New Approaches In Robotics Education
FIGURE 10. Dynamixel serial servo diagram.
arena. FIRST is the largest robot competition in
the nation, and is open to all high school age
students. Figure 12 shows the FIRST Team #847
PHRED in their pit making final preparations for
competition. Typical of many of the teams, Team
#847 is composed of 26 students that include 10
girls. There are 10 mentors for the team and 20
sponsors — that’s 56 people working hard and
having a lot of fun teaching and learning. Figure
13 is a scene from the competition in Portland.
students, mentors, advisors, sponsors, and spectators.
Woodie Flowers’ spirit was also there, as he was the co-founder of the FIRST idea with Dean. I met many mothers
who gladly called themselves ‘robo moms’
instead of ‘soccer moms.’ There were
cheerleaders encouraging each team
before their competition; flags were
waving, banners were held high, and
crowds clapped loudly as their team’s
results appeared on the scoreboard.
I won't go into detail about the
individual robot's construction, the
contest's rules or scoring, but I’ll
mention that every year's event is
different. There was an autonomous
period in the "logo motion" competition
where the robots hung yellow 'ubertubes'
on hooks for initial scores, then later there
was scoring for hanging red, white, and
blue FIRST image tubes by remote
control. Finally, there was the release of
tiny minibots from each large robot to race up pipes in the
In closing, I would like to emphasize that it is
volunteerism that makes contests such as FIRST,
BEST, and so many equally great robot contests to be
thriving beds of inspiration for kids across the country.
Sponsors range from JC Penny to Boeing to Autodesk and
Mentor Graphics, as this takes a large financial worry off
of budding teams. Education in robotics takes
more than teachers. It takes funding of
schools for the specialized materials
needed for the classes. It takes parents
who care and volunteer. It takes members of
robotics groups such as the Seattle Robotics
Society, who — along with a friend of mine,
Kevin Ross — sent a team of volunteers
down to Portland for this event.
FIGURE 11. Robotech robot.
FIGURE 12. Team #847 PHRED gets ready in the pits.
80 SERVO 06.2011
FIGURE 13. Portland FIRST 2011 competition.