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FIRST Robotics Competition kickoff live stream (10:30am eastern) (nasa.gov)
45 points by ja27 2169 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments

This post brings back a flood of memories. I was on the robotics FIRST team for my highschool (Team 498) for two years and loved it. It was a great way for kids to learn a little bit of everything. Even a basic robot required some basic electronics, motors and gearing, programming and pneumatics systems.

I just watched some of the stream and smiled at the fact that the competition is very similar to my first year. There were many unique robots that had different ways to quickly balance on the bridge. We learned it wasn't really about the ability to balance, but how fast you could do it. Since its the last thing your robot will do in the round you usually have seconds to dash to it and balance it.

Friends of ours in FTC last season balanced on a bridge like that with an opposing alliance robot that accidentally got on their bridge, all in autonomous. They paused for a few extra minutes between autonomous and tele-operated period to let people take pictures of it. Pretty impressive for high school kids.

So both robots were programmed to balance on a bridge but accidentally got on the same one and were still able to pull it off? That is impressive considering they would have to know not to push each other off but stay on the ends and scoot just a little bit until they balanced and react to how the other robot is shift its weight.

No only one was programmed to balance in autonomous. They'd only ever done it with just their bot in the middle of the bridge, but they were able to balance with the other one on there because they just kept backing up until the gyro sensor was level. I love it when you get to see unexpected behaviors from something you built.

Ditto :) Was part of team 115. One of the best memories of my life.

FIRST is one of the most important sports in the world, and brings back many great memories to anyone who has participated. There is no high school program that teaches the principles of engineering, programming, rapid prototyping and teamwork so well. That, and it is just downright fun to build robots.

Part of FIRST's value lies in its ability to get anyone involved in a team and get them excited about technology. There were non-technical students who joined my high school's FRC team (Team 3652) and helped by leading our fundraising and media projects. They learned plenty of business and life skills. But best of all, when the robot scored for the first time, they were just as excited as the rest of us.

I had a mixed experience with FIRST, but it probably had more to do with my individual team than the program itself. I spent my freshman year on my high school's team, which was one of the top in the country. It was very professionalized and well-funded.

It was also easy to get overlooked. I got into the website niche and ended up spending the entire build season mostly working on Photoshop. I knew next to nothing about our actual robot. Unsurprisingly, I was bored at competitions.

I had originally joined because I thought I wanted to be an engineer, but I got sidetracked by web design. I realized this after my freshman year, but was kicked off the team, since we had to conduct interviews every year. The advisors saw that I didn't enjoy the competitions and figured my spot would be better used by someone else. So I never actually learned anything about engineering in a year of FIRST. No one ever pulled me into it and I lost my first and only chance to do it myself.

I often look back at that event as a pivotal one, since the absence of FIRST led to my interest in the arts, politics, etc. Had I spent the whole fours years working on the actual robot, I might have go onto engineering schools, or programming, or all sorts of things completely removed from the liberal arts environment I'm in now.

But that's all speculation. I still wish I would have learned more programming while I was in it.

I found your experience to be fairly common especially on the "professional" teams. Most teams are basically just ways for sponsors to live vicariously through the kids. The actual mechanisms are rarely built and programmed by students, especially on teams with tons of sponsor money and engineer coaches. I'm glad FIRST seems to have finally noticed this and started the stock car equivalent of FIRST, which lets smaller teams actually be competitive instead of getting bulldozed by the team with the fancy logo and space age CNC'd robot with the all titanium transmission.

I did FIRST in high school, and it was probably one of the most fun/exciting/educational/interesting things I've ever done. I can't say enough good things about this program.

I always promote FIRST to high school students when possible. I very much feel that it was one of the most (if not the most) important experiences of my career. Nothing else has even come close in terms of how much there was to learn, both in electronic and mechanical terms, but also in team building and other ancillary skills. I didn't really realize it at the time, but I really do feel it was pivotal to my career so far.

I had FIRST on my resume through college, and that work was always the top question for interviewers. It was easy to give a really passionate response, and since rarely had they heard of it, I'd get a chance to explain how the program works and exactly what our team did. I just wish that it was more widespread, not very many schools have FIRST teams. We were able to gain some school-wide attention for our team as well, and it grew significantly after my senior year. If FIRST was a 'sport' at schools across the country, we'd be in much better shape for the next generation of engineers and scientists.

If you have the chance to join a FIRST team (as a student), you absolutely must take the opportunity--it'll pay huge dividends.

(I was on team 195, I'm now an engineer at Microsoft.)

Just watched this with my FIRST team (759, one of a very small number of UK teams). It's interesting the FTC integration which was used last year (for the minibot) is not repeated and instead harks back to a more traditional FRC game.

Yes, it's a much simpler game than I'd expected. Except for the squishiness of the foam basketballs it sounds more like a game from 5-10 years ago to me.

Dean Kamen (Segway and more), Woody Flowers (MIT), and others speaking and introducing the FRC challenge for this season.

This is the 20th season of competition. One of the things Dean is promoting this year is building and using a network of FIRST alumni.

Microsoft donated a Kinect for each team. It will be interesting to see how many teams use them and how. UPDATE: they just said that teams can use the Kinect sensor to control the robot in what's normally fully autonomous time. So there's a big incentive for teams to use them.

Wow! A Kinect completely changes the game for the autonomous time. When I participated it didn't seem like many robots used the time to its fullest potential. In fact, many just sat there because they focused on other abilities instead. I wonder if the robot controller supports other languages now.

It's like that in FIRST Tech Challenge (the "JV" level of FRC). Unless the team somehow ends up with a kid that loves programming or has FIRST LEGO League alumni (their game is all pre-programmed autonomous), a lot of teams have little or no autonomous mode.

Whether the Kinect is a game changer or a distraction remains to be seen. A well-coded bot can do quite well already in autonomous mode, even when there's contention for a goal (in this case, the 3 point hoop).

This year's game is a take on basketball. Game description videos are already on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/FRCTeamsGlobal/videos

A little "Real Steel" going on here? Some sort of real commercial entertainment venture involving robots of this sort would be a boon to the industry.

Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Aneesh Chopra (WH CTO), and Will.I.Am (plus others) were all part of the kickoff today! Videos here on Youtube: (http://www.youtube.com/user/FRCTeamsGlobal, might have to scroll down past the game explanations).

My father has been mentoring the local FRC team; the basketball game is right up their alley. They'll probably be able to hit the baskets from any distance! Should be very exciting.

I was at a kickoff event in NJ. I did it for 4 years in High School and now I mentor a team. It was as great of an experience as Hacker School.

I was just at a kickoff event in NJ as a mentor as well. Do you mind sharing which? I was at the one hosted by Montgomery High School.

I was a member of FIRST Robotics during high school. It was a very defining time in my life. I learned how powerful engineering could be. I would not be the person I am today with FIRST. Go Team 33!

It's just as fun to be a coach. FIRST is an easy way to give back and help future engineers. Volunteer to be a coach or mentor. Very few public schools have teams.

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