Students from dozens of area high schools piled into Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility on Saturday to get a sense of the obstacles they will be battling over the next six weeks. Hundreds of students, parents, and mentors attended the kickoff event for the 2013 FIRST robotics competition, a nationwide event in which students design and build complex robots that can tackle the challenges of a specially designed game.
This year’s challenge, which involves robots that can throw discs and climb pyramids, was revealed via simulcast on Saturday morning. Teams were then able to view a full-scale version of the competition field and hold mock games on it. The field, sponsored by Tech 2020 and assembled by the Hardin Valley Academy FIRST Alumni Club at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, or MDF, is available for all local teams to use during the build season.
Teams have a mere six weeks to complete their robots before they face off in Knoxville’s Smoky Mountains Regional at the end of March, with winning teams advancing to the national FIRST competition in St. Louis.
2013 marks the third year of UT-Battelle’s support for the FIRST robotics competition and the second year that the lab has opened its Manufacturing Demonstration Facility to teams as a building space on evenings and weekends. ORNL robotics engineer and FIRST mentor Lonnie Love sees the competition as a chance to expose local students to the cutting-edge manufacturing research taking place in East Tennessee.
“These kids are the next generation of engineers and scientists, and the FIRST competition is helping them learn skills to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow,” Love said.
ORNL mentors hope to familiarize FIRST students with technology called additive manufacturing. Also known as 3-D printing, additive manufacturing allows researchers and students alike to custom design and print out parts made from metal powder or plastic. With some instruction in computer-aided design, students can turn their ideas into complex and fully functional parts. Students at Saturday’s kickoff event had the chance to tour and learn about additive manufacturing equipment at ORNL’s MDF.
Interested in participating?
Local FIRST representatives are looking for volunteers to help at the Smoky Mountains Regionals at the Knoxville Convention Center, March 28-30. Volunteer sign ups are available at https://my.usfirst.org/FIRSTPortal/Login/VIMS_Login.aspx.