For 20 years, the FIRST Robotics organization has challenged student competitors to build intricate and unusual robots as a way to encourage them to become the “innovators of the future.” Since 1992, local and regional events have grown, and today, more than 2,000 teams compete from around the world.
The X-Cats of Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester, N.Y., are only one of seven national teams to have competed in FIRST Robotics competitions continuously since 1992. The X-Cats will be one of 44 teams vying for the prestigious Chairman’s Award at the 2011 Finger Lakes Regional FIRST Robotics event March 4 and 5 at the Gordon Field House at Rochester Institute of Technology. The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international sporting and technology competition, with regional events taking place around the world. Winners from regional competitions will compete in the championship event in St. Louis in April.
“If people are worried that we have lost our competitive edge in science and engineering, they should come and see what these students have done,” says Glen Pearson, Finger Lakes FIRST Robotics regional director. “FIRST provides a life-changing experience. It engages students, teachers, mentors and volunteers in ways that few other programs can. Once you see it in action, you cannot help but feel better about the future.”
The Finger Lakes regional will have 33 high school teams from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Ten teams from Canada will also participate.
This year’s game is called LOGO MOTION. Teams have to use their robots to hang “uber-tubes” —large, inflated game pieces that look like the shapes in the FIRST Robotics logo—on different level grids along the playing field. Mini-bots, smaller game pieces from the team’s robot, will also be used for bonus points.
Guest speakers for the two-day event include Bill Destler, RIT president; Ron Zarrella, former Bausch & Lomb chairman; Michael Gowan, Bausch & Lomb vice president of global business operations; Terry Taber, Kodak chief technology officer; Wim Appelo, president of Xerox global business and service group; Maggie Brooks, Monroe County executive; Richard Mihaljevic, Ortho-Clincal Diagnostics director of strategic engineering; and Laura Chan, Harris RF senior engineering director.