Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Robots!

(This post looks back a couple of months, but I saw something today that jogged my memory about it. I apologize for the delayed post.)

A few years ago, Ryan and I used to enjoy watching Battlebots on TV together. That show isn't on anymore, but we really enjoyed those compact creations of mayhem and destruction. (According to the Wikipedia page linked to above, the TV show will be returning, for at least one competition, in November 2008!)

One day during this spring break (we didn't do anything special for spring break this year, since we had gone to Puerto Vallarta a month prior), I happened to read about the FIRST Robotics regional competition taking place at University of Denver over the weekend. We went down on Saturday for our Big Science Saturday (BSS) activity, and the kids loved it!

The robots were built by high school kids with corporate mentors. The sophistication of the robots was very impressive, as good as we ever saw on Battlebots. (So much so, that it made me wonder how much design and manufacture was done by the kids, versus by the corporate sponsors.) You could go down into the 'pits,' where the teams were very helpful in describing their robot designs.

The robots were designed to compete on a specific event that involved racing around an oval track and picking up and carrying large exercise balls. It wasn't clear how the scoring was structured, but they seemed to get points for the number of laps completed, picking balls off the racks, and pushing them around the track.

Our favorite robot was one that wasn't even designed to deal with the balls at all. Once the designers abandoned this activity, they were free to design a very specialized little bot that did one thing very well. It zipped around the track three to four times faster than any other bot. It was very fun to watch that little guy.

The boys loved their robot-themed BSS. There was even a demo table there from a Lego robotics club, and the boys talked about finding a local chapter to join. We'll see how that turns out ...
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