WORCESTER, Mass. – The FIRST robotics team from the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Sciences at WPI, which is sponsored by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), took home the top spot in the March 5-7 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) regional competition at Boston University's Agannis Arena, where 52 other teams from New England, Canada, and California, also competed.
"It was a very successful weekend for WPI robotics, especially Team 190," said advisor Kenneth Stafford, adjunct assistant professor at WPI and director of the university's robotics resource center, pointing out that for the victory, Team 190 partnered with teams from Blackstone Valley Regional High School in Upton, Mass., and Brookfield High School in Connecticut. In addition, another WPI-affiliated team, from Burncoat High School in Worcester (Team 1735, "The Green Reapers"), also competed in Boston, and was seeded sixth in the competition.
Team 190, along with its robot "Cobra Goat," moves on next to the March 19-21 FIRST Chesapeake Regional Competition in Annapolis, Md., and then on to the April 16-18 FIRST international championship in Atlanta, Ga. This team has a history of victory; in April 2007, the group walked away with the first-place trophy at the international championship.
"The team’s goal this season was to be 'elegantly effective,'" explained Stafford, noting that Team 190 also won the Boston competition's GM Industrial Design Award, which celebrates form and function in an efficiently designed machine that achieves the game's challenge. "We recognize that ultimate success depends upon three equally weighed characteristics: a superb design, excellent craftsmanship and care during construction, and effective tactics and operator skills for deployment. This year, it all came together."
Each year, all teams are given the game rules and kit in January. Starting from scratch, they have 46 days to build their robots. This year, the robots have a maximum size of 28 inches by 38 inches by 60 inches tall; they cannot exceed 120 pounds. The game's goal this year, throughout each level of competition, is for each three-team alliance to get as many "orbit-balls" as possible into the goals that are attached to the opponent alliance's robots. Orbit-balls can be scored directly from a robot, or an off-field human player. The game this year, called "Lunacy," is played on a special low-friction surface with mandated low-friction robot wheels.
FIRST is a not-for-profit founded by Dean Kamen, a WPI alumnus, who is the renowned inventor of the Segway Human Transporter. The public charity offers innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math while building life skills.
The WPI/Mass Academy team is one of only five that have remained continuously involved in FIRST Robotics since the competition began in 1992. WPI, which has offered since fall 2007 the nation’s first bachelor's degree program in robotics engineering, runs the state championship FIRST Lego League tournament, two robotics-based summer camps, and an off-season FIRST robotics tournament. WPI also offers a VEX intermediate-level robotics tournament (a high school robotics competition that uses a more affordable robotics kit), and has arranged several VEX scrimmages. Members of Team 190 mentor FIRST Robotics Competition and the FIRST Lego League teams, and each year conduct some 50 demonstrations throughout New England. WPI staff and alumni serve as mentors to Team 190 and The Green Reapers.