Lubbock students gear up for FIRST Robotics Competition

Reported by: Ashley Claster
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Updated: 1/04 9:34 pm
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 It is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Beginning on Saturday, teams from area schools will have six-weeks to build a robot that meets this year's engineering challenge during the FRC, or FIRST Robotics Competition.

"FIRST Robotics is not just about the technical skills. It's about learning the communication skills and time management," mentor Kenyan Burnham said.

200 students form 15 teams to compete in Lubbock for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

"It's going to be fun. It really is," student participant and team electronics manager Gabby Escandon said. "We have all of these other teams here that help you out. And you go around looking at robots, and see their ideas. You say, 'I want to be an alliance with you.' You become friends with them, and they help you out throughout the game. Because you never know who you're going to go up against."

This is a national and international competition with about 50 teams from seven different states, and other countries like Turkey and China.

"FIRST puts us out through NASA Television, all at the same time, everywhere in the world. So they'll watch a live feed, find out what the challenge is, then they'll check out their kits," Co-kickoff coordinator Greg Burnham said.

Their kits did not have instructions attached. With their kit of parts, the challenge and six weeks to work... they started building their robots.

"Because these are big robots," Greg Burnham said. "These things are 120 to 150 pounds. They do complicated tasks, and they have complicated programming."

The challenge is to build a robot that is able to pass, shoot and catch a two-foot ball.

"Pick it up with your robot, and throw it into the goals. It's much harder than last year," Escandon said.

Each team has a mentor that helps them through the six-week process.

"Mentors are there to guide them," Kenyan Burnham said. "Not necessarily to help them fix anything. But lead them. Say, 'hey. You have this idea? Here's how you make it a reality.'"

Burnham says getting students interested in engineering at an early age is extremely crucial.

"This is one big job opportunity," Kenyan Burnham said. "Basically the people that you work with, especially the sponsors, they're your future employers. They watch very carefully."

"Challenging the upcoming generation to take some of those high-tech jobs that we need covered," Greg Burnham said.

FIRST Robotics is training, teaching life skills and motivating the students to give engineering a chance.

Greg Burnham says the teams need local sponsors now. The final day to build the robots is February 18th. From there, the students will compete against robots from other teams. The competition is free to watch at the Civic Center on March seventh and eighth.

To learn more about FIRST, click here.
To locate teams in your area, click here.
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