PITTSBURG, KS (April 18, 2017) – While most people aim to avoid a vortex at all costs, thousands of high school robotics competitors are choosing to face one head-on.
The FIRST® Championship kicks off in Houston April 19-22 and continues in St. Louis April 26-29. This is the first year that the robotics organization has split the championships between two locations. FIRST features competitions for grade levels K-12 and has worldwide participation. TETRIX® Robotics System Creator Paul Uttley, who also participates in the game design for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC®), said the intent was to enable more teams to participate.
"By having two venues, more teams will be able to qualify and go to the world championships," Uttley said. "FIRST wanted to get more teams involved, but doing that in a single venue is really hard because it's so big. You have all those pits and fields and four levels of competition, so I don't think they felt like they could keep a single venue and grow the event."
In FTC, a new game is introduced every year. Last year's game, RES-QSM, required a focus on strength so robots could climb a ramp and hang from a bar. At center field in the 2017 FTC game, VELOCITY VORTEXSM, is a rotatable stand with goals on it. There are also corner goals plus four side beacons. Some scoring options include shooting small balls into the corner or center vortices, claiming beacons, or capping the center vortex with a large ball.
Uttley suggested that VELOCITY VORTEXSM might provide more of an engineering challenge than RES-QSM.
"Last year's game was all about climbing and power. This year focuses more on the scoring elements and the ability to shoot into goals," he said. "I think it's more scoring challenged because it has shooting and lifting. Your mechanisms, actuators, and some of the appendages you might design this year are way different than last year's. And that's a good thing – the game needs to change up."
As in the past, Uttley and TETRIX Specialist Tim Lankford will be on site at both the Houston and St. Louis events to provide technical support and some replacement parts to FTC teams.
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