On Saturday January 4, 2014 Dean Kamen and Woody Flowers revealed the game details for the 2014 FIRST Robotics competition, Aerial Assist. 92 different locations all over the world held groups of excited students to watch the unveiling of this year's task, and several thousand students and mentors watched online through NASA tv's website.
FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Since 1989 Dean Kamen has been hosting robotics competitions for high school students to generate interest in STEM careers. Kamen's vision is that students can idolize scientists and engineers in the same way that athletes and actors are celebrated.
After creating the insulin infusion pump and the Segway Kamen is a man used to having his visions turned into reality. The program is gaining more popularity and exposure every year, with five FIRST robots cutting the ribbon at the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
During the 2014 build season over 2700 high school teams, almost 400 rookies, from countries all over the world will design, build and test a robot in the next six weeks. High schools work with a local sponsoring company and engineering mentors to learn about engineering, programming, marketing and business administration.
This year's game involves getting large exercise balls from one end of the 25' x 54' field to the other, with two competing alliances of three robots each. The objective is to score as many goals as possible in the two minute thirty second matches. More points are scored if alliance partners give each other assists by passing the balls back and forth across the field.
The beginning of each match is a ten second autonomous period when the robots run solely from their on-board programming and the remainder of the match involves students controlling the robots via wireless connections.
There's no real way to overstate the impact that FIRST robotics has had on generations of students over the last twenty years. Middle schoolers can now compete in the FIRST Lego League competitions and students as young as kindergarden can compete in the Junior FIRST Lego League. During the 2014 campaign up to $18,000,000 will be awarded in 9,000 different scholarships.
The program builds character along with building STEM skills, and teaches the concept of gracious professionalism. Gracious professionalism preaches a competitive atmosphere where everyone can cooperate and help each other toward the goal of making the world a better place.
Between now and the 2014 national championships I will be writing several articles about the FIRST Robotics competition, the 2014 season, and Aerial Assist.