Monday, January 8, 2007

FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff

by Norm Scott

Over 230 students and their teachers and mentors from 24 New York City high schools gathered at Polytechnic University in downtown Brooklyn on Saturday Jan. 6 for the annual kickoff of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

They watched a live NASA feed sent all over North America from FIRST headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire as this year's game, Rack 'n Roll, was unveiled to the oohs and aahs of the excited kids. They wasted no time as they immediately began discussing strategies for robot building that would attack the problem as they waited on line for lunch, which was followed by afternoon workshops on Sensors, Pneumatics, and C Programming. At the end of the day, they took home their robotics kits to begin the 6 week window they had to complete the complex project before regionals to be held all over the nation begin. The New York area FRC regional will be held at the Javits Convention Center from March 16-18 (free and all are invited to see a wonderful event that will restore some of your faith if you have any doubts about the kids today.) 32,000 students from 1300 teams from every state and many nations take part, with a World Festival to be held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in mid-April. (Every year quite a few NYC area teams attend.)

Is it remarkable to see so many students and teachers giving up a Saturday for a robotics event? Not if you've been involved as I have as a volunteer with the New York area NYC/NJFIRST organization since I retired over 4 years ago. The teams do not only represent the area tech schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Staten Island Tech, but many teams from neighborhood schools that have often been looked as "failing" by the DOE. Region 2 robotics consultant even led the Morris HS (a school being closed down) team up to Manchester to meet the FIRST team led by well-known inventor Dean Kamen (the Segway). Last year I even met some robotics students from my alma mater Thomas Jefferson which has been closed down, (sort of sad since the class of 1962 met kids from the last Jefferson class ever.)

Right now we are working on the FIRST LEGO League middle/elementary school robotics tournament to be held at Riverbank State Park (145th St, and Riverside Drive) on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, as 160 teams from NYC schools and community centers will take part. More details in another post.

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