February 22, 2008

Sweetwater Students Vie for Honors in Robotics Competition

FIRST is a unique varsity sport of the mind

Cutting-edge technology comes together with the excitement of a sporting event at the 2008 San Diego Qualcomm Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. The top high school science and engineering student teams in San Diego will be putting their technology creations to the test in hopes of winning $5 million in scholarship funds.

Students from the Sweet-water Union High School District will be vying for honors in this unique varsity sport of the mind called FIRST – “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Winners of the 2007 “Rookie Team Inspiration Award,” Hilltop High will again compete along with a combined team from Eastlake High and Alternative Education.

The three-day event takes place March 6 – 8 at the iPayOne Center in San Diego. Spectators are invited to attend daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. as students from all three schools put their innovation and engineering talents on display by building robots. Practice rounds will be held Thursday, March 6 with competition running both Friday and Saturday.

FIRST and NASA have dubbed this year’s game “Overdrive.” Sweetwater teams received a “kit of parts” containing 200 pounds of sensors, wheels, pneumatic equipment, wiring and hardware. They were given six weeks and limited funds to complete the building process following a common set of rules. The robotics teams have been working feverishly since Jan. 5 to create robots that can race around a track while herding a 7-pound ball. Teams can earn additional points if their robots are able to place the cumbersome 40-inch ball on a 6’5” bridge-like structure in the culminating seconds of the round without having it knocked down by competitors.

FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Human Transporter and President of DEKA Research & Development Corporation.

Sixty Sweetwater students will be among the 1200 participants competing for the regional award and a chance to participate at the national competition in Atlanta in April. At all three participating Sweetwater schools, students, mentors and volunteers are engaged in the process of creation and discovery. Funding has come from NASA, Qualcomm, FIRST, AT&T, Otay Ranch, Dynegy and Bartels Electric. Supplies have been donated by Dixieline, Home Depot and Vons. The robotics teams have also received support from the South County Economic Development Council, the Chula Vista City Council as well as many individuals.

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