teaching to get kids to "do their darndest, no holds barred" like we always imagine kids should do in school.
      • As someone who did FIRST for three years, I gotta say, it beats the hell out of sitting in class. I love theoretical matters too, but damn, Sitting around doing similar activities all day every day for years and years on end? FIRST is insanely fun because it lets you do something different. Not only that, you learn so much about producing things, team dynamics, and tons of other highly relevant experiences.

        Possibly one of the most interesting things that happened in team was that because we spent so much

    • by RelliK ( 4466 )
      The winners go on to compete in SECOND robotic competition.
  • by mqj ( 949877 ) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @06:24AM (#18739919)
    Ahh, so many wonderful memories of robot competition are summed up in this bash [] quote

    <Patrician|Away> what does your robot do, sam
    <bovril> it collects data about the surrounding environment, then discards it and drives into walls
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, 2007 @06:29AM (#18739931)
    FIRST is quite good - I was in a team competing from the UK, unfortunately, for teams outside the US/Canada it's fairly hard to raise the money to build the robot and get the team to the event!

    Some sort of initiative to help teams outside of North America would be good I think - there is a fair bit of interest over here in the UK.
  • Shouldn't "Robotics Competition" be limited to Robots?
  • by realthing02 ( 1084767 ) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:31AM (#18740207)
    While this probably won't get too much play outside of the tech community, it's good to see there is at least an interest in computer science/robotics in the high school level. It wasn't until college that i had the ability to tinker with some robots, and it was a great experience and definitely taught me a lot about the field, not just theory.

    Now i just can't wait for robotics teams to get a slice of that high school football budget.
  • Really robots? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Porchroof ( 726270 )

    Were these really robots or were they simply radio-controlled devices...with a human in control?

    Anybody there ever read "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov? That series of short stories will enlighten you to what robots are/will be.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      there is a 15 second autonomous mode, and there is a CMU camera available to the competitors.... they are robots.
      (there is a 2 minute RC mode)
  • Robotics Kits (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @08:51AM (#18740587)
    Just for the heck of it, here's a couple robot kits worth a look:

    - Lego Mindstorms NXT [] (note: flash-based site with music)

    The Lego Mindstorms kits have been around for a while now, but they offer almost infinite possibilities to those willing to experiment with different approaches to accomplishing a particular goal. Devices as complicated as photocopiers have been built using these kits.

    - VEX Robotics Kits []

    The VEX kits are fairly new compared to the Lego Mindstorms sets, but are a bit more advanced and could be dubbed as an "Erector Set", but with a brain. The VEX kits were developed in part by FIRST and were briefly distributed by Radio Shack in a move to get more people interested in robotics.
    • I'm not sure what state Mindstorms is in now, but I imagine it's a lot better than back when I used it, back in the days of the IR programmer. I wasn't impressed with its "infinite possibilities", which were limited to three sensors and three motors unless you felt like shelling out a few hundred dollars for more kits.
  • by Puls4r ( 724907 ) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @09:24AM (#18740741)

    FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology".

    These are not just remote-control toys. Camera systems are used for fully autonomous operation during portions of the competition. More hi-tech teams use sonar, infra-red and other devices. Indeed, for the geeks out there I'll point out that the "remove control" is actually a 900 mghz modem - not your standard little 2 joystick controller.

    Teams compete in alliances of 3 robots. 2 alliances are on the field at the same time, and each trys to score the highest. Defense (aka contact) is DEFINITELY allowed, although intentional attempting to damage other robots is highly discouraged.

    The motto of first is one of "Gracious Professionialism". I.e. - if your robot is broken at a competition, you can be sure of getting half a dozen teams all trying to help you get it back on the field.

    There are very few limits placed on the overall robot developmenet - you must use their motors, radio system, and batteries. There is also a limit on robot weight and size.

    Go over and read the rules at - or better yet, go over here and watch some of the semi-final matches at the world championships that went on in Atlanta this weekend: / []

    The movies you want are at the bottom with the longer names - the semifinals and finals on that field. There are thousands of teams and this is competitive as all heck. Every big-name company you can think of that is involved in technology sponsers it - from Motorola to Ford.
    • I've participated on FIRST for two years now, and I'm graduating as a senior. I will miss FIRST so much... it's not just for robotics enthusiasts either. I had no real interest in robotics until I joined a team. In two short years I've learned about wiring, various sensors, what "PWM" stands for and means, and tons of other things. So has everyone else on the team. FIRST is hands on education to the max. And it's fun. To stress the parent's post's point of "Gracious professionalism" - FIRST not only encoura
  • Bobcat Robotics! Wow. We won the Philly Regional last year with them in our alliance. You always find the coolest stuff. To the Alpha Male post, you suck, because we've all seen that copy pasta on 4Chan, and that's where it should stay. This is truly a worthy subject to talk about, because it's so rewarding.

    I've been in FIRST Robotics (Counting FIRST Lego League) since 2001. It's been an amazing experience, going from building little lego robots to grab boulders in 2001 to going to Atlanta to compete in 200
  • My FIRST team beats you all. Parkville HS's number alone makes them awsome.
  • I participated in FIRST robotics this year as a mentor for a local school. Prior to this, I had never even heard of it. The whole thing is amazing. It gives students a fun and creative way to learn about science, math, engineering, technology, and industry. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and I learned a lot. The regional competition was magical -- excitement and enthusiasm was difficult to imagine without seeing it in person. I think the best part of it all is the mantra "gracious profess
  • FIRST has been around for years. Its been in ESPN2 since at least 1997, when I competed. NASA and many, many other agencies and corporations have always been involved. If robotics were actually going mainstream, we would be treating this as routine by now. The only new should be who won, innovative strategies, etc. The fact that the competition itself is still treated as new and novel after all these years shows that it has failed in its basic goals.
    • i think FIRST gets slashdotted every year, at least this year they were considerate enough to not do it on kickoff when everyone needed to download large files from first's website.
    • The program has been getting some new support. At BAE this year, one of the founders of YouTube and the CEO of Encyclopedia Britannica spoke about further promoting FIRST through their respecitve outlets. Rhode Island just passed state law requiring all high schools to have FIRST teams by 2009 (IIRC).

      I spoke with Dean there, and while he recognizes the success of the FIRST program in expanding to over 2000 teams, he wants it to be truly exponential growth. I don't know if it's possible. It's so hard to
    • The fact that the competition itself is still treated as new and novel after all these years shows that it has failed in its basic goals.

      While I won't deny that it is somewhat disappointing that FIRST has not garnered more attention from the general public, your statement couldn't be farther from the truth. FIRST's primary goal is to motivate and inspire the high school students involved to pursue careers in science and technology, and as a participant myself (High school senior and captain of Team 246, BU Overclocked) as far as I can tell FIRST has been VERY successful at achieving it's goals.

      According to the website at,

  • I love FIRST, I'm currently on Team TRX 145. This program is awesome, it makes me think out side of the box to play the game every year........ sadly next year will be my last year as a student member.
  • As a founder of my schools FIRST team I'd like to say this is a great opportunity for people to get into. I was a part of my team from the first year and for the next four years. One of the harder parts I had and this I'm sure had to do with the school I was in, was getting other people to work as hard s I did. I took part in building, fund raising, programming, and other overall work. While in the program and for a year or two after I started and continued a FIRST Lego League program which is a sub of
  • Team #306 has been holding down some top positions over the years, considering it's a team entirely made of hard working students, and not a bunch of kids who let the engineers tell them what to do. FIRST is about the kids working out the designs and design problems, not about following instructions to some Lego-kit. Team 306 has always left every part of the work up to the students, which is why they've always been one of my favorites to watch online, since I've started following along online. If you do

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