Students Battle in Robotics Competition

Students Battle in Robotics Competition

By Ashley Baker

Students competed March 10 and 11 in a robotics competition held by FIRST, a program named “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” High school students worked in teams to build robots that would hopefully win in competitions against other robots. The competition took place at the Maverick Center in West Valley City, Utah.

The FIRST Competition acts as a vessel in the promotion of student interest in the fields of engineering, programming, science and technology among high school aged students from around North America.

The overall goal of the event is to encourage students to harness their collaborative, social and mechanical skills in an effort to work together to create a machine, or robot, that can compete and win against the other teams who have entered.

“We’re able to choose what function our robot has. We chose to have ours deliver the balls into the low goal,” said Katie Wesley, a freshman at AMES High School, the Academy for Math, Engineering and Science, and first year robotics team member. “Our robot didn’t work as well as we’d hoped, so we had to improvise by moving around the gear selector and other things.”

Katie Wadsworth (left) Katie Wesley (right)

This year’s competition was entitled FIRST Steamworks which had a retro tech style. The goal of each robot was supposed to catapult “fuel cells,” represented in the form of yellow balls into a mock steam broiler in order to build up enough “fuel” to run a simulated steam-powered airship. The event was set against a steampunk backdrop and participants dressed in hats and costumes that resembled the science fiction-based genre.

“This has been a really good experience, socially and mechanically. I learned about how to put together an electrical board, which is a huge takeaway,” said Wesley. “Working on this has been really fun. Everyone is really nice and fun, I’ll definitely do it again next year.”

“I loved it, I liked that I am a freshman and they [my team] still needed me. I was actually able to contribute even though I’m new,” said Katie Wadsworth, AMES High School freshman.

Sara Whitbeck is a teacher at AMES High School, she stated that she first got involved with the program about four years ago.

“I’ve always been interested in pre-engineering. The robotics competition holds as much prestige to our school as the football team holds to traditional high schools,” said Whitbeck.

According to Whitbeck, 100 percent of the students involved with the program are able to enter into a professional field and use their practice and expertise from the program.

“These students are the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Mark Minor, Mechanical Engineering professor at the University of Utah and coordinator of the event.

“The contest is our [the University of Utah’s] outreach program. Kids can start their own team in their school or join a team that’s already established,” said Minor.

There is also a junior initiative that is headed up by AMES student, Cameron Campbell.

A FIRST Robotics Competition student uses his team’s invention, a penny press, to create a design for a little girl.

“The goal of the first Junior Advisory Board are one: to improve communications between teams and the senior advisory, two: to work for and with the FIRST leadership, and three: encourage and promote the values of FIRST,” said Campbell.

The FIRST Robotics Competition is a free public event that takes place every year.

For a complete list of competition winners visit their website.