Tuesday, February 7, 2012

FIRST Robotics Competition: Hitting the Boards

With development of teams’ FIRST Robotics robots in full swing, we’ll be taking a look this week at some of the details of this year’s Rebound Rumble competition, and how teams will be rising to the challenges presented by the game. But competitors – don’t look here for any team secrets. We’ll only get as close as a general assessment of factors in building the machines. 

Following in the footsteps of 2010’s soccer-themed “Breakaway” game and 2008’s “Overdrive” auto-racing-based competition, 2012 features another sports game: the Rebound Rumble. Just like in regular basketball, teams will be trying to score on one end of the court, and defending the opposite end. The court is a bit smaller than most, measuring 54 ft. long by 27 ft. wide, and there’s no three point line. There are a few other differences, too: instead of one basket at each end, there are four (at different heights, with higher point values for higher hoops), and there’s a raised bridge at mid-court. The biggest difference? The only players on the court will be constructed from metal, wires, and plastics: robots controlled wirelessly from the sidelines.

Incredibly, these robots are built completely from scratch by high school students, with advisement by a team of mentors (on which IIS personnel take part). All design, movement, and control must be planned and carried out to build a fully-functional, robotic Chris Paul (although Michael Jordan might be more likely to come to mind for the mentor teams). Think about everything that goes into a basketball shot: aim, angle of release, velocity/force, distance from the hoop, and countless other factors. Each must be converted into a command for the robot to understand and follow – simultaneously. And then there are other factors: Passing. Blocking. Fast breaks. All need to be accounted for and controlled.

As the competition develops, we’ll have all the details here. Keep reading our blog for updates!

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