High School Students Vie for a Win in Robotics Competition

After duking it out in the 20th Annual Los Angeles FIRST Robotics Regional Competition, three victors are moving on to the world championships.

The tension was palpable as six student-built robots vied for dominance at the Da Vinci Schools arena in El Segundo, California, in the second round of the best-of-three final match. Since the Red Alliance had won the first, the Blue Alliance needed a win the second. But as the two-minute round concluded, it was clear that the Red Alliance’s victory was assured, and the cheers of hundreds of students, mentors and spectators erupted from the stands.

This action-packed finale marked the culmination of the 20th Annual Los Angeles FIRST Robotics Regional Competition over the weekend, which attracted 44 teams of high-school students from the L.A. area, Nevada, Chile, Mexico, France, Brazil and Turkey. Mentored by experts from a range of aerospace and engineering organizations, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the students constructed robots to save “FIRST City” from being destroyed by asteroids.

The city and asteroids, of course, were fictional, but the challenge – called “Infinite Recharge” – was not. Individual teams formed alliances of three teams, commanding their robots to collect “power cells” (actually, squishy yellow balls) to energize their protective “shield generators.” After being collected from the tennis court-sized arena, the power cells had to be shot into the shield generator’s open doors. The more balls that hit the target, the higher the score. At the end of the round, the robots (which could be as heavy as 125 pounds, or 57 kilograms) gathered in the center of the arena to employ an extendible arm, latch onto a dangling metal beam and hoist themselves into the air, thereby activating the generator and saving the city.

While engineering is at the core of the competition, the

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