UMC Links

Revenge of the Robots

The FIRST Robotics Competition will be held at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center March 18-20.

March 11, 2010 – Some 1,000 high school students from Utah and nearby states will meet on the University of Utah campus Thursday, March 18 through Saturday, March 20 for a three-day competition during which robots essentially play soccer.

The public and news media are invited to the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MDT each day in the Huntsman Center, 1825 South Campus Drive, Salt Lake City.

The University of Utah’s College of Engineering and Utah Governor’s Office for Economic Development will host the event, which is a regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition.

Robots designed and built by the students will play a game called “Breakaway” – basically soccer for robots – during which robots score points on a playing field by collecting soccer balls in their goals.

“One of our main goals for this competition is to help students see that engineering, science and math can be a lot of fun,” says event organizer Mark Minor, University of Utah associate professor of mechanical engineering. “Students gain a sense of accomplishment through the entire process and by working with volunteer coaches who inspire them to take an interest in science and technology.”

In January, 33 teams comprised of about 30 students each received a robot kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC and a mix of automation components – but no instructions. Working with mentors, students were given six weeks to design, build, program and test their robots for the March competition.

The competition itself will involve robots competing on a 27-by-54-foot field with obstacles, attempting to earn points by collecting soccer balls in goals. At the end of a match, bonus points may be earned for any robot meeting an engineering challenge to grasp the tower in the middle of the field, pull itself up, and suspend itself in the air.

Teams will vie for honors and recognition from FIRST in design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship and partnership-building. Six winning teams from the regional competition will go on to compete at the international FIRST robotics championship in Atlanta, Georgia, April 15-17, 2010.

Portions of the event likely to be of most interest to media are:

  • Friday, March 19, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. – opening ceremony, competition kick-off.
  • Friday, March 19, 3:30 p.m. – first-day awards are handed out.
  • Saturday, March 20, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. – teams perform in competition finals.
  • Saturday, March 20, 3:30 p.m. – final award ceremony.

FIRST is a national organization that encourages young students to pursue careers in engineering and technology. The competition is being organized as part of a National Science Foundation Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant awarded to the University of Utah’s School of Computing and Department of Mechanical Engineering. The goal of the grant is to train promising young scientists in robotics through early exposure to research, careful mentoring and support. The competition is also sponsored by NASA, Platt Electric in Salt Lake City, and Micron Foundation.

For more information and video on FIRST, please visit:

For information about an upcoming FIRST Lego League challenge at the U of U involving students aged 9 to 14, please visit: