Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m., more than 40 robotics teams from across Washington state filled the Mountlake Terrace High School gym for the annual First Robotics kickoff.
The teams viewed a live streamed video of inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen announcing the contest’s specific rules and regulations. This event was one of 114 total kickoffs being held worldwide.
While robotics teams knew the theme was “First Stronghold” and centered around the medieval era, they did not know what they would have their robot do nor the game field each team must focus around. Students will have six weeks to fully build and prepare a robot before a competition in March.
After they were shown the video, teams dispersed into separate rooms to collaborate and brainstorm with one another. There, they watched a second video explaining the guidelines within each gamefield and robot.
Washington First Robotics president Erin McCallum said she believes each team is being prepared for later life, when they are given a task at work and have a short amount of time to follow the directions and present their work.
“They are a deer in the headlights as of now, but soon they’ll get the hang of the work schedule and how their robot will look and it’ll be fine,” McCallum said.
While many of the students have done First Robotics competitions in the past, there are a handful of new team members who have never had an experience like this one.
“The new kids [on the Lynnwood High School team] have no idea, but I think the returning students are prepared, even amidst the chaos,” LHS Robotics coach Brad Nelson said.
Each team has allotted times throughout the week that they will work, most starting after school until evening and afternoon to night on weekends. McCallum says both her and the students are grateful for parents of students who bring in food and allow their children to stay late at school in order to help with the robot.
Edmonds-Woodway High School senior Peter Matulich said the competition looks “interesting and complex” and he’s very excited to see what he and his team will build. He also said this would be an amazing experience and felt prepared for the next six weeks.
Different teams have prepared for this competition in different ways. MTHS Robotics president Ian Davidson said he’s helped his fellow teammates advance their skills since September and tried to better understand the design process and due dates for different aspects of the robot.
Davidson said his team may not be as prepared as they could be, but that this is a “hard challenge” and he plans on giving his all.
-By Stephi Smith, MLTnews intern