Robot Rivalry: Georgia Tech Students Help Kids Prepare for Largest Robot Battle in the Nation
Posted February 20, 2003 | Atlanta
Students from high schools across Georgia are preparing to compete in the largest robot rivalry in the nation. Called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the annual competition encourages students to develop new science and math skills as they engineer robots that compete against each other in sporting matches.
Each year, Georgia Tech students act as mentors to local teams and help secure sponsorship. This year, the students are working with two teams from Wheeler and Roswell High Schools. The teams will compete against 46 other schools in a regional competition March 27-29 at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth. The championship event will be held in Houston on April 10 and is expected to attract 300 high schools from the United States, Canada, Germany and Brazil.
The students met after school and on weekends at Georgia Tech for six weeks as they built their robots from scratch. They tackle a multitude of engineering problems during the planning, design, building and testing phases. The competitions are high-tech sporting events, the result of months of focused brainstorming, teamwork, dedicated mentoring, project timelines and deadlines.
“It’s not easy,” said tenth-grader Tauhira Hoossainy, 16, who is a member of the Wheeler High School team. “I do drafting engineering, but never anything like this before. Choosing a design was probably the most difficult because we all have different ideas.”
In January, FIRST sent entrants a manual that defined the rules for constructing a robot and the games. The robots are built to pick up and move large containers and then stack them one atop the other. The goal of this year’s challenge, The Stack Attack, is to move the containers into scoring positions on the playing field while stacking as many as possible. The Wheeler team decided to attach a gripping mechanism to its robot, allowing it to grip the ends of each container and raise it into the air. The team with the highest score wins a match. Some of these teams will participate in the Championship in Houston.
“The hardest part is making everything work together,” said tenth grader Roman Shtylman, 16. “It’s a big challenge and takes a lot of teamwork.”
Two engineering students from the RoboJackets Robotics Club at Georgia Tech – Anne Bergeron and Jeremy Roberts, both seniors majoring in mechanical engineering and computer engineering respectively – acted as mentors throughout the project.
“This is one of the greatest hand-on experiences that high school students can get in the area of engineering,” Bergeron said. “It gives them an opportunity to apply the math and science they learn in school in a competitive project to design and build a machine that’s also a competitor. It’s gives everyone a great feeling of accomplishment.”
Two years ago, Bergeron and Roberts worked with George Washington Carver High School, whose team named its robot “The Prowler.” It placed in the top half of its division during the national competition and won a Judge’s Award at a regional competition that recognized the tenacity of the Georgia Tech students – most of them participated in FIRST competitions when they were high school students. This past year, the Georgia Tech mentors worked with Roswell High School and received the Rookie All-Star Award at the regional and national competitions.