More than 80,000 students and mentors from 25 different countries watched video feeds or live unveilings on Saturday, as the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics 2017 competition was announced. Senator Maggie Hassan and Ted Gatsas, mayor of Manchester New Hampshire, helped Dean Kamen to launch the 2017 robotics season.
In STEAMWORKS two alliances of three robots work to 'prepare for a long distance airship race.' Large wiffle balls are used as fuel elements and the robot teams try to fill their side's boiler with as much fuel as possible. Placing fuel in the top of the boiler yields more points than the lower part of the boiler. Plastic gears can be delivered to the airships in the middle of the field, each of these gears will help a rotor turn on the airship. The other scoring opportunity is at the end of the match, when robots can lift themselves up on the ropes for additional points.
The first fifteen seconds of each match are autonomous mode. Robots start against their walls and can be preloaded with up to ten fuel elements or one gear. The next 135 seconds are teleoperated, and the score is calculated at the end of each match. High school teams can participate in regional, state and national competitions.
Dean Kamen started FIRST in 1989 as a way to excite kids about STEM careers. There are currently four levels of activities, from FIRST Lego League Jr that starts at 6, FIRST Lego League for 9-16 year olds, FIRST Tech Challenge for 12-16 years, and FIRST Robotics for ages 14-18. Each year more than $16,000,000 in scholarship money is awarded for FIRST students from colleges, universities and corporations.
Teams all over the world are now working steadily to create strategies, develop their robots and game plans, and finally build their robots. February 21 is Stop Build Day, where robots are officially "done" until competition season begins. Regional competitions begin the week of March 1 and run until the Houston TX championship the week of April 19 and the St Louis championship the week of April 26.