FIRST® Aerial AssistSM 2014 Robotics Game Unveiled
Inventor and FIRST® Founder Dean Kamen launched the 2014 FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) season with the kickoff of a new robotics game called Aerial AssistSM before a crowd of 400 people at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., hometown of FIRST® headquarters. Nearly 70,000 high school students on more than 2,700 teams in 92 cities around the globe joined the 2014 Kickoff via live NASA-TV broadcast and webcast.
The 2014 game is played by two Alliances of three teams each. Alliances compete by trying to score as many balls in goals as possible during a two-minute and 30-second match. Additional points are earned by robots working together to score goals, and by throwing and catching balls over a truss suspended just over five feet above the floor as they move the ball down the field.
“The FIRST Robotics Competition develops 21st century thinkers, 21st century workers, and people who will be able to lead in the innovation economy,” remarked Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire Governor, before directly addressing the student participants in the audience at Southern New Hampshire University. “We know that our competitiveness as a state, and as a country in this global economy, is going to depend on how well you all can develop as the future problem solvers we need, and the skills you learn in this competition are critical to our success moving forward.”
At the Kickoff, FRC teams were shown the playing field and received a kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC, and a mix of automation components—and only limited instructions. Working with adult mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. Once these young inventors build a robot, their teams will participate in one or more of the 98 regional and district competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.
“I love FIRST. It’s about much more than cultivating your interests in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Senator for New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). “It’s also about developing important skills in leadership and teamwork. We need to make sure we have programs like FIRST in every school district to ensure a bright future for each student, as well as for America.”
Sponsored by NASA and Needham, Mass.-based PTC, the 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff event is an opportunity for teams from all over the world to come together as a community to share in the excitement of seeing the new game unveiled. Teams at local Kickoffs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Mexico, and the U.S. watched the proceedings via NASA-TV and were offered workshops and a chance to meet other teams.
“This is more than a game. This experience highlights what you will do in your careers,” said John M. Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters. “Experience in this competition is similar in many ways to how we design, build, and test NASA robots.”
FIRST LEGO League Teams Assist Tornado-Devastated Area in Illinois
Several members from the Rockford Christian School (RCS)-based FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams headed to storm-ravaged Washington, Ill., to help families affected by tornadoes that hit the area in late November 2013.
Julie Rohl, who has been coaching various FIRST teams for the past seven years, made the trip to the area with six FLL members and said it was an emotional eye-opener, as well as a learning experience. Because house numbers were missing, team members had to resort to Google maps to locate the lots on which they were to volunteer. The team’s main job during the two-day project was to sort through debris and collect usable items, which they put aside for pick up by FEMA and other community agencies. The FLL team members worked from dawn until dusk, witnessing some unusual and sad sights: a mangled snow blower in a treetop; empty hangers in a closet still standing among the wreckage; and pieces of a garage door strewn about the area.
In their search, they also found many personal items. Working with the local library, the FLL team members were able to post photos on Facebook, where grateful family members retrieved them. Team members spoke with homeowners who wanted to share stories of how they had survived the treacherous weather. In an effort to understand the storm’s impact on the surrounding community, FLL team members visited the Red Cross, the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), insurance catastrophe trailer, and FEMA. They also interacted with therapy dogs brought in to calm victims and support volunteers.
“FIRST is an extension of the classroom; it’s a place where students can become life-long learners,” said Rohl. “We learned that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can extend far beyond the classroom and into the backyards of those around us. And that we can use our STEM skills to help others!”
From Robotics to the Jet Dragster Race Track
At the age of 11, Moriah Counts dreamed of designing military planes and bonded with her father, a software engineer, over household maintenance projects. This passion led her to join a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team in her hometown of Columbia, Md., during her junior year of high school. Today, Moriah is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.
On her FRC team, Moriah was primarily focused on design, but also seized the opportunity to bounce around from group to group, learning as much as possible about programming, electronics, and production. This time proved well spent when she found herself interning with the Embry-Riddle Larsen Motorsports Jet Racing Team.
They thought I was one of the most tech-savvy interns they ever had,” explained Moriah. “Because of FIRST, I already know how to construct most things, and I already knew how to use the tools, which was half the battle.”
Moriah is now devoting her time to graduate-level research projects working with the Air Force, NASA, Boeing, and Gulfstream on aero-elastic activity, jet-impulse actuators, and composite materials. Following her graduation from Embry-Riddle in Spring 2014, Moriah has already secured a position at Bell Helicopter as a mechanical systems engineer.
To learn more, visit www.usfirst.org.