Our 16-year-old son is in Minneapolis this week for a robotics competition.
His team is sponsored by NASA, and they build and practice at the Kennedy Space Center, in the former Shuttle Landing Facility. They’ve got special security badges to get in – no parents allowed.
It’s all part of something called FIRST Robotics Challenge, which is an international league for high school students. They are given certain parameters for the robot and a “game” with various tasks the robot must complete. Then they have six weeks to design and build it, and a choice of regional competitions to attend. Winners of the regional competitions attend the World Championships in Houston next month.
This is our team’s second and last regionals this season. They lost by one point in the semifinals of the first one, which was just an hour away from us in Orlando. They’re in seventh place after the first day of competition today in Minnesota, with two more qualifying matches tomorrow. The top eight teams automatically progress to the finals tomorrow afternoon, and each of those teams picks two others to be in their “alliance.”
The eight three-team alliances compete against each other in the finals, but only the single team with the most points goes on to worlds.
Sound complicated? It kind of is, but I’ve been glued to the computer screen much of the afternoon watching the livestream. (Check out the archived copy here if you’re interested.)
The team is a good bunch of kids, from five different high schools in our county. Twenty-seven of them went on the trip to Minneapolis. One had never flown before. Several had never seen snow, until today when they had apparently had a massive snowball fight.
These are things memories are made of.
TGIF, people. TGIF. Here’s this week’s playlist, in honor of FIRST Robotics, NASA, and engineers everywhere:
“Mr. Roboto,” by Styx
“You’re wondering who I am (secret secret I’ve got a secret),
machine or mannequin (secret secret I’ve got a secret)?
With parts made in Japan (secret secret I’ve got a secret),
I am the modern man.”
“Weird Science,” by Oingo Boingo
“Magic and technology,
Things we never seen before,
Not what teacher said to do.”
“Rocket Man,” by Elton John
“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids,
in fact it’s cold as hell.
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did.
And all this science I don’t understand,
it’s just my job five days a week.
A rocket man, a rocket man.”
“Safety Dance,” by Men Without Hats
oh well the safety dance.
Ah yes the safety dance.
“She Blinded Me with Science,” by Thomas Dolby
“I can hear machinery,
blinding me with science, science,
“Phinedroids and Ferbots,” by Phineas and Ferb
“We’ve got light bulbs for eyes,
and aluminum noses.
We’re busting chillin’ moves with our robot poses.”
“Walking on the Moon,” by the Police
“Giant steps are what you take
walking on the moon.
I hope my legs don’t break
walking on the moon.”
“Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant
“We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue,
and then we’ll take it higher.
Oh we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue,
and then we’ll take it higher.”
“The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades,” by Timbuk 3
“I study nuclear science,
I love my classes.
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses.
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better.
I’m doing all right, getting good grades.
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”