If you’re in the Boston area and looking for something fun, free, educational, and inspiring to do this Saturday with the kids (or by yourself!), consider stopping by the Agganis Arena at Boston University for the FIRST Robotics Regional competition. Over 50 teams of students from the area, as well as from as far away as Mexico and Turkey, are participating in the largest robotics competition in Boston. Each of the teams has spent six weeks perfecting their creations and will square off in Robot Rumble.
Robot Rumble is played on a basketball court of sorts where two teams of two robots cooperate, under operator control, to score as many baskets as possible in a 2 minute and 15 second period. Prior to that, there’s a 15-second period where the robots, under autonomous control of a Microsoft Kinect, can attempt to score baskets for double the amount points. At the end of the match, the robots also can get additional points by balancing on bridge platforms in the middle of the court.
I dropped by today for a couple of hours and brought my sixth-grader. We got there in the morning while some of the teams were still arriving and setting up, so the arena floor was a bit of organized chaos, but we had an opportunity to watch them assemble and hone their creations (the required safety-glasses were a perk that made the experience all the more exciting for my son). We stayed to watch a few of the trial runs as well, but I’m told the real spectator fun occurs today and tomorrow as qualification rounds and the formal competition ensue.
And if you’re not in the Boston area, there are lots of these qualifying competitions around the country, leading up to the FIRST Championship in St. Louis on April 26-28, 2012.