NCA’s 10th grader, Ryan Unger, is in the FRC (First Robotics Competition), which a part of FIRST for 9th – 12th graders. FIRST robotics is an international robotics competition that is designed to spark an interest for science and technology in kids and teenagers. FIRST stands for: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. There are over 4,000 teams across the world who compete in this competition. Every year, the founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen, announces a game that will be played by the robots that the teams build. This is called the Kickoff and, to keep things fair, all of the teams around the world are assigned the same game at the same time. The teams are then given 6 weeks to design, prototype, and build a robot that the team thinks can win the year’s game.
This year, the game was to throw Frisbees into goals and to climb a pyramid. Although the rules are quite complicated, the basics of the game can be found at this video. Since they didn’t want to give any teams any ideas, the robots in the video are very unrealistic, but it gets the point across.
Ryan joined team YETI 3506 in August of 2012. YETI stands for Young Engineering and Technology Inspirations. Before the game was assigned, the team raised money for the robot by calling companies like Google and IBM and asking them to support the team by making a donation of money or supplies. This year, they also got NASA to support them by making a $5,000 donation. The team raised over $28,000 and soon put the money to good use. When the game was assigned, they spent it on metal, wheels, electrical wiring, and anything else they needed, building the robot off of the kids’ designs. During those 6 weeks (known as build season) the team met after school from 6-9 pm on Wednesday-Friday, 9 am – 9 pm on Saturdays, and 1-5 on Sundays. As soon as build season was over, the robot was sealed away and taken to competitions in Myrtle Beach and Raleigh. The team finished tenth out of the 55 teams that were in Raleigh and made it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated. But even after the competitions, the robot is still being put to good use. The team brings it to events such as the UNCC Science and Technology Expo, area schools, and other events to inspire other kids to join the team or to create a team of their own. Most of the pictures that you received were taken at the UNCC Science and Technology Expo where Ryan got the opportunity to drive the robot and show it off to the kids, even getting it on live TV.