Becoming a tech warrior
Never thought you could build a robot? Neither did these students! Now they’re competing with teams from around the world.
Robots – nothing could be further from medieval! Yet that was the theme of this year’s FIRST® Robotics Competition, an event that gives school and university students the chance to learn, create and play with programming, mechanics and electronics.
The competition revolves around a medieval playing field called the Stronghold. Teams are given six weeks to build a robot that can climb over obstacles, ram through gates, shoot boulders into goals and dodge other robots. Once on the field, team alliances send their robots through opponent defences and attempt to capture their tower.
Students score points for each achievement and can win awards for creativity, engineering, team spirit, professionalism, safety and a number of other key qualities. Many teams are building robots for the first time and are looking to win the “Rookie Award” for great effort.
There’s a festive feel to the competition, which has music, dancing, costumes, commentators and other entertainment. Everyone agrees that it’s more about having fun, being part of a team and having a go than building the best robot.
“Up in the stands, it’s amazing,” says Michelle from the Chicago Knights community team. “We’re dancing and we’re shouting and the music is pumping. We’re cheering for all the teams and it’s about more than just the robots. It’s about the fact that we’re a community and we’re all here together.”
The competition also gives students the chance to find out whether they might enjoy a career in technology. “What’s great about this competition is that you can test the waters and see what you like,” says Ava, a year 12 student from the University of Sydney team. “Whether it’s software, mechanics or something else. There’s a business and media side of it too.”
Like many of the competitors, Ava is excited about the future of robots. “When people don’t understand robots, they worry they’re going to take over the world,” she says. “I think robots make our life easier.”
“We’ve already invented medical robots that can carry out surgery far more accurately that humans,” adds Ava’s teammate, Sam. “Eventually we’ll have robots that can solve fire situations and bomb threats, which will eliminate a lot of danger.”
People come from all over the country and all over the world to compete at the FIRST® Robotics Competition. There are teams from Australia, India, China, Taiwan and the USA, to name a few. Michelle, who travelled all the way from Chicago, says everyone is super friendly and everyone learns from each other.
“I’m studying Chinese at school at the moment,” says Michelle. “I’ve been speaking teams from China and they taught me how to say ‘robot’ in Chinese, which was awesome. The robots from Taiwan and China are so intricate and complex, it’s inspiring. I’ve already got ideas for next year!
“At the end of the day we’re all here for the same reason, to indulge in learning. FIRST® gives us the opportunity to learn among kids who love being challenged. We’re designing and building robots, writing code, and there are mistakes along the way. The important thing is that we are trying, we are failing, and we are learning from our mistakes so we do better the next time.”
If you’re keen to learn more about technology, be part of a team and have the chance to build things you never knew you could, click here to find out more about FIRST® technology and robotics programs.
“This competition shows students that they CAN do things with technology. The mysteries are removed, and that’s very empowering.”
Author: Elise Roberts
Elise is a science, tech and business enthusiast, motivated to connect people with research that will propel their success. With over ten years’ experience working at the intersection of technology and communications across a wide range of industries, Elise enjoys jumping on the latest trends in digital media to share new knowledge with the Australian community.