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An Engineer's Account of the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition

An Engineer's Account of the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition

The 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition Palmetto Regional was held at Clemson University, Clemson, SC, on March 25, 26 and 27, 2010. My 15-year-old grandson and I were able to attend the event on Saturday.

If you are not familiar with FIRST Robotics Competition, its purpose 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."

This year's competition was a battle of robotics playing soccer. The court consisted of three zones each divided by 2-ft-tall barriers with a single tunnel crossover. The ends were offensive zones for each alliance. The middle zone was a ball feeding area. Three teams comprised each alliance and two alliances battled in each event. Each alliance had three robots, one in each zone. They could play in any or all zones if they were so designed to go over the barriers or thru the tunnel. One score was awarded for getting the ball into the "soccer net." Two points were awarded if during the last 20 seconds or so of each event a robot could extend an arm, catch an overhead rod and elevate off the floor.

The robots were marvels of mechanical and electronic parts. Each operated wirelessly and were controlled and monitored by computers.

There were more than 2,000 people at the event on Saturday. Most were high school students rooting for their team, but there were also a good number of us adults. The event could be described as a combination rock concert and sporting event. There was adequately loud but enjoyable (if you were young at heart) music blaring such hits as "YMCA," "It's twisting time again" and other crowd-joining dance music. During the drive home my grandson was already talking about next year, while I too have it on my radar for an enjoyable 2011 Saturday outing.

Click here and here to read more about FIRST.

Mechanical Engineer Wade T. Harter is a Clemson University graduate, Class of 1959.

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