Yesterday (03/15/2012) I attended the first day of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) LA Regional event at the Long Beach Arena. This was my first FRC event and I was blown away by what these kids were able to accomplish in just six weeks. I call them kids not be belittle them, but rather to humble myself. It was truly amazing. I brought my ten year old son along with me and were both enthralled with what we saw.
This years competition is entitled “Rebound Rumble” (see a video about it here) and it challenges the student teams to build a robot that can pickup compact foam basketballs, shoot them at one of four basketball baskets, as well as navigate a set of “teeter-totter” style “bridges”.
I was there as a Microsoft Developer Evangelist because in the competition this year, the teams were allowed to use the Microsoft Kinect both on the robots themselves as well as from special Kinect driver stations. I found teams at the LA regional using one or the other. One team in particular though, Team 987 from Las Vegas’ Cimarron-Memorial High School was using the Kinect both onboard for depth perception, as wells as from the Kinect Driver Station during autonomous / hybrid mode.
In autonomous / hybrid mode, the robots must run by themselves without being controlled by the drivers using code developed by the students and deployed to the robot’s PowerPC based cRIO. However, teams that use the Kinect can signal their robot when to shoot basketballs giving them an advantage over the purely autonomous robots.
In the end, some technical difficulties kept Team 987 from being able to use the Kinect station during autonomous mode in Thursday’s practice rounds. Hopefully they can get the problems resolved for the qualifying rounds today (03/16/2012) or for the actual competition tomorrow.
Best of luck to all of the FIRST teams participating in the FRC competition this week! You are all an inspiration!
Here is one last parting “shot” of Team 987’s robot: