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Robotics teams ready to rumble

Student robotics developers from around the western U.S. and Canada are competing at the Maverik Center in West Valley City March 13 and 14 in the annual Utah Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. In this year's "Recycle Rush" contest, students design and build robots that process recyclable items. Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST and renowned inventor best known for creating the Segway transporter, will be at this year's event.

March 5, 2015 – The student-made robots at this year’s Utah Regional FIRST Robotics Competition won’t just be rumbling. They’ll be recycling. Fifty-three high school teams from 11 states and Canada are competing to see whose robot can stack and sort recyclable materials the fastest.

The annual competition, in which high school teams design and build robots that perform a specific task, will be held March 13-14 at the Maverick Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City. Co-sponsored by the University of Utah’s College of Engineering, the event is free and open to the public. Dean Kamen, founder of the FIRST student program and inventor famous for designing the two-wheel Segway transporter, will attend on Saturday, March 14, and will be available for media interviews (times to be announced).

This year’s regional contest caps an intense six weeks for teams designing, building, programming and testing robots from kits without instructions. High schools participating in this regional event come from as far away as Hawaii, Montana, California, and Alberta, Canada. Twenty teams are from Utah.

“The robots are definitely a big pull for getting students into STEM, but the competition is about much more than that,” said Mark Minor, U mechanical engineering associate professor and event co-chairman. “It is about getting kids to dream big and learn how to make those dreams a reality. They learn that there is never enough time or money but they can accomplish great things if they work as a team.”

In this year’s “Recycle Rush” contest, teams must design and build robots that can stack totes on scoring platforms. They earn additional points for capping the stacks with recycling containers. The robots, which are remotely controlled by team members, also must dispose of litter (in the form of swimming pool noodles) in a landfill zone. All of the game pieces used in the competition are made of reusable or recyclable materials.

Teams that win the Utah regional competition and select award winners move on to the FIRST national championship held April 22 – 25 in St. Louis. In all, more than 2,900 teams from 19 countries will participate in this year’s competition, which is in its 24th year.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition helps promote and foster science and technology learning among the nation’s high school students, creating a new generation of engineers, programmers and scientists.

“I love student competitions,” said Richard Brown, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Utah. “A FIRST Robotics project incorporates engineering, math, science, creativity, resourcefulness, ingenuity, hard work and strategy. As the other students see the enthusiasm of the FIRST Robotics teams, interest in engineering and computer science grows.”

Video and photo opportunities for news media include:

  • Opening ceremonies: Friday and Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
  • Seeding matches: Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m.-5:15 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
  • Final rounds: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Awards ceremonies: Friday at 5:15 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
  • Pits and machine shop: Open Friday and Saturday at 8 a.m.

Along with the University of Utah, event sponsors include Platt Electric Supply, Larry H. Miller Group, Micron, LANDESK, Orbital ATK, L-3 Communications, the Utah Technology Council, and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

For more information, please visit

View “Recycle Rush” demo at:

For additional press materials, visit