AI News, Dean Kamen on FIRST

Dean Kamen on FIRST

At this weekend’s FIRST robotics NYC regional competition, FIRST founder Dean Kamen could be spotted signing autographs—often on T-shirts and hats—for eager high schoolers, or chatting with kids and fellow FIRST officials.

The robotics competition presents high school teams with a new challenge each year—this year’s task was to roll or kick soccer-like balls into goals while navigating obstacles on a playing field a little smaller than a basketball court.

Kamen says his game design team changes the challenge every year because they don’t want returning teams to have a huge advantage over rookies, or to get bored and not come back each year.

They also want to focus on teaching kids how to solve new, complex problems, where in most other sports, Kamen says, “you’re learning how to optimize something that people have been doing for a long time.

This year’s game, for which young robot builders had to take into account several different features—the shape of raised bumps in the field, the size of the balls, and the height of bumper-like ramps on the goals that robots would have to roll up, rather than kicking straight and level—made the game “substantially more difficult” than the game designers expected, Kamen says.

In the past, Kamen says, “it was very hard to figure out who was winning until the game was over.” This year the design team focused on making it easy for the audience to understand, complete with a real-time scoring system, with points and penalties listed immediately after each round.

In one instance in the “pit”—a huge, bustling area where teams and their robots and tools occupy tradeshow-like nooks—an announcer broadcasted that one team needed black electrical tape.

FIRST awards exist for this kind of behavior, namely the coveted Chairman’s Award, given for the team that best represents the goals of FIRST: respect, professionalism, and honoring science and technology.

FIRST Robotics Competition

Each year, teams of high school students, coaches, and mentors work during a six-week period to build game-playing robots that weigh up to 120 pounds (54 kg).[7] Robots complete tasks such as scoring balls into goals, flying discs into goals, inner tubes onto racks, hanging on bars, and balancing robots on balance beams.

In addition to on-field competition, teams and team members competed for awards recognizing entrepreneurship, creativity, engineering, industrial design, safety, controls, media, quality, and exemplifying the core values of the program.

Kamen has stated that FIRST is the invention he feels most proud of, and predicts that participants will be responsible for significant technological advances in years to come.[10] The first FIRST Robotics Competition season was in 1992 and had one event at a high school gymnasium in New Hampshire.[11] That first competition was relatively small-scale, similar in size to today's FIRST Tech Challenge and Vex Robotics Competition games.

The PBS documentary 'Gearing Up' followed four teams through the 2008 season.[17] In the television series Dean of Invention, Dean Kamen made appeals promoting FIRST prior to commercial breaks.[18] During the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition season, FIRST team 3132, Thunder Down Under, was followed by a Macquarie University student film crew to document the first year of FIRST Robotics Competition in Australia.

The program placed a special focus on the FIRST Robotics competition, even though it included segments on the FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST LEGO League, and FIRST LEGO League Jr..[citation needed] For the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, five FIRST Robotics Competition teams and their robots led the parade, with one robot cutting the ribbon and the others shooting confetti.[26][27] In the 2014 movie Transformers: Age of Extinction, a FIRST Robotics Competition Robot built by Team 2468, Team Appreciate, for the 2012 Season was featured in Cade Yeager's garage shooting the foam basketball game pieces from Rebound Rumble.[28] The 2015 Kickoff was, for the first time, broadcast by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast, and was available via OnDemand for the month of January 2015.[29] The fourth season of The Fosters (2013 TV series) had several episodes featuring characters competing in a regional FIRST Robotics Competition competition, most notably episode 8 'Girl Code'.[30]

MANCHESTER, N.H., January 6, 2018― Inventor and FIRST® Founder Dean Kamen launched the 2018 FIRST® Robotics Competition season today with the Kickoff of a new robotics game called FIRST® POWER UPSM before a crowd of more than 1,000 people, including Governor Chris Sununu and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire, hometown of FIRST Headquarters.

Each three-team alliance has three ways to help defeat the boss: Tipping the scale or the alliance’s switch in their favor to earn points, exchanging power cubes for power ups (force, boost, and levitate) to gain a temporary advantage during the match, and climbing the scale tower to face the boss.

At today’s Kickoff, teams were shown the FIRST POWER UP game field and challenge details for the first time, and received the Kickoff Kit from the Kit of Parts, which is made up of motors, batteries, control system components, construction materials, and a mix of additional automation components – with limited instructions.

Once these young inventors build a robot, their teams will participate in one or more of the global 158 Regional and District events that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

By participating in FIRST, students gain confidence to explore the innovation process while learning valuable science, engineering, technology, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.

Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering.

A Long History with FIRST Robotics Competition

WPI was the first university in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in robotics engineering, and once enrolled undergraduate and inventor Dean Kamen, founder of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST.

So it’s no surprise that WPI has a long and cherished history with FIRST—the world’s premier organization for high school robot challenges and other competitions aimed at getting young students excited about science, technology, engineering, and math endeavors.

The software library, called WPILib, includes a wide range of modules that allow teams to easily and quickly develop the programs behind their robot’s control system, such as handle sensors, motors, the driver station, and a number of other components responsible for timing and field management.

At the time, the school believed it was kind of a cool thing and we stepped lightly into it, but since that time we’ve realized how important it is and we have been one of the longest continuously involved universities—perhaps the longest.” FIRST not only has brought countless students to STEM pursuits, expanding their horizons, but also has benefitted the university, Stafford says.

Kamen founded FIRST “to create a world where science and technology are celebrated … where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.” The organization hosts a variety of programs for students of all ages and now has 460,000 students participating in 2,600 STEM-related events worldwide.

Additionally, the WPI Robotics Resource Center has created a FIRST online resource offering advice on everything from robot chassis to teamwork, and the center brings its robots to some 50 demonstrations a year in libraries and schools through the region, spreading the STEM gospel to elementary school students.

“The quality of kids we get is just astounding,” he says, adding that the school gets hundreds of applicants for the scholarships every year, and in some cases students who don’t get FIRST scholarships wind up coming to WPI and benefitting from other scholarships the university offers.

“It feels great, and besides that, we are getting top students, and that makes the university stronger.” FIRST also sponsors programs for younger students, and in 2000 WPI became the Massachusetts operations partner forFIRST LEGO League, in which 9- to 14-year-old students use LEGO Mindstorm sets to build palm-sized robots.

They came here as nine-year-olds and if affected them, and they stayed connected to WPI.” Brad Miller, an associate director of the Robotics Resource Center, who has developed WPILib programs used to make FIRST robots go, sees FIRST as “a great STEM outreach program to get students to appreciate and pursue careers in STEM fields.” “It exposes them to stuff that they would never otherwise get through their high school career,” he says.

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