RIT names FIRST Robotics Scholarship Winners

Kick-off event for 2009 FIRST Robotics Northeast Regional competition hosts 50 high school teams on campus

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A. Sue Weisler

The 2008-2009 FIRST Robotics Scholarship winners at Rochester Institute of Technology join a long line of students who have made their mark on the national competition and the engineering industry. Current winners William Dwyer, Christopher Rumpler, Shaun Sabo, Mark Vaughn and Tyler Wozniak were part of local and national teams that participated in the annual high school robotics competition.

This year, the group will be part of the competition once again, not as students on a team, but as mentors to local teams as RIT hosts the 2009 Northeast Regional Competition in March. Mentors and sponsors provide tools, expertise and time to regional teams as they build robots for the competition.

This year, ‘the build season’ began on Jan. 3. FIRST Robotics veteran and rookie teams were on hand at RIT to listen to a national broadcast from NASA about the highly anticipated competition game.

According to Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST Robotics and keynote speaker for the televised event: “Young people need to be able to learn faster and better for careers. We [in the United States] create well, and we have to continue to create well to rebuild the economy. The robot is just a vehicle, a tool. The important part of the competition is building relationships between serious adults. We don’t want all the trappings of other sports–winning at all costs. We want gracious professionals, with skill sets for a lifetime.”

The FIRST Robotics Competition is in its 18th year. Kamen remarked that the first kit for competitors was the size of a shoebox, including all the components. This year, the robotics kit has 130 pounds of “the most sophisticated equipment” including a more advanced control system. This year’s game is called LUNACY and has a moon theme. The student players are payload specialists who will need to launch moon rocks from their robot onto one of three targets on the competition floor. Points are scored for the most targets hit and the ability to deter competitors from reaching their respective targets. Specifics about the competition rules, equipment and strategies as well as Dean Kamen’s keynote address can be found at the FIRST Robotics website.

The FIRST Robotics Northeast Regional Competition takes place March 5-7 at the Gordon Field House on the RIT campus.