FIRST Robotics Encourages Healthy Competition and Strong Relationships With Engineering Field

4/15/11

Last weekend, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) held a Regional Robotics Competition for 53 teams at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. High school students were challenged with the opportunity to test themselves as engineers and problem solvers. The game, called LOGO Motion, pits alliances of three robots against each other and awards points for placing each balloon, which is in the shape of a triangle, circle, or square on an appropriate peg to form the FIRST logo.

Preliminary rounds are scheduled Thursday, which help get the robots fine-tuned and then certified by the judges. Friday and Saturday morning the teams run through qualifying rounds to determine seeding for the final alliance selection. I coached the Newton Ligerbots, FIRST Team 2877 (sponsored by PTC, Raytheon, Textron, and NDEP). The matches were very exciting, with the Ligerbots playing solid defense while their alliance partners scored, but the trio lost in the quarterfinal round.

FIRST is about more than drive-trains, chassis, elevators, mechanical-arms, electrical systems, and computer programs. Below are some of my other takeaways from the event:

Challenges: It was hard for the students to assess the level of difficulty involved in the design and strategy of their solution to this year’s problem. Additionally, the team found it difficult to evaluate the time required to build, because of the snow days that forced us to have six days off. However, this is the reality of engineering and FIRST creates an environment that simulates what students will see at work.

Lessons Learned: As our team ages (we are currently a third-year team) more responsibility for decision-making is passed from the coaches to the students. We have students writing grants, scheduling the season, maintaining our Web page, and managing the development of the robot’s components. This all requires a significant level of teamwork and communication.

We never stop trying to enhance our product, and we pass our knowledge on to help others. It becomes apparent that … Next Page »

Charles Hurwitz is head coach for FIRST Team 2877, the Newton Ligerbots. Follow @

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