13,000 High School Students compete in FIRST competition

MANCHESTER, N.H., FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, today officially launched its 2009 FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) season with an online Kickoff event unveiling this year’s game, Hotshot!

The FIRST Tech Challenge is an intermediate robotics competition designed for 14 to 18 year-old high-school students, where teams of up to ten students work alongside mentors, applying real-world math and science concepts to solve the annual challenge. Students compete and cooperate in team alliances at high-energy regional tournaments that reward the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students. Through their FIRST involvement, students discover the rewarding and engaging process of innovation and engineering.

“The type of hands-on problem solving required in FIRST Tech Challenge creates valuable skills students will need as they progress toward higher education and eventually professional careers,” said Dean Kamen, FIRST founder and CEO of DEKA Research & Development. “This year, the Hotshot! robotic game allows for a variety of mechanical solutions for scoring; but favors shooting mechanisms over lifting mechanisms – that mirrors the kind of real-world trade-offs engineers face every day. We have deliberately developed a game with a multi-tiered scoring target and multiple strategies of play to underscore the design trade-offs that the teams must make when building their robots.”

Hotshot! was developed with the input of professional robotics designers, engineers, and sensor experts from across the country to provide a relevant engineering challenge. The use of sensors to track and target, manipulators to collect objects, and launching mechanisms to score those objects are all part of the challenge. Coupled with uneven playing surfaces and challenging goal locations, HotShot! emulates many things real-world robotics designers face.

More than 13,000 high-school-aged young people are expected to participate in this year’s competition, in which robots will develop and execute both offensive and defensive strategies to score balls into a rotatable center goal and off-field goals in the last 30 seconds of a match. Using a combination of sensors including infrared tracking (IR), line following, ultrasonic, touch, and more, students will program their robots to operate in both autonomous and tele-operated modes. The HotShot! matches will last two minutes and thirty seconds, and will begin with a 30 second autonomous period followed by a two-minute tele-operated period. The final 30 seconds of the tele-operated period is the “end game” where additional outside goals become available and bonus balls come into play ensuring an exciting finish.

According to FIRST president Paul R. Gudonis, “The FIRST Tech Challenge is new and improved for the 2009 season and requires students to compete at professional levels with a kit of exciting technology including advanced sensors. While many scientists agree that new discoveries are the essentials needed to meet our nation’s challenges head on – the single most important challenge will be to produce innovative, passionate scientists, engineers, and technologists who will show us the way. That’s the real mission of FIRST.”

Research has shown that FIRST Tech Challenge effectively engages students from various backgrounds, instilling new ideas and concepts in more experienced students, while helping to inspire, motivate, and encourage learning basic principles and skills among students with less experience. Through their FIRST involvement, students also learn about important, life-long skills such as planning, research, collaboration, mentorship, and teamwork. FTC participants are eligible to apply for over seven million dollars in scholarship funds from some of the finest science and engineering schools in the country.

The 2009 FTC competition kit is a complete robotics platform designed to provide students with technology scientists and engineers use. It consists of an expanded TETRIX® metal robot structure kit, LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robotics kit, DC drive motors, servomotors, controllers, and advanced sensors. It also includes three software platforms which FTC teams can use to program their robots, including LEGO® NXTG, National Instruments LabViewTM for FTC, and RobotC.

During the 2009 season, approximately 1,300 FIRST Tech Challenge teams will compete in events in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, culminating at the FIRST Championship, April 15-17, 2010 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

FIRST Tech Challenge sponsors include:

Official Program Sponsor for the FIRST Tech Challenge, Rockwell Collins;
FTC CAD and Collaboration Sponsor, PTC; and
FTC Program Sponsor, General Dynamics.

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC) and FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC)for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) for children 9-14 years old, and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL) for 6 to 9 year-olds. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.

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Cheryl Walsh, 603-666-3906, X 460

Sr. Director, Marketing


Reference: www.usfirst.org