Robotics - the Ultimate Sport of the Mind
The Upper School Robotics Team gathered on the last Saturday of winter break and learned, along with over 3000 teams across the world, this years’ engineering challenge at the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition. This international competition, known for combining the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology, is run by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. FIRST is More Than Robots. FIRST participation is proven to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields, inspire them to become leaders and innovators, and enhance their 21 st century work-life skills.
The annual FIRST Robotics Competition is referred to on their website as the ultimate Sport for the Mind. This year, it involves working in a three team alliance gathering 7 inch foam balls to score in goals plus grasping and balancing on an overhead bar that tips back and forth.
After scrutinizing the game rules and analyzing possible roles and mechanical solutions our team members have chosen an innovative strategy that we predict will be unusual and sought when comes time to form alliances for the playoffs. Here is an animation which shares the rules and point-gaining strategies of this year's game.
We are now deep in the “build season” in which students design, build, test, and iterate a complex machine to play the game at a high level. Ably led by senior co-captains Manya M. and Charles M., the team is excited about its progress having proven through prototypes that many of our initial design ideas are valid. Others will continue to test and explore, always searching for robust, effective mechanical solutions. Also under development by students is the software code that will allow the machine to complete tasks both autonomously and under drive team commands.
The team will participate in the Utah Regional Competition held at the Maverik Center on March 6-7. Later in March the team travels to Boise, Idaho. At both events we will see teams from a variety of locations in the Intermountain West as well as teams from California, Washington, Nevada, Mexico, Hawaii, and even as far away as the Netherlands. A goal is to again earn an invitation to the World Championship, held in April in Houston, Texas.
Waterford’s team practices regularly in the Assembly Hall after school and on Saturdays. Stop in and see us—the students are justly proud of their engineering creations and love to explain the game and show visitors what they are building.
We have also continued our long-standing tradition of helping other schools get teams started. We enjoy mentoring "rookie" teams and partnering with them to help ensure they navigate the complexities of the challenge and get their program started off with great success. In past years we have helped a number of different teams get off the ground including Brighton High, Roots Academy, and Navajo Mountain High School. This year we are assisting Olympus High's new team.
We also continue our partnership with Judge Memorial High School, a team that we work with and practice with through the season. With Judge's team we co-host a scrimmage for the dozen or so area teams. It is held here on our campus on Saturday February 22. A goal of our program is to share knowledge with local teams to build up local expertise and capabilities—we really enjoy both competing with and competing against our friends at other Utah schools and believe the camaraderie builds all of our programs across Utah and the country.