By KARA GAE NEAL
PIECE BY PIECE: Students, professors and engineers are working together to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition. The worldwide event challenges and inspires students to enter into fields such as engineering.
Courtesy Tulsa Tech
The month of January marked the official beginning of the 2011 Robotics Season for students enrolled in Tulsa Tech’s Pre-Engineering Academy. The objectives for the FIRST Robotics Competition change each year and details of the game are released to students worldwide on the first Saturday in January. Teams are then given six weeks to construct a robot, which can accomplish the tasks outlined for each year’s competition.
The FIRST Organization, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, was founded by inventor Dean Kamen and Professor Woodie Flowers in 1989 to help develop ways to inspire students to pursue successful careers in the engineering and technology fields.
The FIRST Robotics Compet-ition is designed to inspire high school students to become engineers by giving them real world experience working with professional engineers to develop a robot. As of 2009, over 3,000 high school teams totaling over 46,000 students from Brazil, Canada, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States compete in the annual competition.
Teams participate in over 50 regional and district competitions throughout March in an effort to qualify for the FIRST Championship event in St. Louis. Tulsa Tech students will compete in the Oklahoma City Regional scheduled for March 17-19 at the Cox Convention Center.
Marie Pfaff, one of Tulsa Tech’s Pre-Engineering Academy instructors, thinks the chances for this year’s students are great.
“We’ve been competing for six years,” Pfaff says. “Just two years ago we won first place at the Oklahoma City regional event and went on to compete at nationals in Atlanta.”
The annual competition, sometimes referred to as the varsity sport for the mind, combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology.
Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team brand, develop teamwork skills, then design, build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.
Pfaff feels that this type of real-world experience is extremely valuable to all of the students who participate and compete in the event.
“The students actually get to work with a wide variety of engineering materials, things like 80/20, C-channel, other metals, and wood,” Pfaff says. “It’s not all just theory, they actually get to apply the engineering principles that they’ve been studying.”
Approximately 40 students from two separate teams will represent Tulsa Tech at this year’s event. Staff wishes the best of luck to all of the students as they work to design and build the perfect robot for this year’s event which will include opportunities for over $14 million dollars worth of scholarships offered by more than 128 colleges, universities, associations and corporations.
If you’re currently looking for industry training, additional career skills, or a high school student seeking a challenge, Tulsa Tech invites you to visit today. For more information, please call 918-828-5200 or visit us online at www.tulsatech.edu.