use with Chapter 1
What Is Physics
Battle of the Robots
Posted March 10, 1999
When you hear someone mention "robots," what do you think
of? Most likely you think of something that looks like C-3PO
or R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies. However, robots are very
common today. Depending on the function they serve, robots
will have many different shapes and sizes.
Many students in high school never think they would be able
to build something as complicated as a robot. However, this
is exactly what high school students are doing all across
the country as they gear up for the 1999 FIRST (For Inspiration
and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.
FIRST is an organization that was founded in 1989 by Dean
Kamen to help generate interest in science and technology
among American students.
This competition is supported by NASA in an effort to encourage
students to enter careers in science and engineering. We've
already seen how crucial robots were to studying the planet
Mars--the Pathfinder rover was a robot itself. Great care
and engineering expertise is needed to design a robot that
will be able to travel across the alien landscape of another
For the FIRST competition, high school students are challenged
to build a robot from a special kit assembled by FIRST and
NASA. Their robots must meet certain requirements and be able
to perform certain tests of speed and dexterity to be considered
for the competition. In addition to the basic requirements
and materials in their kits, student teams can spend up to
$400 customizing their robots and giving them a very unique
Each robot must be able to perform a task, such as gathering
up items and moving them to another area. FIRST judges are
primarily interested in if the robot can complete the task,
not necessarily how graceful it is in doing so.
The competitions are not unlike other sporting events. There
are cheerleaders, referees, and many spectators. Each year
the competition is different, and the details are revealed
each January by FIRST. The 1999 Robotics Competition is called
"Double Trouble," and teams are paired up to compete in separate
matches. Robots complete their specific tests of speed and
dexterity, then are ranked against each other. After a series
of elimination rounds, a winner is chosen.
The 1999 FIRST Robotics Competition national competition will
take place on April 22-24, 1999, at Epcot, Walt Disney World
in Orlando, Florida.
Brainstorm a list of useful tasks and activities that a robot
could do. What special features might you have to give a robot
to perform these tasks?
CNNfn - Robots Built by Western Students Compete for Speed,
Dexterity - cnn.com/TECH/ptech/9902/26/student.robot.wars/index.html
FIRST - usfirst.org
NASA - www.nasa.gov