The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

NYC Regional FIRST Robotics Competition Starts Tomorrow

Sixty-four high schools gather to see whose robot plays soccer better

2 min read
NYC Regional FIRST Robotics Competition Starts Tomorrow

This weekend the NYC regional FIRST robotics competition pits 64 high schools against each other to see whose robot plays soccer better.

The pre-game started today. High school students from the NYC area, plus one team from Great Britain and one from Brazil, finally unpacked the robots they built over six weeks in January and February. After weeks of anticipation they started tinkering again and dove into practice rounds for this weekend’s competition. The Javits Center in Manhattan was abuzz with teams making last minute adjustments and fixes, trading team buttons, parading mascots around, and most importantly, testing their bots on the field of battle.

That battlefield looked more like a soccer field for the game called “Breakaway,” where robots are supposed to roll or kick balls into a goal while climbing over or under obstacles in the field [see our January commentary for more on FIRST and this year's challenge].

Vinod Lala, science teacher and mentor for the Mary Louis Academy’s rookie robot team, said it’s already apparent that the game will be tough – about 60 percent of the practice rounds were scoreless, 0-0, he said. And while robots get extra points for hanging off of posts placed in the center of the field, most robots aren’t going for it.

With some exceptions, of course. The Iron Maidens, a veteran all-girls team from the Bronx High School of Science, neatly steered their robot to a central post, where it reached a long arm up, latched on, and lifted itself off the ground.

The FIRST competition challenges students to make engineering design decisions from the get-go, many of which became apparent on the playing field: some robots will squeeze under obstacles, while others are built to roll over them. Some teams were even planning to add additional parts to their robots at the last minute, like a "kicker" to try to score goals.

The competition starts tomorrow and goes through the weekend, with seeding rounds Saturday and Sunday mornings, then qualifying and final rounds in the afternoon. Top scoring teams will travel to the global championships at the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta, in April.

FIRST Lego and Tech challenges, for younger students, will also take place at Javits this weekend. The events are free and open to the public.

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

Keep Reading ↓Show less