Students take 'FIRST' step in creating robot
by Lori Martinez
Jan 10, 2007 | 1050 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics unveiled its eagerly anticipated new challenge to robotics teams at High Tech High International Saturday, Jan. 6.

Sixteen high schools teams from San Diego County "“ along with their mentors, instructors and community partners "“ attended the kick-off to hear the new challenge and view a life-size replica of the new playing field.

FIRST is a non-profit organization committed to inspiring students of all ages in the areas of science and technology. Through FIRST, more than 1,300 North American teams participate in a total of 32 regional events held throughout March and the championship event held mid-April in Atlanta.

This year, San Diego participants will not have to travel far to compete at regionals, as the event will take place at the ipayOne Center March 22 to 24.

The 2007 challenge, called "Rack 'N' Roll," calls for students to create robots designed to hand-inflate colored tubes on pegs configured in row and columns on a 10-foot-tall center "rack" structure. Extra points are scored by robots being in their home zone and lifted more than 4 inches off the ground by another robot before the end of the 2 minute and 15 second match.

According to David Berggren, teacher of principals of engineering at High Tech High International and instructor for the school's team "“ named the Holy Cows "“ the challenge consists of 15 seconds of autonomous play, meaning preprogrammed operation, and 2 minutes of radio-controlled operation.

School teams are randomly selected to form three-robot alliances that will then compete against each other.

"The thing about FIRST is "¦ they're always touting gracious professionalism and teams working together," said Berggren. "So you may be "¦ banging into somebody one match and then in the next match they might be your partner to play."

High Tech High's team, consisting of 30 students grades 9 through 12, began working toward this competition at the beginning of the school year with registration for the event beginning in September.

Students now have six weeks to build their robots, which will be shipped to their respective regional events on Feb. 20. Each team is given the same amount of time regardless of the regional competition date.

Most teams have to come up with all or part of their funding for the competition. The High Tech High team received partial funding from the school, NASA and private donors, with other companies donating materials and supplies, according to Berggren.

He explained that judges of the competition look not only at the robot but also at the team as a whole.

"They look at how your team runs," Berggren said. "They really like teams that are run like business. We have marketing departments. We brand ourselves. We have Web sites. We do animations. There's a ton to it besides just building a robot."

High Tech High has participated in the FIRST robot competition for the past two years. Last year, the school's team finished 22nd out of the 46 participants in the regional competition in Las Vegas. At the championship competition, the team finished ninth out of the 350 teams.

For more about FIRST, visit www.usfirst.org. Fore more information on the San Diego Regional competition, visit the Web site at www.regional.sandiegorobotics.com. For more on High Tech High International's team, visit www.team1538.com.
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