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February 27, 2009

Video of Woodlawn robot as team looks back, ahead

Robotics season is upon us. Today, robots that high school students and advisers have been frantically assembling for the past few weeks have started to roll into action, at a tournament at the D.C. convention center.  My editor, Patricia Fanning, shares images from last season and  details on the season ahead:

This weekend's regional competition, sponsored by FIRST and supported by NASA, features 65 listed teams, including at least nine from high schools in the Baltimore area. One is Team 768, known as the TechnoWarriors, based at Woodlawn High School. Mentors Fred and Robyn Needel were at the center yesterday for tune-ups and practice and say this event would be perfect for newcomers to check out, given that FIRST’s founder, as well as Obama Administration figures, are likely to go. Last year, a photographer and reporter from The Sun tagged along as the team of Woodlawn students and home schoolers built and then went to battle with its robot, The Claw. The season started in the school basement and ended at the Georgia Dome, as shown in this video. 

Here’s how former Sun reporter Chris Emery describes the action at the championships: 

Teams compete in an alliance of three robots facing an alliance of three others. The six robots careened around a field scoring points for each completed lap and even more points for launching balls over a metal hurdle. The Claw worked well, but the competition was fierce. In their last match, the TechnoWarriors were pitted against some of the best teams in their division. One team on the opposing alliance, The Robotnauts hailed from Houston, Texas, and were sponsored by NASA’s Johnson Space Center. They were mentored by the engineer who led the development of the Mars rovers. But the TechnoWarriors kept their heads and played a defense strategy, blocking that robot while one in their own alliance scored points. The TechnoWarriors’ strategy worked. Although Team 768 didn’t progress to the finals, it won its last match against a tough opposing alliance. All that was left was to celebrate.

Chris says the highlight came at the Annapolis competition when Woodlawn won the chairman’s award, given to the team that shows the most grace and commitment in getting other students interested in science and engineering.

The Needels say this season’s game, called Lunacy, is very different. It requires a robot with low-friction wheels to haul a small trailer behind it. The object is to get lightweight balls into your opponents’ trailers while keeping those opponents from getting the balls into your trailer.  If you want to attend one of the events to see it for yourself, keep in mind that FIRST's founder, inventor Dean Kamen, is on hand in D.C. Robyn points out the Chesapeake Regional will be March 19-21 at the Naval Academy, which provides continuous shuttle service from its stadium. Either way, she invites everyone "to come and visit our team in the pit area - it's easy to find us by our number 768 and by our camouflage T-shirts with TechnoWarriors. Also the competition is streamed online or on cable. She says "anyone who gets NASA Select TV (we get it via Comcast Channel 25 in the county) can watch competitions from around the country...from the end of February through March, and then the Championships in Atlanta the weekend of April 16-18." One group even posts others' records to help everyone keep track.

Robot fans, here's a little bit of fun for you over on our Caption Call blog.

Posted by Arin Gencer at 11:41 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Baltimore County


Arin - Thanks so much for posting the video. This is awesome! In our ever more sophisticated economy (assuming the banks and insurance companies don't implode tomorrow), it's these types of skills and organizations that will ensure that Maryland students are the best in the world, as the Governor has now challenged. So great.

I have to ask, though, where's the Poly and Western teams. From what I remember from last year, I think they won the regional competition. Are they in the running again this year?

Thanks for your comments. We checked online, and of the nine Baltimore-area schools in this year's DC-FIRST tournament, the only city school we found was Patterson/Dunbar.

Only 1 Baltimore City Team, 1748 from Dunbar and Patterson High competed in the FIRST DC Regional last weekend.

But all 4 Baltimore City teams this year will be competing at the 2009 FIRST Chesapeake Regional at the USNA March 19-21. The 3 other teams are from Poly, Western and Digital Harbor and will join 51 other teams from the East Coast and UK. Free and open to the public.

Ah! That makes sense. Thanks so much, Arin & Jenny. Looking forward to that coverage.

Jenny, is that the one that's at the Naval Academy?

Please ignore that last question, Jenny, it's right in the post. Whoops.

Thank you so much, Arin, for posting the video about our FIRST Robotics team's activities last season and about our current season's competitions. The TechnoWarriors of Team 768 ended up in 11th place out of 65 teams at the DC Regional and were Alliance captains for the finals, where we were knocked out by the #1 team, which had an awesome robot and were undefeated for the entire competition.

We hope that all of your readers will come to watch the Lunacy as our Lunar Warrior (aka Tang) and human players battle at the Naval Academy later this month. Please come to the event, and invite everyone you can - the more the merrier and we'd love to meet you all! For more information about FIRST and the programs, remember to check out . See you soon!

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