By Carley Dangona
AGAWAM – More than 2,700 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) teams around the world hosted kick off celebrations on Jan. 4, including Rosie Robotics of Agawam High School, as they geared up for this year’s competition.
Students in kindergarten to twelfth grade can participate in one of four levels. The Jr. First LEGO League (FLL) serves kindergarten through third grade, FLL is comprised of students in fourth to eighth grade, FIRST Tech Challenged has members in seventh to twelfth grade and FIRST Robotics Competition participants are in ninth to twelfth grade. The competition progresses from a creation of a model for a robot to constructing a 120-pound robot.
Reminder Publications was on hand with Rosie for the unveiling of the 2014 theme “Aerial Assist,” a task where each team will construct three smaller robots to play a ball game. Each robot will work in conjunction with one another to pass a ball from one end of the court to the other to score points by tossing the ball into the goal.
Two FIRST competitors will play against each other in two and a half minute rounds. The robots are controlled and monitored by the students on each team.
Rosie has six weeks to build its robots. The team will compete in two FIRST Robotics Competition qualifying events in March in Worcester and Hartford, Conn., for a chance to make it to the championship competition in St. Louis, Mo., in April 2014.
“It’s fun to see them discover who they are,” Jay Cameron, mentor for Rosie, said. “Sometimes they think they know who they are, [but through their work with FIRST] they discover an entirely different sense of self.”
Cameron said that over the next six weeks the team would spend more than 2,000 hours working on the project. Every hour is tracked in a spreadsheet. He stressed the fact that the team is a “supplement not a displacement” to school, a fact that each student understands.
Agawam Junior High teacher John Barry serves as the faculty advisor for and a mentor of Rosie. He explained that 12 team members graduated last year and that many of the team is new, adding that all are trained on the FIRST computer software already, in preparation for the competition.
“Every year is different. Last year was probably the toughest engineering challenge yet,” Barry said. The robot was required to climb a pyramid and throw Frisbees into an opening, but Rosie’s robot had difficulty scaling the structure.
“You don’t know until you try. That is why the engineering motto is ‘fail often so you can succeed sooner,’” Barry said.
He said that the team will break into groups and each work on a different aspect of the project including marketing, fundraising, designing the robots and constructing the robots. Students work in conjunction with trades people in the field and interact with experts from top corporations during FIRST events. When it comes time to enter the working world, students have already made professional contacts and have access to scholarships.
Students that participate in the FIRST program are eligible for more than $18 million dollars in scholarships that are funded by more than 165 companies and organizations.
According to the FIRST website (www3.usfirst.org
), FIRST Scholarships:
• “Are funded and administered by the scholarship providers (colleges, universities, corporations, etc.), not by FIRST;
• Each has unique eligibility requirements, deadline dates and application procedures;
• Are usually for use at a specific provider college or university, but a few can be used at any school;
Are typically merit-based, and cover a broad range of scholastic abilities;
• Are not just for engineering majors – roughly 35 percent of FIRST Scholarships can be used for any course of study; and
•Vary from one-time awards of $500 to full four-year tuition (estimated at $160,000).”
For more information about Rosie, visit the “Clubs and Organizations” section of www.edline.net/pages/Agawam_High_School/Students