The challenge: build a remote-controlled robot that can stack storage totes, place a large recycling bin on top, and grapple with plastic pool noodles that the opposition is scattering across the competition floor. “RECYCLE RUSH” is this year’s game in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).
“It’s definitely different from previous contests,” said Jazmin Harris, co-president of the Viking Bots, the FRC robotics squad at Thomas Jefferson H.S. in Richmond. “It will be challenging to build a robot that can be used for several objectives. But I like the idea that the recycling concept could carry over into other activities and that we might build robot designs that could actually be used in recycling programs.”
RECYCLE RUSH was launched as this year’s FRC contest January 3. High school students from across Virginia gathered at the VCU Commons to be briefed on the game and pick up kits of technical components that will form the core of their robots. Teams have six weeks to design, build and program robots to compete in springtime tournaments.
Importantly, teams do not receive any instructions on how to build their machines. They devise their own plans, working with adult mentors from their communities. Along the way, students learn not only technical and engineering skills, they also gain valuable experience in team building, problem solving and time management.
High school students on FIRST teams also qualify to be considered for more than $20 million in college scholarships.
The kickoff gathering at VCU was an opportunity for teams to meet Stan Southworth, the new Executive Director of VirginiaFIRST, the non-profit organization that administers FIRST robotics programs for middle and high school students across the Commonwealth.
“I’m not an engineer,” said Southworth, “but I will work hard to make the FIRST robotics experience richer and more rewarding for teams, particularly as we prepare to launch a new district-based model next year that will let teams compete more often and closer to home.”
Southworth said he is eager to hear ideas and concerns from FIRST participants. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRST Robotics Competition is the “varsity” level for high school robotics contests and there are 75 FRC teams across Virginia. Most will compete at the FRC Virginia Regional March 20-21, 2015 in Richmond.
Story by: Jim Babb/VirginiaFIRST
Photos by: Page Dowdy/VirginiaFIRST