2011 FIRST Robotics Competition: A look inside the Traverse City West team
Look inside a FIRST Robotics team effort - how a team forms then designs, builds, tests, and modifies a robot all within six weeks for the FIRST Robotics Competition.
For the 2011 FIRST Robotics Competition I have been invited to go back to high school, this time as a mentor for FIRST ROBOTICS Team 3767. For the 2010 FIRST Robotics I was invited to be a judge for the contest and covered the event from that perspective. In 2009, as a reporter for Control Engineering magazine and covered the event from the pit area. This time I have jumped right in with both feet and am assistant to the adult team leader Mike Wilson. Mike is a math teacher at Traverse City West Senior High School and started a robotics class as a fun way to cover the material that you have to get through in high school. It really has caught on; people throughout the community are getting really excited about supporting this relatively new high school sport.
I have been given the unique opportunity to give you the inside story of what goes on inside a high school as they prepare FIRST Robotics Competition. Traverse City West Senior High has a robotics class that meets for about 70 minutes a day, five days a week. The 19 students enrolled in the robotics class form the core group. To use the schools facilities and continue working after school hours and weekends, they have formed a robot club. Joining the robot club is how an additional 20 kids who are not in the robotics class, are able to be on the team.
FIRST Robotics Teams are known by their number, in this case 3767. Yes, there are over 4,000 teams. FIRST is now entering its 20th year as one of the world’s newest sporting events. The teams are also known by a name and by the nick name they have chosen. In the case of Team 3767, through some strange twist of form filling paperwork, its official name ended up being “JC Penny / JC Penney & Traverse City West Senior High School” and it’s nickname is “Tifinity.” Tifinity is the result of combining the words Titans and infinity.
In this past week, the team is building an organizational structure of its own, based on the prototyping / custom building program that they are embarking on. My study of LabVIEW has been put on hold, my time now going into helping organize and advise the team along with 8 other mentors. My NI LabVIEW study materials are now being used by six students who are looking at how to use it to program the robot to do the tasks that it needs to do.
Many items from American Industrial Magic’s robot shop have been loaned to the school as examples for them to work from. Kids are learning about checking orders in, packing slips, and Memorandums of Understanding as thousands of dollars worth of items are being moved into their school workshop. Plans for making robotics a permanent program at the school are being considered along with the reallocation of facilities for follow on years. These kinds of discussions indicate how much enthusiasm the recently started robotics program is generating.
I am writing this two days before the TOP SECRET FIRST Robotics 2011 Kickoff is revealed on Saturday.
The tasks that the robot will have to do to score points is a closely guarded secret that will be revealed to all the teams across the USA simultaneously via satellite broadcast at 10 am Saturday 1/8/2011. Until then a few cryptic hints have been released by the FIRST headquarters to all the teams. 3767’s best guess today was that that the task will be Wall-e like block stacking. In response to their guess, tomorrow I will take the mock up of Wall-e that was on the TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club parade float, and the Wall-e poster over to the school.
Operation of a FIRST Robotics Competition Team requires tens of thousands of dollar, which the kids are expected to get through corporate sponsorships.
This is intended to get kids to interact with adults since it is way beyond what they can raise with pop can drives and bake sales.
Cannot see a comments box below and want to comment or offer a question? Click on Inside FIRST Robotics, Team 3767, first post.
GO ROBOTS !
Paul F. Grayson - 4-H Leader
TC Robotics 4-H Club
"Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fun"
390 4-Mile Rd. S.
Traverse City, MI 49696
(231) 883-4463 cell