A robot designed by Tacoma high school students with help from University of Washington engineering undergraduates and members of the Seattle Robotics Society took a top award in regional competition over the weekend, and now the team is headed to nationals.
The robot, “Rainmaker One,” won the award for Best Offense during the two-day contest in San Jose, Calif.
“Our students’ performance was extraordinary,” said Alex Mamishev, UW assistant professor of electrical engineering and lead adviser for the project. “We were the newcomers, while many other teams have been doing this for six or seven years. Our people designed an agile, quick robot and their strategies and counter-strategies were excellent. I couldn’t be prouder.”
The group leaves tonight for Orlando, Fla., where members will compete Friday and Saturday against 270 teams from across the country.
The competition, sponsored by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, tasks the student-built robots to pick up balls, negotiate an obstacle course, then deposit the balls in a goal six feet off the ground. Points are awarded or subtracted based on how well robots perform and how the teams strategize, counter, outmaneuver and outwit other robots on the course. Points are also awarded for innovative features. Rainmaker One, for example, can hang from the goal like a slam-dunking basketball player.
The idea behind the competition is to pair students with mentors who can take them through the problem-solving process of designing, testing and operating a device to perform a specific task, introducing them in a hands-on way to what engineering is all about. The teams had six weeks to design, build and test the robots using a parts kit provided by FIRST and some extras from an approved list.
The Rainmaker One team includes students from Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, UW engineering students and faculty and members of the Seattle Robotics Society. Support for the effort comes from the UW Electrical Engineering Department, the Mary Gates Scholarship Fund, the Ford Fund, the Seattle Robotics Society and the NASA-Ames Research Center. Additional support was provided by the UW College of Engineering, the departments of Computer Science and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, and the Minority Science and Engineering Program.
For more information, contact Mamishev at (206) 221-5729, (206) 543-2150 or www.usfirst.org. Video clips from a February exhibition match featuring Rainmaker One can be seen at www.ee.washington.edu/techsite/robotics/main.html. Click on “video clips.”