- FIRST Robotics Competition
The FIRST Robotics Competition is a high school
robotics competition organized by FIRST. As of early 2007, 1,303 high school teams of 32,500http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Who/Media_Center/Press_Releases_and_FIRST_News/07Kickoff_press_release_FINAL.pdf] students from Brazil, Canada, The Netherlands, Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and others compete to build 100 to 120 pound robots that can complete a task that changes every year. Teams are given a standard set of parts and the game details at the beginning of January and are given six weeks to construct a competitive robot that can accomplish the game's tasks. [ [http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/education/FIRST_Buckeye2006.html NASA - Robots Battle in the Buckeye State ] ] In 2008, teams competed in 41 regional competitions throughout March to try and qualify for the championship event in Atlanta, Georgiain April. Previous years' championships have been held in Houston, Texasand at Epcotin Walt Disney World.cite web | title=FIRST Robotics Competition | work=FIRST | url=http://www.usfirst.org/robotics/ | accessdate=2006-06-09]
The FIRST Robotics Competition involves teams of mentors (corporate employees, teachers, or college students) and high school students who collaborate to design and build a robot in six weeks. This robot is designed to play a game, which is designed by FIRST and changes from year to year. This game is announced at a nationally
simulcastkickoff event in January [ [http://www.usfirst.org/community/frc/content.aspx?id=418&menu_id=80 USFIRST.org ] ] . Regional competitions take place around the United Statesas well as in Canadaand Israel, but FIRST has a multinational following that further includes the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, and Germany. [ [http://www.usfirst.org/whatsgoingon.aspx Whats going on in my area? ] ]
Teams are expected to solicit local businesses for support in the form of donations of time, money, or skills. The average team has approximately 25 students, but participation can range from 10 to 100 [http://www.usfirst.org/what/frc/content.aspx?id=368 USFIRST.org ] ] .
The competition is a yearly event. The most intense participation occurs between the months of January and April, but "mini-competitions" are hosted by many teams in school gymnasiums throughout the year [ [http://www.usfirst.org/community/frc/content.aspx?id=436&menu_id=80 USFIRST.org ] ] . In early January, FIRST announces the details of a game to all participating teams. The game changes very much from year to year, with only a few rules such as the approximate size of the robot staying the same. [ [http://www.usfirst.org/community/frc/content.aspx?id=4094 USFIRST.org ] ]
For the next six weeks following the kickoff, called the "," the teams begin to design a robot to play the game, essentially from scratch. Team members spend the time designing strategies to play the game, drawing up ideas for robot parts, working with size and weight constraints, and finally, building and assembling their robot. Other challenges include gaining driver experience, building the electronics for the robot, and programming it. After the build season has ended (usually the 3rd full week of February), teams must ship their robot to where their first competition is. [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/FRC_Documents_and_Updates/2007_assets/Manual/4%20-%20Robot_Transportation_RevC.pdf] Competitions for FIRST consist of 37 regional competitions, and one championship event. Regionals typically involve between 20–65 teams [http://www.usfirst.org/community/frc/regionalevents.aspx?id=430 FRC Regional Events ] ] . Teams are randomly assigned alliances of 3 teams, which are paired into qualification matches, where they earn 'qualifying points', the calculation of which changes each year. The game changes every year, but for the most part, they involve some autonomous (computer controlled) robot operation for 10–15 seconds at the beginning of a match, followed by a much longer period (usually 2 minutes) of remote control [ [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/Team_Resources/Archived_Game_Docs/2002%20-%20Game%20Manual.pdf Microsoft Word - Section 1 - 2002 Manual - final.doc ] ] [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/Team_Resources/Archived_Game_Docs/2003%20-%20The%20Game.pdf] [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/Team_Resources/Archived_Game_Docs/2004%20-%20The%20Game.pdf] [ [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/Team_Resources/Archived_Game_Docs/2005%20-%20The%20Game.pdf Microsoft Word - 4-The Game rev C.doc ] ] [ [http://www.usfirst.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=3630 USFIRST.org ] ] . Teams use scoring objects on the field to get points, which are evaluated only after the match has completely ended.
The Championship event is held every year in April, often in a large stadium or convention center in the
Southeastern United States. The championship event consists of four divisions of 85–95 teams competing on one of four fields: Galileo, Newton, Archimedesand Curie [ [http://www.usfirst.org/community/frc/content.aspx?id=432&menu_id=80 USFIRST.org ] ] . The teams compete for the division championship title in the same way they would compete in a regional. The division champions then bring their robots over to the Einstein field to compete in an elimination tournament to determine the champion.
Rack 'n Roll"
*2006: "Aim High"
*2005: "Triple Play"
*1999: "Double Trouble"
Ramp 'n Roll"
Kit of Parts
At the beginning of the build season at the kickoff events, teams receive the Kit Of Parts and the game description. The kit of parts is a collection of everything a team needs to make a functioning robot, although teams are allowed to purchase additional off-the-shelf items with individual item value not exceeding US$400 with a total maximum budget of $3500 [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/FRC_Documents_and_Updates/2007_assets/Manual/8-The_Robot,Rev%20G.pdf] . The kit of parts includes robot controllers, motors, speed controllers, and software such as
Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk 3ds Max, MPLABIDE, and much more. As soon as the teams receive the kit of parts, the 6-week build season begins. [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/FRC_Documents_and_Updates/2007_assets/Manual/10%20-%20The_Kit_of_Parts.pdf]
Most FIRST regional events take place between Thursday and Saturday in a week in March. Thursday is typically a practice day where matches take place but do not count towards final standings. All day Friday and on Saturday morning, teams participate in qualifying matches [http://www2.usfirst.org/2007comp/Events/NJ/matchresults.html] [http://www2.usfirst.org/2007comp/Events/LA/matchresults.html] [http://www2.usfirst.org/2007comp/Events/MD/matchresults.html] . On Saturday afternoon, after the qualification matches have ended, the top eight ranked teams will pick partners from any team ranked below them, and the resulting alliances will compete to be regional winner. The top teams pick their partners starting with the top-ranked team, proceeding to the 8th ranked team, then back from the 8th team to the 1st team again. The alliances picked this way then proceed into elimination rounds, set up into quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. Each quarterfinal, semifinal, and final is determined by a best-of-3 matchup between the two alliances. [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/FRC_Documents_and_Updates/2007_assets/Manual/9%20-%20The_Tournament_RevA.pdf] All 3 robots in an alliance that wins a regional earns a reserved spot at the championship event in Atlanta [ [http://www.usfirst.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=944 USFIRST.org ] ] , although they still must pay the entry fee and for transportation. [ [http://www.usfirst.org/community/frc/content.aspx?id=454 USFIRST.org ] ]
Due to FIRST's mission to exposing students and the community at large to science and engineering, the two most prestigious awards they give out are awarded not to teams that have demonstrated the most prowess in the game, but to those teams and individuals who have done the most to realize FIRST's mission.
The only school to ever win every major award is Walnut Hills High School (Cincinnati, Ohio), who captured the four major awards from (1994-1996). They also won three of the four in 1996.
The Chairman's Award is the most prestigious award a team can win at a regional or at the championship, more so than even winning the competition itself [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/FRC_Documents_and_Updates/2007_assets/Manual/5%20-%20Awards_%20RevB.pdf] . Demonstrating the prestige of the award, a team that wins a Regional Chairman's Award receives a reserved spot at the championship event so that they may compete for the Championship Chairman's award, regardless of their on-field performance. The Chairman's award was created to recognize teams that demonstrate the greatest commitment to spreading passion about science and technology into their communities and schools. Submission involves writing an essay of approximately 2,500 words (10,000 characters) documenting the team's efforts at spreading the message of FIRST, as well as student interviews with judges at the competition.
Woodie Flowers Award
The Woodie Flowers Award is awarded to a mentor within a team that the team believes has made a large contribution to them and deserves to be recognized. Criteria is based on how well the chosen mentor inspires the students towards better communication and engineering. Any regional WFA winner is eligible to be considered for the Championship WFA, though past regional WFA winners may not again win a regional WFA, to allow other mentors the chance to be recognized. The WFA trophy itself is a head-sized moebius strip with bearings inside it.
A FRC team typically has approximately 25 students, but can range anywhere from 10 to 100. Teams are also sponsored and aided by adult mentors, who can be professional engineers, teachers, parents, college students, or any other interested adults. The degree to which the mentors are involved varies significantly from team to team (see "Sources of Contention" below). FIRST's recommended season stretches the full year, starting with recruiting and fundraising in September to December, robot construction and competition in January through April, then returning to fundraising and community involvement events until August. [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/Team_Resources/Appendix%20D%20Team%20Sample%20Timeline3.pdf]
The FRC community is generally very friendly and cooperative with one another; at competitions it is commonplace for teams to aid each other in repairs and improvements, even if the involved teams are slated to compete against each other. Most regional competitions have systems set up to facilitate the lending of parts and tools between teams. A notable example of parts-sharing is the [http://wiki.chiefdelphi.com/index.php/Team_1396%27s_%22One-Day_Wonder%22 One-Day Wonder] .
Some teams also choose to collaborate during the build season. The degree of collaboration can range from sharing part designs to each team building the exact same robot. FIRST has encouraged this practice, as shown in an official Q&A response from 2006:
Q: Is collaboration between 2 teams acceptable and encouraged by FIRST?
A: Absolutely. Teams are encouraged to share their knowledge, experience, and innovations with each other on and off the play field, as well as before, during and after the competition season. Without inter-team collaborations, many of the central elements of the FIRST philosophy - such as distribution of technical innovations, team workshops, shared designs, software code-sharing, teams mentoring teams, team-run off-season events, etc. - would all be impossible. The whole concept of "coopertition" is based on the idea of teams helping each other to compete.
ources of Contention
Role of Mentors
One of the greatest sources of non-technical debate within the community regards the role of mentors. Many teams feel that mentors should take an active or very active role in the design and construction of the robot. However, others believe that mentors should be limited to an advisory role, and that the great majority of design and construction should be done by students. It is not known which opinion is held by the majority of teams, as there has never been any formal poll on the subject. FIRST has never included any official rules regarding mentors in the game manual, except that the robot drivers and human player must be "pre-college students." [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/FRC_Documents_and_Updates/2007_assets/Manual/7-The_Game,Rev%20G.pdf] FIRST also states in its Mentoring Guide that one of the responsibilities of a mentor is to "have the kids do as much work as possible." [http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Get/Volunteer/Volunteer_Profiles/mentorguidede06.pdf] However, this is not binding in any way, and there is a prevailing opinion that only teams with a large number of professional engineers tend to be successful.
Another serious point of discord is that of resource inequity. Teams vary significantly in their accumulation of funding, corporate sponsors, professional engineers, and precision machining equipment. For instance, while most have annual budgets in the range of $8,000 to $12,000, a number of more prominent ones have budgets exceeding $50,000 per year. These teams tend to win many more awards than their more modestly-supplied competitors, and also generally predominate the national tournament in Atlanta. This problem is compounded by the fact the teams who can afford them (after the $6,000 entry fee and the often thousands of dollars that go into building their robot) are allowed to attend additional regional events at the cost of $5,000 each. Further, though expenditures on robot construction are limited to $3,500 per season, labor by sponsor companies can be deducted from the cost accounting records, enabling well-connected teams to not only have more money to begin with, but to spend less of it and obtain better quality components than ordinary teams. Additionally, the acquisition of tools, prototypes, computers, software, and the rest of the equipment used to ensure a successful build season is not limited in any way. FIRST has done little to nothing to alter these rules for the past three years, arguing that professional ties should be encouraged even at the cost of disadvantaging some teams.
Other significant debates center around the roles taken by girls and minorities on teams and the degree to which various rules can be "bent" in the course of the build season. Most bendable rules are addressed through the [http://wiki.chiefdelphi.com/index.php/Gracious_professionalism "Gracious Professionalism"] guideline, the FIRST honor code that teams should only do what is in the spirit of FIRST.
*Citation | last = Walton | first = Marsha | author-link = | last2 = | first2 = | author2-link = | title = Robotic trio wins 'Super Bowl of Smarts' | newspaper = CNN | pages = | year = 2007 | date =
2007-04-14| url = http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/04/14/robot.compete/index.html
*Citation | last = Ante | first = Spencer E. | author-link = | last2 = | first2 = | author2-link = | title = Building Robots Builds Scientists | newspaper = Businessweek | pages = | year = 2007 | date = | url = http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/apr2007/tc20070413_582820.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_top+stories
* [http://www.usfirst.org FIRST Robotics]
* [http://www.firstwiki.net FIRST Robotics Wiki]
* [http://www.chiefdelphi.com ChiefDelphi Forums]
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