FIRST – For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – is a program designed to engage kids of all ages, from kindergarten up through high school, in science, technology and engineering. FIRST is comprised of four main programs: two FIRST Lego Leagues (FLL and Jr. FLL), the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC),and the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).
This year’s game is known as “Ultimate Ascent”, an ultimate Frisbee match with its own spin. The object of the game is to shoot or eject Frisbees into slots of various heights, and the higher up the slot is, the more points are gained. The match begins with a 15 second autonomous period where the robots are not controlled by the drivers but still should attempt to shoot Frisbees. At this time, teams will earn twice the amount of points if the Frisbees enter the goals as they would in the tele-operated period. During “teleop”, the robots are driven and teams can shoot their Frisbees into the slots, or they may aim them at the top of a pyramid on their side of the field to gain more points. This year’s end game is for the robots to climb these three-rung pyramids and based on the level they climb to, they gain a certain number of points. Human players at this stage may also attempt to throw disks into their goals. For more information about the game, check out this link.
2012: Rebound Rumble
This year’s challenge, Rebound Rumble, stays true to its name as it shakes up your perception of basketball. It consists of 2 minutes and 15 seconds of robot action along a field with four basketball hoops on each side: one high, two middle and one low. Disrupting the center of the court is a thick metal bar offset by three bridges.
The main object of the game is to score as many baskets as you can. Robots may only carry three balls at a time and they must do their best to gain points while still avoiding the other alliance.
Typically, the first 15 seconds of the game is known as autonomous because the robots run strictly on preprogrammed code with no driver input. This year, however, the period of time is known as the hybrid period because teams have the option to partially control the robot using an Inbounder (human player) and an Xbox Kinect. The catch is that only one team on each alliance may use it.
After this 15 second period, the match progresses onto the teleoperated stage where the driver and operator are controlling the robot. Scoring in the top basket is worth 3 points, the middle basket 2 points, and the bottom basket 1 point. Usually, the match ends with a specified end game; this is not the case this year, but the end of the match is still critical. Robots can choose to attempt to balance with their alliance on their designated bridge on the field, or they can balance on the center coopertition bridge with a robot of the opposite alliance. The point value for balancing with another robot on your alliance is 20 points. Coopertition is a philosophy in FIRST that combines both cooperation and competition.
For more information on this game please visit: Rebound Rumble.
Logomotion is a celebration of FIRST’s twentieth year anniversary. The object of the game is to to pick up inner tubes shaped like triangles, circles, and squares and arrange them on a pegboard (creating the FIRST logo earns you extra points). The autonomous period of the game, where the robot must function without drivers controlling it, is fifteen seconds long. The robot must pick up "uber-tubes" and place them on the pegboard. During the teleoperated period, where the robot is driven, the inner tubes are arranged on the board. The minibot, which can be deployed in the last ten seconds of the match, must race to the top of a ten-foot vertical pole.
In an effort to broaden the audience of FIRST robotics and in recognition of the World Cup, the 2010 FRC game, Breakaway, was a modified version of soccer. Competing in alliances of three, teams would attempt to score as many balls into their respective goals as possible, all while traversing large bumbs that split the field into thirds. In the 'finale' of each match, robots could suspend themselves off of a tower for a bonus.
The object of Lunacy was to shoot "moon rocks" into trailers attatched to your opponents' robots. Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, Lunacy was played on a surface specifically designed to imitate the Lunar Regolith, the low traction surface of the moon. In the last twenty seconds of each match, special game pieces called Super Cells could be scored into the robots' trailers, holding a much higher point value than the Moon Rocks. A fast paced, high intensity game, Lunacy was an exciting game for all.
Talk to anyone on a robotics team and they will tell you the same thing: FIRST Robotics Competition, or FRC, has changed their lives. FRC is a high school robotics competition that can proudly boast of over 2000 teams. FRC offers invaluable experience for a high school student in science, engineering and technology. It teaches students life skills and transforms kids to adults.
Kickoff, a highly anticipated event, marks the beginning of the build season. It is where the new competition is unveiled. We are given six weeks to design a robot to compete in the game announced. Each year the game is different and we need to strategize heavily before building the robot. Our robot is usually around 120 pounds. During this time, our design team, prototype team, electrical team, and programming team work together to build a robot. The end of build season is marked by Ship Day, which is when the robot is packed up and shipped to our first competition site.
FIRST has a wide variety of programs for all ages. Among the youngest is the Junior Lego League (Jr. FLL) and FIRST Lego League (FLL). Jr. FLL is open to students in Kindergarten through third grade and FLL is open to students ages nine through fourteen.
Each September, FIRST releases the new challenge, which has two parts: the Robot Game and The Project. In the Game, teams build an autonomous robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology. It must function efficiently through the obstacle field and score as many points as possible in two and a half minute matches. The Project consists of a problem that today’s scientists and engineers are trying to solve. Teams along with their mentors must do extensive research and explain their findings to a panel of judges.
Each team’s region holds qualifying tournaments in which teams have the opportunity to advance to the World Festival Championship. Eighty-five teams qualify for the Festival – the “World Championship” of FLL. At this tournament, our future innovators have the opportunity to meet each other and learn about new cultures while exchanging ideas.
The ThunderChickens have been helping teams from around Macomb County, Michigan by holding a tournament for them each November at Utica Henry Ford High School. This tournament, ThunderQuest, is almost entirely student run. Planning this event begins in September and continues until the day before the event. Students are divided into mentor groups and each group is assigned a team to assist. It is an inspiring learning experience for both the elementary kids and the Chickens. In addition to mentoring, students create numerous posters filled with creative science facts, provide concessions throughout the day, and create awards for the winning team.
In addition to running the tournament this year, the ThunderChickens also hosted a VEX exhibition at ThunderQuest. By demonstrating our team’s VEX robots and playing in exhibition matches, our team showed FLL participants that they could stay involved in robotics beyond elementary school.
By Devpreet Chahal
Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL) is designed for children ages 6 to 9.
Jr. FLL is unique in that it is non-competitive and completely community-based. Children are given a challenge that requires them to research and build a presentation that addresses a real-world issue facing today's scientists. The children work as a team to complete the research, as well as to use FIRST Lego League parts to model ideas they've formed about the topic. Teams are then encouraged to go out and present their findings to their local communities.
Jr. FLL is a fantastic first step for young children to take into the world of science, technology, and engineering.