Jennifer:I am Jennifer Bryson. I am one of the lead mentors for the Dexter Dreadbots robotics team. I took on this role about three years ago. I’ve been a mentor since the team working here, which was four years ago.
Male Speaker:So this is going to be like two arms with rollers on it, as the ball is on the playing field, this will lower down, and the ball will be rolled into a robot with a shooting mechanism
Jennifer:We are here to talk a little bit about the 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition this year as Aerial Assist. We are right in the middle of the build season right now.
Interviewer:And what is the competition this year?
Jennifer:The competition this year is a game played with very large exercise balls, about 2’ in diameter. And the goal is for the alliances of three robots to get the ball down the field cooperatively. There are three zones on the field and each of the robots is supposed to touch the ball in order to get maximum points as it goes down the field in a different zone. And then they have to shoot it into the goal at the end of the field which is large enough to accommodate the 25” ball.
Male Speaker:It is essentially to cooperate with other robots to pass the ball between each other and to hit it inside the goal very.
Jennifer:About the competition, FIRST in itself is for inspiration and recognition for science and technology. Twenty years ago, we started this competition, and it has now gone worldwide. Michigan has always been one of the big areas for FIRST. And the goal of FIRST is to get high school students involved in something that is real world engineering and science while being fun. They refer to it as the varsity sport for the mind. So it has a competition, it is a game, it has got cheering and things like that, but it also has real skills that when kids are done with high school, if they are thinking about engineering or science, they really have a foundation that they can understand what that means to do and have had experience already building things and seeing their own work come to fruition in competition.
Interviewer:And they hand out various awards and scholarships?
Jennifer:Yeah, FIRST has significant amount of awards available to give to students who have participated on FIRST teams. And there are awards for it. It is also, even if you don’t get a scholarship, it is very very well recognized. Employers like it. Because robotics is expensive, and teams need sponsors. But often the sponsors are companies who then know that these kids who’ve been on FIRST teams have more than a basic understanding coming out of school and things like that, and so they will.
Jennifer:So they will hire them or they will have them intern with them or things like that.
Interviewer:And how many students or how many kids are on the team?
Jennifer:It really will vary. Some of the small teams have like five or seven students. That was our first year; four years ago, we had six or seven students depending on which point of the year you talked to us about, they can go up to many many students. I don’t even know how big some of them are. A lot of them are right around 30 to 50 size.
Interviewer:How many mentors are on the team?
Jennifer:That varies a lot as well.This year, we are excited because we have 17mentors. However, while that sounds like a lot, when people can give you one afternoon a week or things like that, we are still finding that we really can use probably two or three especially mechanical mentors here, even if it is two or three days that people can be here, because there is a continuity when you have a six-week build season it all happens so fast that if you aren’t here,if you are only here once a week, you really don’t even have an idea of what’s happened in the time you’ve been gone.
Interviewer:And how long is the build season? And then the actual competition?
Jennifer:On January 4ththey announced the game. We now have until February 18that 11:59 p.m. when we will have to walk up the ropes. So it is about six weeks and three days. And then the competitions starts February 28th, March 1st. Here in Michigan it is a district system. So every team in Michigan that is registered with FIRST gets to compete in at least two districts. And the districts run from the last week in February, first week in March through the first weekend in April. And then the second week inApril 9 to 12or so, is the state competition. And then the last weekend in April is the world championship.
Slashdot File footage from FIRST 2012 Competition
Male Speaker:We are trying to make the cannon drive again. It is a really nice maneuverability and skill but the problem is you don’t get any traction. So making a fancy drive systemwhich also has traction wheels. We have pneumatic cylinders which are going to select which wheels we are using at the time. So we can switch between the agility of the cannon wheels or the traction and pushing power of the traction wheels.
Male Speaker:And we are the programmers in the robotics team.Right now, we are like starting to control the motors. And we are writing in C++, we are testing on board right there.
Male Speaker:This way we will be able to have more control of the robots this year, so the actual programming team this year will be able to do more advanced things with the robotics.
Interviewer:And so how exactly does it work?
Male Speaker:We plan to use a winch similar to this, like so, and when it is released, it is going to launch the ball. Like so.