Battle Heat: Competitors vie for a
victory at NI Week's annual Robolab event.
Austin, TXóThe palm-sized Lego rover bounces off the wall and rounds a corner, heading towards a corner without side barriers. A standing-room-only crowd wonders whether the high wheels mean it will take the bumpy shortcut, or whether the programmers want their vehicle to take the long, smooth road. Robolab (www.ni.com/company/robolab.htm) was first conceived as a way to get kids interested in engineering, but the applause, sighs, and shouts from NI Week attendees prove that there's a big appeal for adults. Fourteen teams, ranging from teachers to brand new NI employees to college engineers have built vehicles over the course of six hours. Some, like the high school team that has matching team T-shirts, have done this quite a few times, while others prove that whether you're 12 or 50, it's possible to fail in front of a crowd without feeling embarrassed. During the year, when scores of NI employees go to local grade schools to teach kids and teachers how to build and program motorized robots. It's a big thing, with 50 teachers attending a summer course in programming and as many as 500 students and parents coming to NI for the big finale showcase of the vehicles. The focus is on learning, so there aren't any competitions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationís recent backup camera mandate could open the door to more vehicle innovations, including better graphical displays, 360-degree camera views, and the increased use of Ethernet.
With support from National Instruments, a group of dedicated students from Connally High School in Austin, where more than 50% of the students are at risk of not graduating, have created a successful robotics team that is competing in the FIRST World Championships.
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