The world’s largest robotics competition took place last week, and as one might expect, when 20,000 robot-crazy high school students and a ton of automatons get together, it made for a pretty rowdy show. The 25th annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship was held in St. Louis, and on Saturday night, the entire show culminated in a battle to the death (sort of) among four teams in front of a crowd of over 40,000 spectators.
The competition was fierce, with the finalists having been whittled down from 900 teams who hailed from around the world. Each team designed a robot, weighing up to 120 pounds, that was capable of carrying out a series of tasks, including throwing balls and discs through goals, hanging on bars, and balancing on beams.
But the real fun came in the championship round, involving four teams from Hermosa Beach, California; Tremont, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; and Glen Allen, Virginia. In the FIRST Stronghold, robot alliances were charged with destroying one another’s forts in an epic combination of brute strength and impressive engineering. Each alliance was comprised of three robots, which worked together to “breach their opponents’ fortifications, weaken their tower, and capture the opposing tower.” It was all high tech meets medieval battle tactics, as “robots scored points by breaching opponents’ defenses and tossing boulders through goals in the opposing tower. During the final 20 seconds of the match, robots were allowed to surround and scale the opposing tower to capture it.”
“We believe that if you can show kids that the tools of mathematics and engineering empower them to do some really cool, really fun things, they’ll get passionate about it,” said FIRST Founder Dean Kamen. “Research shows we’re significantly more creative when we’re 5 years old than we are when we’re 25, but you can keep your creativity alive with playful learning experiences like those you get through FIRST,” added Colin Gillespie, president of Lego education North America. “You’re rekindling that awesome creativity and can see the world in ways [we] can only hope to imagine.”