Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bowling Robots, Science-Savvy Students and Fierce Competition: Must be FIRST Season, and We're Very Excited!

Our linear motion components are building blocks used by more than just mechanical engineers in the work force! Future engineers use our products too!

We've donated products to be used in the 2012 FIRST competition, making us corporate "Diamond Sponsors" of an organization created by renowned inventor Dean Kamen that is laying the foundation for students to pursue careers in science and technology. We think that's pretty cool!

We are also excited to be separately sponsoring high school teams from both FRC (large robots) and FTC (small robots) competitions — a company tradition since 2007. The photo on the right shows California High School students working on their robot before the 2010 FRC competition. As part of the design, UtiliTrak, a compact linear guide using DualVee Motion Technology, was used to move parts of the robot back and fourth. Exciting stuff!

[ For a little background, here's a column Bishop-Wisecarver President Pamela Kan wrote about FIRST last year for Product Design and Development ]

What's FIRST all about? FIRST regionals take place every year across the country between participating high schools in both FRC and FTC competitions — thousands of teams compete in games with autonomous or remote-controlled robots, and the games are fierce and fun! Winning teams then move on up to the national championships for the big winning title.

The idea is to make science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM, as we say) exciting for kids. If you've ever been to a FIRST event, then you've seen that vision realized. We love seeing the focus, involvement, passion and creativity students display when preparing and competing in these things.

Credit: FIRST.org
We haven't announced which teams we are sponsoring just yet, but we get to meet the students and teachers from one of these teams later this week. Watch out for our video and blog posts to follow. Exciting! In the meantime, we've been reading up on this season's competition, and it looks pretty intense! The championship takes place in the spring, but students have already started designing, building and programming their robots. A lot of time, effort and thought go into perfecting the designs and tweaking the robot.

One of the FTC team advisers we spoke to said his students are figuring out how to optimize their robots for the theme (each year students are faced with a new theme). The name of the FTC game has been announced, and this time around it's called "Bowled Over". The goal? Get your robot to move racquet balls into crates and then stacking those crates for extra points. Sounds like a challenge, but we're sure our teams are up for it! Ready to rock 'n bowl?!

The larger robotic competition, FRC, will be announced on Jan. 7 next year from a NASA-televised event in Manchester, New Hampshire. This 2012 kickoff will mark the beginning of the design and build season for students all over the country. Good luck to all teams! May the "FRC" be with you.