AHS robotics advances to globals
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Arkansas High School’s robotics team won at their FIRST Robotics Regional Competition, which earned the young engineers an invitation to the FIRST Robotics Global Championship.
According to team sponsor Christopher Brisco, the team received a set of instructions in January at the same time as teams all over the world. From then, the members began to meet and make plans based on the rules for the competition and the required parts given to every team to use for their robot.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is the creation of STEM advocate and inventor Dean Kamen, who started the organization in 1989 to engage students with science and technology. The group began holding robot competitions in 1992.
“The rulebook we got this year is about 150 pages thick. So there’s all kinds of rules like how heavy a robot can be, it can only be up to 48 inches tall, the perimeter of the frame of the robot can only be 120 inches. There’s tons of rules because it tries to level the playing field,” Brisco said.
Brisco said some teams are sponsored by NASA or the government of Israel, which would typically cause equity issues, but the competition is made fair by the strict parameters, which allow for teams to set aside pride and help each other, as well.
“We got down to Houston last year, and in our second match … a robot from New York completely destroyed the front end of our robot. I mean completely destroyed. It was beyond the capacity to repair onsite with us,” Brisco said.
Brisco said the New York team came over, looked at his team’s robot and began to repair it so it could have a fair shot at competing again.
“It’s all about cooperation, and because they want you go go out and give your best, you want to beat a team at their best, not because the robot was broken down. So that’s where we’re at. We’re going to go back to Houston and give it our best,” Brisco said.
Each student has specialties, from networking with other teams to create alliances for robot gameplay, to engineering skills such as wiring, coding and woodworking.
This year’s robot is named Leon, after a lobster that was rescued from a grocery store and has a following on social media.
According to co-sponsor Laila Miller, the team followed the lobster’s story, which served as stress relief during difficult moments. Seeing the lobster try new treats and molt his shell brought joy to the teens.
“One of the ideals (of the competition) is cooperation, and knowing that you’re going to be a good team member (to your alliance). If your robot in your team is out there just kind of fending for itself — ‘I’m going to do what I’m going to do’ — you might not want that as your alliance partner,” Miller said.
Brisco said the Global competition will bring about 20,000 to 25,000 people to the downtown Houston area, along with their robots.
“It’s like six city blocks long, and nothing but robots for three or four days,” Brisco said.
The Arkansas High School robotics team will be at the FIRST Robotics Global Championships from April 18 to April 22.