Thursday, January 24, 2008
Robotics State Tournament
Wow, if you have any kids (or are yourself) interested in engineering, technology, or robotics, or just want to be impressed by the minds of young people, find one of these FIRST Lego League state tournaments and go to it. What you'll see is dozens of teams of young people who have taken the exact same challenges and built an amazing array of robot styles, shapes, programs, and attachments to complete these challenges. It was so cool to see how each team approached the design differently. And not just the robot design, but how it went about the missions, whether it combined them, had attachments that worked for multiple missions, or came back to base for attachment changes and sending out again.
The robot table competition was in a big gym, with six tables going at all times. Two of them appeared on the big screen at the back of the gym, which was great because you could really see the details on all of these different robots up close, and how they approached their mission objectives. The kids also thought it was pretty cool that they got to be on the big TV screen.
Our team did really well, with the most exciting moment coming on their first table run. Every one of their robot's ten missions executed flawlessly, with the last mission being accomplished just at the ring of the 2 1/2 minute final buzzer. This gave them a table score of 270, the highest they've ever achieved. Given that some of these programs were written in the weeks between the regional competition and the state championships, they were very excited to have such a perfect showing. Their top score at regionals had been 220, so this was a big leap up. Of course, the other teams here were also all regional champions, so some teams posted scores as high as a perfect 400. Still our team scored in the top 1/3 of all the teams there, and I consider that exceptional for their first time at State.
Their research presentation, teamwork judging, and technical judging all went well, and as usual I was impressed by the poise and hard work that all of the kids exhibited in these intense environments. At the end of the day, they won an award for robot reliability, which is quite an honor. I know the kids would've liked to win some big overall award, but I think they did very well to be there at State and getting an award at all was icing on the cake. Next year, they'll have a much better idea of what areas they need to focus on if they're going to perform even better, but right now I couldn't be more proud!