2014 FIRST Robotics Competition contestants learn this year’s robot task

Students are gathering at kickoff parties across the globe on Jan. 4 to begin planning and building their tele-operated robots, readying them for competition season and the FIRST Championship in April.


This Frisbee-throwing robot was created last year by assistant coach Paul Grayson’s FRC Team 3767, Titan Robotics, of Traverse City, Mich. The team, which consists of 25 high school students, was formed in 2011 and will be competing in this year’s FRC under a new name, Toxic Bots.Strict rules, limited resources, time crunch, and stiff competition. High school robotics teams are about to learn the tasks their robots must complete to win the 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). The 22-year-old, weeks-long contest is a varsity sport that allows students to become real-world engineers.

The sponsoring organization, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), is a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring young people to learn science, technology, and engineering skills through mentoring, scholarship, and competitive programs, like FRC.

This year, more than 3,100 FRC teams will meet at local kickoff parties for the unveiling of the tasks their robots must complete to win. In competitions past, teams have developed tele-operated robots that maneuver on lunar-like surfaces, toss Frisbees, shoot basketballs, kick soccer balls, and climb jungle gyms.

The kickoff parties mark the beginning of a six-week design and build season that leads up to a series of elimination competitions. At the events, teams gather to compare notes, exchange ideas, make friends, and find mentors. But most importantly, competitors pick up their “Kit of Parts”—the approximately 2,000 basic parts needed to build the robot’s tele-operated drive base.

Teams generally spend just hours building the base and then the next six weeks tackling the year’s game challenges. Upon finalizing their design and build, competitors pack and seal their robots only to be opened at local, regional, and state contests. This year, the competition season culminates in St. Louis, Mo., April 23-26, at the Edward Jones Dome where the best 650 FRC teams gather for the FIRST Championship.

The FRC Championship is just one component of the three-day event. Two other robotics competitions, the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship and FIRST LEGO League World Festival, also close their seasons in April.

-Paul Grayson is a chief engineer at American Industrial Magic and mentors two FRC Teams in Traverse City, Mich. Edited by Jordan M. Schultz, associate content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, jschultz@cfemedia.com

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