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Robots Will Rumble


Students compete for the championship in 2011.

March 12, 2012 – Robots designed and built by high school students will shoot baskets this Thursday through Saturday at Utah’s Maverik Center during a competition expected to draw more than 1,100 teenagers from Utah and eight other states.

The public and news media are invited to the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MDT March 15-17 at the Maverik Center, 3200 South Decker Lake Drive, West Valley 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 leading to an international championship in April. FIRST is a national organization that encourages students to pursue careers in engineering and technology.

The students’ robots will play a game called “Rebound Rumble,” where robots navigate a 27-by-54-foot playing field and score as many baskets as possible during 2-minute matches.

“Programs like these help high school students gain the technical, hands-on skills needed to do well in engineering and science courses when they enter college,” says event organizer Mark Minor, a University of Utah associate professor of mechanical engineering.

In January, 44 teams of 25 students each received a robot kit of parts, including motors, batteries, a control system, a computer and other automation components. Working with mentors, students were given six weeks to design, build, program and test their robots for this week’s competition.

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 compete at the international FIRST robotics championship in St. Louis on April 25-28, 2012.

The regional FIRST robotics event begins Thursday, March 15 with robot inspections and practice rounds. Portions of the event likely to be of most interest to media are:

  • Friday, March 16, 9 a.m.-noon and 1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. – opening ceremony and seeding matches.
  • Friday, March 16, 5 p.m. – Friday awards ceremony.
  • Saturday, March 17, 9:30 a.m.-noon and 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. – seeding matches and final rounds.
  • Saturday, March 17, 4:45 p.m. – final award ceremony.

The competition is part of a National Science Foundation’s 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 research and mentoring.

In addition to the University of Utah and the Governor’s Office for Economic Development, the competition is also sponsored by NASA, Platt Electric, Micron Foundation, L-3 Communications, Codale Electric Supply Inc. and Energy Solutions.

For more information about the FIRST competition, please visit: http://www.utfrc.utah.edu.