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High School Students and their Robots Play Ball at FIRST Robotics Regionals 2014 #makereducation

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Two weekends ago, High School Students from across the globe competed at the New York City FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition. The students faced the challenge of creating multi-talented robot athletes that could proficiently play both volleyball and hockey, via Popular Mechanics.

The 2014 edition of the high school robotic Olympics asked kids to build machines that could compete in a hybrid hockey/volleyball game. Box-shaped goals were positioned at each corner of the rectangular court, and high goal slots sat above each end. Each team was paired up with two other teams for the 3-on-3 matches; robots scored points for getting balls into the squares or shooting them into the higher slots. The robots had to run autonomously for the first 30 seconds of each match, after which their human operators could take over.

The cleverly named Fe Maidens—Fe is the chemical symbol for the element iron—from the Bronx High School of Science wanted to make their robot a top-goal sniper. “We assumed it would be like a volleyball game,” Ashley Hu, 18, said. So the team went for height. The Maidens’ bot uses a ramp that descends with a roller at the top to drag a ball into the machine. Pistons and bungee cords lift the assembly back up, and another piston punches the ball out using compressed air, shooting it toward the goal.

The Mechanical Bulls from Smithtown, on New York’s Long Island, wanted their robot to be primarily an offensive shooter, so they built in a catapult molded to fit the game ball. A single-motor winch brings the scoop back and launches the ball up to 19 feet. Brian Sheridan, 17, said that the team molded the catapult arm out of two PVC pipes, making it durable and flexible. In fact, the Mechanical Bulls are working on a patent for their model.

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