The robots are returning! Huntsville, Alabama, is hosting a regional FIRST Robotics Competition for the second year in a row March 24-25 in the South Hall of the Von Braun Center. The FRC “Rocket City Regional” is sponsored by NASA and supported by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
The Redstone Robotics team of Huntsville's Lee and New Century Tech Demo High Schools work during the "Rocket City Regional" FIRST Robotics Competition at the Von Braun Center in 2016. The 2017 Rocket City Regional will be held at the VBC March 24-25. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/Ryan Connelly)
Nearly 1,300 high-school students on 50 teams from 10 states, Canada and the Dominican Republic will compete in a new robotics game called "FIRST STEAMWORKS." Two big, mechanical airships from the bygone era when technology relied on steam power will be positioned on the competition field, and three-team alliances called "adventure clubs" must prepare their airships for an imaginary, long-distance race.
Teams will earn points when their robots pick up and deliver balls of "fuel," toss them into their airship's steam boilers, retrieve and deliver gears that drive the airship's fanciful rotors and even climb aboard to be ready for liftoff by the end of each two-and-a-half-minute round. The robots must operate autonomously from pre-programmed instructions for the first 15 seconds, after which operators will take over to continue scoring points -- and to defend their club against the competition.
Opening ceremonies begin at 8:30 a.m. CDT, with qualification matches starting at 9 a.m. on both Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25. The Friday awards ceremony will begin at 5:45 p.m., while the Saturday awards ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, with hands-on educational activities provided by sponsors and exhibitors.
News media interested in covering the event should contact the Marshall newsroom at 256-544-0034 no later than 3 p.m. Thursday, March 23.
The FIRST -- "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" -- Robotics Competition is a worldwide program for students in grades 9-12 that inspires the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in the "STEM" fields of science, technology, engineering and math. More than 83,000 students on over 3,300 teams worldwide joined the 2017 FIRST Robotics kickoff events live on the internet in January. FIRST also offers the LEGO League, LEGO League Jr. and Tech Challenge programs for younger age groups.
In January, each FRC team received an identical kit of parts and was given a six-week deadline to design, build and test a robot, with the help of adult mentors. District and regional competitions are then held across the country during March and April, providing teams a chance to qualify for the 2017 FRC Championship events at Houston and St. Louis in April.
NASA and its Robotics Alliance Project provide grants for high school teams and support for FIRST Robotics Competition in an effort to address the critical national shortage of students pursuing STEM careers.