Physics: Principles and Problems


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For use with Chapter 1
What Is Physics

The 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 world.

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 touch.

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.

Activity
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?

References
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

 


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