The annual FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is an international high school robotics competition that gives students real-world engineering experience. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has the mission “to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”
Every year, the challenge is unique, and revealed to teams 60 days before the first competition. This year, the 2017 FIRST Robotics Competition game is FIRST® STEAMWORKS. It recalls an era in which technology relied on steam power to prepare their airships for the ultimate long distance race, as shown here:
This year, INNOVIM’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Philip Ardanuy, and our NOAA/Engineering Management Services (EMS) Project Manager, Hugh McLaughlin, returned as veterans to judge the Central Maryland District at South River High School in Edgewater, MD. In that event, high school teams compete in alliances that pit three robotics teams against three other teams in a series of exciting matches. This culminates in quarter- and semi-finals, and the ultimate final match. Also awarded are a series of prizes including, among many others, the Entrepreneurship Award that celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit by recognizing a team that has developed the framework for a comprehensive business plan to scope, manage, and achieve team objectives; the Excellence in Engineering Award that celebrates an elegant and advantageous machine feature; the Industrial Design Award that celebrates form and function in an efficiently designed machine that effectively addresses the game challenge;and the Creativity Award that celebrates creativity in design, use of component, or strategy of play.
Given the many strong teams, judges Phil and Hugh had their hands full, working over the weekend with the other judges, to select the team to win each prize. This is always a tough job, as so many of the teams are exceptionally and uniquely qualified. In Hugh’s own words, “This event is spectacular. I had no idea there was such a program and energy provided into the school systems for support of the math & science careers!”
Watch the exciting final match, below, that determined this competition’s winning alliance of three teams. The match begins with the robots in autonomous mode, but quickly transitions to piloted mode. It culminates with the robots climbing up a rope to the airships.