Students Bring their Custom-Built Robots and Team Spirit to the Largest Sport for the Mind™ Showdown
More than 18,000 students (ages 6 to 18) from around the globe traveled to St. Louis, Mo., from April 22-25, 2015 and put their engineering skills to the test at the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, held at various venues throughout the city. The four-day event came down to a heart-pounding conclusion Saturday night in front of a roaring crowd of more than 40,000 when four teams from League City, Tex., and Davis, Clovis, and Palmdale, Calif., of the Newtown subdivision, won the coveted FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC®) Championship Winning Alliance. In this year’s recycling-themed game, Recycle Rush™, FRC teams took to the field, where competing alliances scored points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recycled by teams in their home locations or by FIRST at the end of the season.
Among the participants, many U.S. and international FIRST student robotics teams earned honors for design excellence, competitive play, research, business plans, website design, teamwork, and partnerships.
More than 900 teams from 40 countries competed in the four FIRST programs: FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®, grades 4-8, ages 9-14 in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico; ages 9 to 16 outside the U.S., Canada, and Mexico); FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®, grades 7-12, ages 12 to 18); and FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®, grades 9-12, ages 14 to 18). In addition to the high-energy robotics machines, 60 teams of 6 to 9 year olds participated in the Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®, grades K-3) World Festival Expo.
The Dr. Bart Kamen Memorial Scholarships were given to
- Tyler Brinton, FRC Team 195, Cyber Knights, Plantsville, Conn.
- Sheridan Rea, FRC Team 1388, Eagle Robotics, Grover Beach, Calif.
- Noah Shields, FRC Team 1676, Pascack Pi-oneers, Ringwood, N.J.
- Mayuri Viswanathan, FRC Team 2383, Ninjineers, Cooper City, Fla.
The FIRST Championship honored significant supporters of the FIRST mission:
- John E. Abele, vice chair of FIRST and founding chairman, retired, Boston Scientific Corp., was the recipient of the Founder’s Award, presented each year by FIRST Founder Dean Kamen to one organization or individual for exceptional service in advancing the ideals and mission of FIRST.
- Mark Lawrence, retired executive, CISCO, mentor of team 1816, The Green Machine, Edina, Minn., was the recipient of the Woodie Flowers Award, founded by Dr. William P. Murphy, Jr., to recognize an outstanding engineer or teacher who best demonstrates teaching excellence in teaching science, math, and creative design.
- Richard Dale “Rick” Snyder, current governor of Michigan, was the recipient of the Make It Loud Award, given to the person who has contributed the most in increasing the awareness of FIRST to the general public.
2015 FIRST Championship Sponsors
Qualcomm is the 2015 FIRST Championship presenting sponsor. Championship program sponsors include Energizer Holdings, Inc.; FedEx Corp.; Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD); Google; Monsanto; NRG Energy; U.S. Air Force; and United Technologies Corp. (UTC). Other sponsors include Abbott Fund; Bechtel Corp.; The Boeing Corp.; BOSCH; The Coca-Cola Co.; Comcast NBCUniversal; The Dow Chemical Co.; Dr. William H. Danforth; Edward Jones Foundation; I Am Jane; INCOSE; Microsoft Corp.; Mouser Electronics; Nidec Motor Corp.; NVIDIA; Rockwell Automation; Scottrade Inc.; Southwest Airlines; SpaceX; St. Louis Regional Chamber; Trio Foundation of St. Louis; UL; Vulcan Spring & Manufacturing Co.; and Wells Fargo Advisors.
Upcoming FIRST Championships:
2016: St. Louis (April 27-30)
2017: Houston (April 19-22) and St. Louis (April 26-29)
2018: Houston (April 18-21) and Detroit (April 25-28)
Eight-year-old Natalie Hurley joined Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) to “build with LEGO” and “meet cool people.” What she got was so much more.
Last May, as a second-grader, she and her fellow “LEGO Queens” of Junior FIRST LEGO League Team 248 embarked on an amazing adventure. Natalie and her teammates—Avery Dodson, Miriam Schaffer, Amber Yu, Claire Winton, and Lucy Clair Sharp—from Tulsa, Okla. were invited to the White House to present President Obama with their DISASTER BLASTERSM LEGO model and Show Me poster.
Engineering and LEGO Queens Coach Suzanne Dodson never expected her season to end with such an honor.
“I wanted (the girls) to get comfortable with motors, gears, and the ideas behind computer programming. I also wanted them to realize that you’re never too young for creative problem solving, and that if you’re willing to work hard, you can achieve just about anything,” she said.
The once-in-a-lifetime meeting with President Obama signaled that mission completed.
The 2013 Jr.FLL DISASTER BLASTERSM challenge tasked teams to explore the awe-inspiring storms, quakes, waves, and more that we call natural disasters. The hope was that participation would empower Jr.FLL team members to make a difference and to feel prepared if they learn about or face a natural disaster in the future.
In the case of the LEGO Queens, it did.
In September 2013, Colorado experienced the worst flooding in nearly 50 years after a storm dropped 17 inches of rain in one week. The floods killed eight people, destroyed about 2,000 homes and 200 businesses, damaged more than 16,000 homes, and crippled 200 miles of state highways and 50 bridges. About 6,000 people were evacuated from mountain towns cut off by floodwaters.
The LEGO Queens were particularly impacted by the idea that first responders couldn’t reach small towns because the bridges had been washed away. Inspired, the team set out to invent a flood-proof bridge that would retract when it detected rising waters.
“We came up with an awesome idea to help people,” Natalie said. “And engineering is mostly about helping people.”
The model the team designed mechanizes the bridge with motors and gears in the correct ratios. A computer program developed by the girls would cause the bridge to retract when flood conditions set in through a motion sensor in the riverbed.
The President spent nearly 10 minutes with the LEGO Queens, chatting about their project. By all accounts, the girls answered all of his questions while exhibiting excellent presentation skills and Gracious Professionalism.
“The LEGO Queens—an all-girl team that rocked tiaras while writing simple computer code—demonstrate that you don’t have to give up on being girly to enjoy science, technology, engineering, and math,” Coach Dodson said.
Inventor and FIRST® Founder Dean Kamen launched the 2015 FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC) season with the kickoff of a new robotics game called RECYCLE RUSHSM before a crowd of more than 800 people at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., hometown of FIRST headquarters. Nearly 75,000 high school students on approximately 3,000 teams at 107 venues around the globe joined the 2015 kickoff via live Comcast NBCUniversal broadcast.
RECYCLE RUSHSM is a recycling-themed game played by two Alliances of three robots each. Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recyclable by teams in their home locations or by FIRST at the end of the season.
At the kickoff event, FIRST Robotics Competition 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 worth tens of thousands of dollars—and only limited instruction. 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 105 regional and district events that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.
NASA Administrator Charles Boden said, “I get excited about the start of another FIRST competition season, and I get inspired watching you work as teams building and operating robots that perform incredible feats. Before we send humans to Mars and beyond, robots will lead the way. Your work will be a vital contribution to space exploration.”
Sponsored by NASA, Comcast NBCUniversal, and Massachusetts-based PTC, the 2015 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 live broadcast.