May 2, 2012

The FIRST Robotics Competition

Scott Evans takes you inside the largest robotics competition in the world.

Scott: What is up! I am Scott Evans. And you see me here with my glasses? That is because here at FIRST, it is safety first. And we are here for day one of the qualification rounds for the competition.

Now, there are literally hundreds of teams with thousands of teens from countries all over the world ready to compete and show off their robot. Right now, we are here in the pit, and just like in Nascar or in open wheel racing, the pit is where the machines get supped up, fixed up and ready to go into battle. And I’m ready to see what goes down at FIRST!

The challenge? To build a basketball-playing ‘bot in just six weeks. Each team was given a box of spare parts, but if they needed anything else they had to raise the money to pay for it. And these robots aren’t cheap!

Team Metool Bridage from O’Fallon, Illinois spent on their robot. We caught up with them in the pit.

How stressful is this process?

“Really, we just take it as it comes. We’re used to this. We’ve done the stressful situations before in the regionals and this is what we’ve been waiting for.”

Scott: Yash Patel gave us the lowdown on the rules of the competition.

Yash Patel: Well, the entire game is two hours an thirty minutes long. It starts off with 15 seconds of autonomous, where the robot actually controls itself without any human input. After 15 seconds, the human controllers, which are the people with the joysticks, they step in and control the robot for the rest of the remaining time. The goal then is just to score as many baskets as you possibly could. And it’s basically whoever scores the most points wins.

Scott: And students here get to interact with other teams from all over the world. I am here with N.M. from Miscar, Team 1574, from Israel! How does it feel to be here competing in robotics competition?

N.M.: it’s really amazing, like the things that we can learn from all of the amazing teams in the United States are. It’s just so much more high tech and a higher level than we see in Israel.

Scott: And there is some serious team spirit going on, like Team Crush.

Talk to me about this tattoo that is on your face.

“I was going with the Mike Tyson inspiration and I definitely got quite a few interesting responses.”

Scott: I am sure. Your face is going to be all over Facebook like I took a picture with the loganator!

The robot competition is not only about fun and games but students here also get a leg up in the engineering and tech industry. Big companies like Boeing and NASA pay close attention to how teams perform and even offer sponsorships to help. And the hands-on experience they get in high school mirrors what many of them will study in college.

“I had no idea what direction I was headed in for my life, but I joined robotics and I definitely know where I’m going. Engineering is my number one career choice at this point, so it really changed my life as far as career choice.”

“I found my engineering heart here.”

“It kind of helped me decide what to do when I go in school. I mean, I’ve tried many things throughout my school. I’ve tried sports, I’ve done broadcast, I’ve done a whole lot of things. But this is definitely one of the things that hit me and was like this is what I want to do.”

Scott: Over the next three days, the teams continued to refine their machines going head-to-head on the court. Out of over 400 teams, only six made it to the championship match.

So, you just found out that you guys were moving on to finals. How do you feel?

“It’s amazing right now! It’s such a rush. We just scored over 100 points with just a single double balance and we’re going up against our rivals, Pink Team, if they make it to the finals.”

Scott: So, what happens if you guys walk away with the championship?

“I don’t know but I get shave my mentor’s head!”

Scott: It has all come down to this. This is the final match for the championship. All of these teams have had awesome performances all week, but only one alliance will win the title.

Red and Blue squared off one last time in a best of three series. In only two rounds the Red Alliance clinched the victory.

How does it feel?

“It feels good! We just won!”

“It feels great! I can’t believe we just won!”

“I’ve been watching this since 2002 and we finally win it all! I don’t know. It just feels amazing!”

Scott: They are pumped. The energy down here is amazing. These kids have worked so hard, so long and for this moment, it is the absolute capstone. Back you guys in the studio.


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