Every 1st week of January, the new FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) game is unveiled. From the moment the game is released, teams have approximately 6 weeks to design, build and test a robot. After those 6 weeks end, teams will travel around the country to attend Regional competitions against other robotics teams.
This year, the game Ultimate Ascent challenged teams to pick-up eleven inch frisbees and score them in goals. As an added bonus, teams also were awarded points for climbing a pyramid structure. FRC games always push the boundaries of technology to a point where one team can not do all the tasks.
For a few years, I have been mentoring with a local robotics team in Houston called the DiscoBots. Mentoring is a terrific exercise in leadership and technical expertise. Every year, I find my skill set increases dramatically as the students introduce me to new challenges and technologies. This year the team took a big step in designing with custom sheet metal and more polished fabrication techniques. The DiscoBots’ 2013 FRC robot shown below is called “Disk Jockey”.
The team did very well this year, winning Engineering Excellence and Regional Finalist at the local Houston – Lone Star Regional Competition. However more importantly, the 35 students on the team learned a tremendous amount of technology in a short time period. Robotics competitions are not about the winners and losers like normal sporting events. The real success comes from the preparation and learning that happens way before any competition starts. All of these students will also turn “Pro” in careers in science and engineering. Shown below is a picture of the team at the conclusion of the robotics competition.