Battle Bots have nothing on FIRST robotics competitions. Creating a robot with one goal is child's play compared to the tasks FIRST high school teams tackle. FIRST gives scientifically minded teens (and adults in different leagues) the opportunity to create a robot from stock parts kits given to all teams, and go head-to-head against others in multifaceted challenges. This year's competition at Williams Arena will feature more than 50 teams from Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Illinois, Wisconsin, and as far away as Lee's Summit, Missouri. The challenges facing teams are fairly complicated. Two alliances of three teams each will race their robots around a 27' by 54' circular track. But there are a few added complications. There's an autonomous period during which the robots must race with only pre-coded commands and cues, not directly controlled by team members. The game is also a ball sport, with four 8-pound, 40-inch inflatable balls in play. The teams earn points every time their robot goes around the track, and for each time they push one of their assigned balls around, with bonus points awarded for getting the balls to go over a girder six and a half feet above the course. The winning alliance and other award-winning teams join groups from 20 countries for the championships in Atlanta.
March 28-29, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., 2008