Robots compete at UCF Arena
By James Tutten
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition held its annual Florida regional competition at the UCF arena last weekend. A total of 60 teams of high school students and supporters from around the nation competed for placement in the championship in St. Louis April 27-30.
Erik Halleus is the vice-chairmen of the Florida’s FIRST education foundation and a member of the FIRST executive advisory board. Halleus said “Science and technology today have become the most influential components of our nation’s and world economy. Being leaders in these fields will help are nation continue to move forward in the future.”
Large groups of wildly themed multicolored teams supported by mentors and family, cheered their teams robots, and point scored during the game itself. Each team was only given six weeks to prepare for the specific tasks required by this year’s competition.
The game this year is called “Logo Motion” where teams have three goals to achieve with multiple robots. The majority of the game involves picking up and placing inflatable symbols from the FIRST robotics logo (a red triangle, white circle, and blue square) on metal hangers.
Bonus points are awarded for an initial fully autonomous round, where the human drivers are not allowed to touch the controls, proper placement of the inflatable symbols, and even a secondary detachable mini-bot race, up an eight foot poll, at the end of each round.
Besides inspiring young high school students, several college students participate as mentors and advisers. Many of them can be found in the work area backstage where teamwork and offering assistance to other teams is another major message of the entire organization.
Ryan Morin and Kelly Wildermuth are both mechanical engineering students currently taking classes at Valencia and working for local robotics team called “Exploding Bacon” based with Orlando 4-H. Morin said “It’s beneficial to me because it gives me lots of work experience.” Wildermuth said “I’ve been involved with FIRST for seven years, and I’ve always loved playing with robots since I was a little kid.”
Matt Conroy has taught mechanical engineering for 12 years at Palm Bay High School and mentors students for the pirate themed group “Piratech robotics.” Conroy said “We need new ways to inspire the scientific and engineering students of the future. This foundation has proven time and time again how to do just that.”
Participants are exposed to vital employment groups in the Orlando area with major involvement from NASA, Locke-Martin, Walt Disney, and other major corporations. FIRST robotics is a great organization to become evolved with for anyone looking for high-paying engineering and technological -themed jobs in the future.
FIRST also offers a great deal of different scholarship opportunities as part of the FIRST educational organization. For more information on scholarships visit http://www.usfirst.org/scholarships
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