Teenagers Battle for Best Robot of 2008 at FIRST Championship Finals
Our guest blogger Levi D. Davis is a freelance writer who is finishing his gradutate work at NYU, where he is writing about innovation. He wanted to share the latest news about talented inventors with the readers of InventorSpot.com.
Here's his article:
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On April 17-19, 2008, hundreds of robots will descend on Atlanta Georgia to compete in a competition of speed strength, and innovation. Coming with them will be the teenaged future engineers who designed the robots and who will guide their team efforts through a spirited competition
The FIRST Championships (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway Human Transporter. He is also currently working on a water purification system that he hopes will bring clean water to the 1.1 billion people in the world who lack access to it. He wanted to make science and engineering accessible and inspiring for teenagers and young children. So far his efforts are a success: a study done by Brandeis University showed that students who participated in FIRST were more likely than similar students to go to college and do well.
FIRST has various programs, starting with one for children as young as six who build with LEGOs, up to the top level, the robotics competition for high school kids. The teams purchase a set of basic parts, then improvise and build a robot to compete in a game with rules that change every year. No one knows what the rules will be until they receive their kit, cutting down the advantage veteran teams have over rookies.
The teams in the championship qualified by competing in regional tournaments. Most are from the United States, but there are also teams from Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. This year's competition has each team racing around a track pushing giant balls over and under overpasses, with additional points being awarded for going over them.
FIRST drew a wide variety of teams to Atlanta this year. These winning teams include:
Baxter Bomb Squad
The Baxter Bomb Squad , from Mountain Home, Ark., is a veteran team competing for the thirteenth time. They are led by a team of school and community mentors, and have won numerous awards including numerous regional championships and top 16 finishes at the national level. They have also been awarded the Chairman's Award, the most prestigious award given by FIRST, awarded for innovation, professionalism, and teamwork.
The team overcame numerous obstacles in reaching the finals this year, including a blown radiator and transmission while transporting their tools to the regional tournament in Chicago, where they qualified for the championship.
A nice video of their robot is below:
Full Throttle , from Chula Vista, Calif., is another story. Everything had to fall into place for team #2599, something that this group of Hilltop High's Alternative Education students certainly was not used to.
Led by program director Charlene Lemons, teacher Dennis Perry, and computer technician Bernardo Escobedo, this team of credit-deficient students, teenaged parents, and students medically unable to attend class has reached the national championship in their first year.
Full Throttle was helped out by a timely grant from NASA, fundraising done by the students, and help from the community and parents, including one mother, Bonnie Donegan, who volunteered her time for the team while her child underwent cancer treatment during the six-week build season.
The team won the San Diego regional tournament despite not having a regular place to build their robot and dealing with team members who were scattered across the school district and had limited mobility.
Videos can be seen on the Full Throttle website .
The Robovikes , from Fairfield Calif., have been competing since 2000. They have won numerous awards over the years and are headed to Atlanta after taking second place at the Davis-Sacramento regional competition held at UC Davis (my alma-mater, so forgive the favoritism in selecting them to spotlight).
Despite coming from a small school (about 1600 students) the Robovikes have managed to become a FIRST power, and have helped nearby high schools start their own programs, as well as helping local elementary schools compete in the LEGO division. This fits right in with the FIRST philosophy, which values teamwork and sportsmanship more than points in the competition.
Congratulations to all teams who competed in FIRST events this year, and to those who qualified to go to Atlanta for the championships. We look forward to annoucing the winner.
Levi D. Davis