Robotics students ready to learn mystery competition

January 4, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — Whether it’s playing a futuristic ball game, navigating through a complex obstacle course with computer controled wheels or manipulating a metal hand, FIRST Robotics Competition students in La Porte County have been competing for years in gladiatorial matches with their machines.

And they’ve been waiting months to learn the goal for this year’s competition. Their only clue? The enigmatic title, “Destination: Deep Space.”

The speculation will end soon when FIRST Robotics students in Indiana and around the world will finally see the rules and specifics of the upcoming game when it’s revealed this Saturday in Michigan City.

Michigan City’s Mullen Center, 100 Manny Court, was chosen as one of four kickoff locations in Indiana this weekend. This kickoff event starts the gears turning in the minds of thousands of students and mentors as they brainstorm on how to design and build a robot that will compete and complete the task laid out by the game design committee. The students and mentors have about six weeks to design and build their robot.

At kickoff this Saturday, teams will be shown the Destination: Deep Space game field and challenge details for the first time, and will receive a kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, control system components, construction materials, and a mix of additional automation components with limited instructions. From this assortment of materials, teams have six weeks to build a robot capable of completing the assigned task.

While there are several other robotics competitions in the state and around the world, the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) provides students with a unique experience. This is a hands-on, real world learning experience.

La Porte County teams include Michigan City Area Schools’ Roboblitz, who can be found at http://roboblitz3936.com, and New Prairie United School Corporation’s Las Pumas, who can be found at https://www.laspumas2197.org.

Woodie Flowers, one of the founders of this program and FIRST distinguished Adviser says, “It is like life. You never have enough information. You never have enough time. The kit of materials may be what you have in the warehouse. There are always people doing competing things and you must have a strategy. We have created a microcosm of the real engineering experience.”

According to an organization press release, the FIRST Robotics Competition is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. It is a sport where all participants can choose to become a professional.

The FIRST Robotics Competition is a unique varsity Sport for the Mind designed to help high school aged young people discover how interesting and rewarding the lives of engineers and scientists can be. It is unique because; it is a sport where participants play with and learn from professionals, designing and building a robot is a fascinating real-world professional experience, competing brings participants as much excitement and adrenaline rush as conventional varsity tournaments, and the game rules are a new surprise every year.

Kickoff marks the beginning of the design and build season. Teams have the opportunity to meet at “local” Kickoffs to compare notes, get ideas, make friends, find mentoring teams, learn the game, pick up the Kit of Parts, and get geared up for the exciting competition season.

Saturday Kickoff times:

n 7:30 a.m. Doors open at local kickoff locations

n 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Pre-broadcast

n 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Main Broadcast

n 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wrap up

The kickoff for Destination: Deep Space will be hosted at four locations in Indiana:

n Michigan City Kickoff in Michigan City, Indiana, hosted by FRC 3936 Robo Blitz - Mullen Center - 100 Manny Court - Michigan City, IN 46360

n Purdue University Kickoff in West Lafayette, Indiana, hosted by Purdue FIRST Programs - Purdue University - Armstrong Hall - 701 W. Stadium Ave. - West Lafayette, IN 47907

n University of Indianapolis Kickoff in Indianapolis, Indiana, hosted by the R.B. Annis School of Engineering - University of Indianapolis - Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Building (Ruth Lilly Performance Hall) - 1400 E. Hanna Ave - Indianapolis, IN. 46227

n Bloomington Kickoff in Bloomington, Indiana, - Indiana University Luddy Hall - 700 North Woodlawn - Bloomington, IN 47408

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