FIRST Robotics Competition encourages future engineers

UTAH – Utah’s Regional FIRST Robotics Competition is going green with a competition to create a recycling robot. Fifty-three high school teams from 11 states and Canada participating in the event to see whose robot completes the task best.

This year’s take on the annual competition, in which teams of high school students design and build robots that carry out a particular task, will be held on March 13 and 14 at the Maverick Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City. The event is free and open to the public, and is co-sponsored by the University of Utah’s College of Engineering. The founder of the FIRST student program and inventor famed for devising the Segway transporter, Dean Kamen, will be attending on Saturday, March 14. He will be available for media interviews (times to be announced).

This regional contest crowns a fervent six weeks for the teams, who design, build, program and test robots from kits without instructions or outside help. High schools taking part in this event come from as far away as Hawaii, Montana, California, and Alberta, Canada. Twenty of the teams hail from Utah.
“The robots are definitely a big pull for getting students into STEM, but the competition is about much more than that,” said Mark Minor, University of Utah mechanical engineering associate professor and event co-chairman. “It is about getting kids to dream big and learn how to make those dreams a reality. They learn that there is never enough time or money but they can accomplish great things if they work as a team.”

In this year’s contest, titled  “Recycle Rush,” teams must plan and construct robots capable of stacking totes on scoring platforms. Additional points are earned for capping the stacks with recycling containers.  Remotely controlled by the team members, the robots must also dispose of litter (taking the form of swimming pool noodles) in a designated landfill zone. All of the game pieces used in the competition will be made of reusable or recyclable materials.

The teams that win the Utah regional competition as well as select award winners get to advance to the FIRST national championships, which will be held April 22 – 25 in St. Louis, MO. Over 2,900 teams from 19 countries will take part in this year’s competition, which is in its 24th year.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition is intended to help advocate and nurture and interest in science and technology learning among the nation’s high school students, in the hopes of creating a new generation of engineers, programmers and scientists.

Image courtesy of Utah’s Regional FIRST Robotics Competition

Source: University of Utah, College of Engineering

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