Saturday, March 29, 2014

Greece Gladiator Goliath Remains FIRST In Our Hearts!

The spectacle of robot competition... FIRST style. (3/29/14)
This morning I took a drive to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to check out the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) regional competition. With a mission to "transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders;" FIRST seeks to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. And it is fun, too!

A number of my English Language Arts students have been working diligently over the past two months as part of Greece Central School District's Robotics Team, the Greece Gladiators, to develop an automaton to compete in the three day regional event. I was happy to have time this to see what all the excitement was about. Surprisingly (given the inconsistent descriptions shared by my students I did not know what to expect), the idea of competitive robots was much more exciting than I had expected it to be. As explained t me at the event, each year the design challenge and competition is changed and this year's game dealt with robots passing large inflatable balls to one another and scoring points in a number of different ways.

On deck prepping Goliath for the first competition of the day. (3/29/14)
In addition to reinforcing what I already knew (that our students in Greece are capable of great things), I also learned a little bit about the FIRST program and robotics. It was amazing how much the students accomplished under the tutelage of our team's teacher coordinator, Chris Mros.

Entering the squared circle for 3-on-3 robot basketball/soccer amalgam. (3/29/14)
Robots are built in 6 weeks from a common kit of parts provided by FIRST, and typically weigh up to 150 lbs. As I understand it, the students break themselves into different committees, each serving its own purpose and collaboratively working toward the funding (with sponsors), design, and development of a competitive robot.

Teams bring their own control panel with into competition area. (3/29/14)
Greece Gladiator Goliath on the jumbo-tron doing his thang! (3/29/14)
Greece Gladiator fans go CRAZY! (3/29/14)
Zach V. and Jeff I. get Goliath ready for the next round. (3/29/14)
The lads explaining info about Goliath with some official-types. (3/29/14)
Meghana K., Amy G, and Claire T. showing their Gladiator Pride!  (3/29/14)
Mr. Mros inadvertently(?) photo bombs Zach V. and Tyler C. (3/29/14)
Goliath enters a meditative state prior to the next match. (3/29/14)
Shots of bots in action aren't easy... but here's one that's not ours. (3/29/14)
The Pit, where robots and techs go to prepare and socialize. (3/29/14)
The announcer gets the competitors and audience fired up prior to each match. (3/29/14)
This year's game was VERY fun to watch. (3/29/14)
They call him 1591, but his Gladiator-gang tag is Goliath. (3/29/14)
At the controls for the second match of the day. (3/29/14)
While the Greece Gladiators did not win (though they were part of the winning alliance in the final game for which I stayed), there was a clear, well-earned sense of accomplishment on the part of the team. When one considers the student-driven nature of this competition, it is exciting enough to see the final product in the filed of competition to draw a sense of satisfaction from the experience. Not surprisingly, this was also reflected in the pride taken by parents and school staff who were in attendance offering their moral support.

As this was my first experience seeing the FIRST program and robotics team in action, I was very fortunate that the students allowed me to come into the pit and ask basic questions about the competition. Observing their efforts and teamwork toward a successful meet is a tremendous reminder of the many different ways our students demonstrate their academic/technological skills, as well as, school pride.

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