The FIRST Robotics Program (FRC) offers an opportunity for high-school students to mentor with Industry professionals and step into the design engineering world, putting their young minds to work building a sophisticated robot in 6 weeks to compete in a variety of challenges. Founded in 1992 the FRC annually provides over $12 Million in scholarships to students and deems its mission is:
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” - Dean Kamen, Founder
Each year, teams of high school students find design and engineering companies who are willing to sponsor, mentor and work side by side with them. The activity is to compete with other schools to build robots weighing up to 120 pounds that can complete challenging tasks that change each year. The teams are given a standard set of parts at the beginning of January and are given six weeks to construct a robot that can operate autonomously as well as when guided by wireless controls to complete a set of unique challenges.
For the second year in a row the Design 1st engineering team worked with students from All Saints High School located in Kanata, Ontario. Over the course of six weeks, Design 1st and other supporters from the Ottawa hi-tech industry honed their teamwork skills and built, programmed and tested the robot, shown below.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary the 2011 FIRST robotics competitions consisted of 2,075 teams from 9 countries and close to 52,000 high school students. At the beginning of the build season FIRST teams receive a kit of parts containing electronics, software and structural components like pneumatic and electronic actuators, speed controllers, and gearboxes to build the robot. The teams also receive an additional off-the-shelf component budget set at a maximum of $400USD. These competition constraints make the challenge both exciting and competitive where team’s only advantages were their resourcefulness, experience and problem solving abilities.
This year’s challenge titled “Logomotion”, featured 2 teams of 3 robots each facing off in a two minute match to earn points – a description of which can be viewed below:
For this year’s competition the All Saints High School team traveled to Rochester New York, where all the teams set up functional booths which were areas for teams to display their robots as well as deal with any issues that competition can throw at the robot. The All Saints Robotics team performed extremely well using their fork lift inspired design to accumulate points and complete the challenges. The team hung a full first Logo gaining them the extra bonus points needed to win their 6th match. Every year the competition comes down to a bit of luck and a lot of reliability and practice with the robots. All saints placed 18th out of 46 robots at the RIT Regional competition in their 3rd year in the tournament.
In addition to the journey to New York the All Saints Robotics team also had the opportunity to showcase their robot at the museum of Science & Technology in Ottawa. Throughout the day the team fielded questions from passerby’s displaying the robots and abilities and inspiring young people of the marvels of technology and engineering.
The All Saints team is already looking forward to next year where they can hone their engineering abilities, build on past experiences and most importantly get a taste of “real world” engineering. The team is always on the lookout for new mentors from diverse backgrounds including design, software, electrical or mechanical fields. Interested parties can contact Matt Bailey for the opportunity to lend their skills and collaborate with a motivated team in building the next generation FIRST robot.