Robotics Competition

Background Information About FIRST Robotics (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)

Headline: Wissahickon's Robotics Team Wins Regional Championship
March 29, 2008

Drexel, University City, Philadelphia, PA --
The Wissahickon Robotics Team came in first place at regionals on Saturday. They also won the prestigious "Chairman's Award". It was one of the most exciting competitions ever seen!

What is a robotics competition?

Part I

It's not exactly Robo-wars. The robots don't battle each other to death, or at least, that is not the intention. But still, a F.I.R.S.T. robotics competition can be even more exciting than Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots or Robo-wars.

How do you play?
A first time spectator of a F.I.R.S.T event often will say something like, "What the heck is going on here?" There are people running around all over the place dressed in strange attire. Team spirit runs so deep you can't help but to soak it in. Groups of people dress in similar strange attire and gather in the stands yelling, screaming and chanting... at robots competing on a field.

Then, people tend to ask questions, such as, "What the heck are those robots doing?" A typical response might be, "Trying to score points." This usually doesn't satisfy their curiosity, rather it evokes even more questions, "How do you score points? How many points is that worth? Who is driving? What do you mean autonomous mode? How are teams made up?"

Well, to understand the game, it sort-of helps to step back and take in a wider view. Because high schools from around the world compete in seasons that overlap school years, it's easier to get the picture by looking at more than one school year.

For instance, you could look at the school years 2006-2007, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Each season has a new challenge. The 2007 challenge was to build a robot that could do particular tasks with an inner tube. The national championships were in April of 2007. Then, to get the 2007-2008 school year started, there are a couple of events that use the previous season's robots and rules. Since these events come "post" championships and "pre" the new rules, they are referred to as "off-season".

So, if you were a freshman in 2006-2007, you started your sophomore year's competitions with the inner tube rules and robot. Later in the school year, you are given a new set of rules followed by six weeks to build a new robot. The 2008 challenge involved building a robot to do certain tasks with a giant ball. The 2008 national championships will be held in the spring of 2008. As a junior, you would then start the 2008-2009 school year with the 2008 rules. Once again, new rules will be issued by F.I.R.S.T. in January 2009 and a 6 six week build season will follow.

Wissahickon's 2007-2008 Season

Duel on the Delaware
This year's robotics team started competing at:
The "Duel on the Delaware"
FIRST Robotics Competition
October 13, 2007
Salem Community College, Carney's Point, NJ

The Duel on the Delaware is co-hosted by DuPont-sponsored teams #365 - Miracle Workerz (MOE) and the #316 - LuNaTeCs.

The Wissahickon team did well though they did better at thrilling the audience than winning when their robot caught on fire. You are required to wear safety goggles near the robots... for good reason!

Ramp Riot
In November of 2007, the Wissahckon High School hosted Ramp Riot in the schools Circle Gym, which is located outside of Ambler in Montgomery County, PA. High schools from across Northeastern United States competed at this year's Ramp Riot. Originally, Ramp Riot was a rather small event. Now, with 36 teams competing, it has grown into one of the country's largest off-season events. Hosting and competing is a nice way for the new class of students to get right into the thick of things. This year over 2,500 people attended the multi-day event. Representatives from F.I.R.S.T., NASA and the school combined to pull off this extravaganza.

Movie Stars
It was around this time that a film crew started following the Wissahickon robot, Team 341 Miss v Daisy. SD Digital Creations created a movie script based on Miss Daisy. The production is intended to be released to hundreds of theaters worldwide. Not long after, the team was approached for yet another media production. PBS (the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and Story House Productions teamed together for a two hour long documentary.

[This is the part where we get to -- "How do you play?"]

Up to this point in the 2007-2008 school year, the Wissahickon Robotics Team had still been working with last year's model. This article was intended to be about the team winning this year's regional championship. However, it is difficult to convey the meaning... the feeling... without understanding the season and how the game is played. When Miss Daisy came in first place at regionals, men were crying. After all, what kind-of game would cause grown men to cry in public? In front of film crews? Over a robot named Miss Daisy?

Part II: How The Game Is Played

... stay tuned....

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