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Education Robotics Hardware

2013 FIRST Robotics Competition Kicks Off 64

theodp writes "Saturday, the 2013 FIRST Robotics Competition kicked off, and — much like the Pinewood Derby — mentoring by adult engineers there doesn't hurt one's chances of winning. So, any advice for 'ordinary' high schools going up against the likes of FIRST Robotics Teams sponsored and mentored by NASA? FIRST Robotics Team 254's Lab at NASA Ames Research Center, for instance, includes 'an 80% size practice field as well as a small machine shop, workspace, computer lab and meeting space.' Not surprisingly, Team 254 won the 2011 FIRST Championship." We took our camera to the Michigan FRC championships last year, and had a great time.
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2013 FIRST Robotics Competition Kicks Off

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  • Serious advice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:24AM (#42503515)

    The first piece of advice: The point of the contest isn't to win, it's to have fun and learn stuff. Yes, just like in the pinewood derby, having dad build the thing means you're more likely to win the trophy; it also means you're less likely to win and have fun... So make sure that your mentors are mentoring, not doing the work for you.

    The second piece of advice: NASA isn't the only place that has smart engineers. There are plenty of small engineering companies in the world; take a look around and find one! Even pretty small towns are likely to have some civil engineers or mechanical engineers...

  • by 3nails4aFalseProphet ( 248128 ) on Monday January 07, 2013 @09:47AM (#42504029)

    The youtube video in the linked story explains the game pretty well. It starts as an autonomous competition, with double points for any goals during that time. Then teams are allowed to take control. []

  • by RPI Geek ( 640282 ) on Monday January 07, 2013 @09:49AM (#42504047) Journal
    This year the goal is to throw flying discs (frisbees) through goals of different heights (both in the sense of how high off the ground they are and how tall they are), and to get bonus points (awarded after the 2:15 match time runs out) by climbing a pyramid of bars (kind of like monkey bars on a playground, but a pyramid). The robots can weigh as much as 120#. Click here [] or look on YouTube for Ultimate Ascent.

    On the topic of autonomous robots, the first 15 seconds of each match ARE autonomous! The thing is that each team (of high schoolers) is given 6 weeks from learning the rules of the game to design, build, write code for, and test their robot. Asking a team (which could have as few as 3 or 4 mentors and 5 high schoolers) to do that, and make the robot autonomous, is just asking too much. Even the bigger teams (I mentor for Team 250 - The Dynamos - and I am one of about 20 mentors and there are a few dozen students) have a hard enough time making the robot functional.

    Lastly, it is very much against the spirit of FIRST to intentionally damage the other teams' robot; doing so will get you penalized and maybe even disqualified from the match. That doesn't mean no pushing and shoving though - playing defense is a valid strategy, but the game rules are designed to prevent damaging the other bots. In fact there are two term that are used widely in FIRST, gracious professionalism and coopertition. It is a common sight at competitions to see a team with a broken robot (either smoke pouring out or it just doesn't work) and people from other teams giving them parts, advice, and labor to get them back on the field.

The absent ones are always at fault.