FIRST Robotics Impressions

The adventure club with the highest score at the end of the match is best prepared for the race and wins.Attending the 19th Annual Silicon Valley FIRST® Robotics Competition was an experience that I won’t soon forget. Held at the Event Center on March 31st and April 1st, this Steamworks-themed competition brought together hundreds of ingenious high school students from as far away as Beijing and Istanbul to compete in a steampunk inspired challenge. Their goal was simple, to get their robot to fuel and start an “airship” better than the opposing team.  This simple goal seemed to give each group a drive akin to what drives a crafter to better his or her latest creation. Teams had just six weeks to strategize design, build, and test their robots.

From left to right; Jacob Villanueva, Chris Kackman, and Cari Geldreich
From left to right; Jacob Villanueva, Chris Kackman, and Cari Geldreich

Venturing down into the Pit, where the groups continued work on their robots before the competition, was like entering a different world. The hectic pace dominated everything, people running between stations to get parts, finalizing their code and testing their robots. But even in this frantic, fast-paced environment, there was a sense of calm and purpose: each group had a goal that they knew how to complete and they worked tirelessly to accomplish it.

The competition itself was great fun to watch. Teams of three operator-controlled robots tossed balls through the air into hoppers to score fuel and find gears to get the airship running, all while fending off the other teams’ attempts to mess with them. All in all, this event was a great showcase of the ingenuity that the next generation of engineers is bringing to the table. In my opinion, the future is in good hands!

You can learn more about the annual competition here, and SJSU students are always welcome to volunteer and observe!