Student Robot Competition Inspires Future Engineers

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By: Rich DeMuro
Apr. 8, 2013

It’s a battle of the smarts for these teens participating in a competition at the crossroads of sports and technology.

This year, the FIRST Robotics Competition challenged students to design and build a Frisbee-throwing robot in six weeks.

Participant Alyssa Arnheim called it the “Super Bowl of Smarts.”

The competition was created by Segway inventor Dean Kamen as an effort to inspire the next generation of engineers. $16 million in scholarship money are distributed to winning teams.

Teams are given limited instructions but have the help of volunteer professional engineers.

“This gives us the opportunity to have our engineers work side-by-side with students to solve difficult engineering problems,” said volunteer Ric Roberts, who works for Raytheon.

“This has taught me not only how to build a robot, how to design from the ground up, but more importantly, how to problem-solve,” Crystal Tjoa said.

This year’s challenge is called “Ultimate Ascent,” where robots battle for points by shooting Frisbees in frantic, 2-minute matches. Additional points are given if the robot can climb a tower.

“Our robot can climb, it can shoot and it can even play defense if necessary,” Jeffrey Toobi said.

With an emphasis on “coopertition,” students learned how to work together in the setting of a friendly competition.

“What I’ve learned the most was management and how to work with the team,” Arnheim said.

The FIRST Robotics Competition Championship will begin Apr. 24 in St. Louis.

For a full list of scholarships, please visit

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