FIRST Robotics Team 880

Looney Labs is proud to be a sponsor of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robot built by Team 880 of Fairmount High School in North Dakota. Here you see them all, wearing the Fluxx T-shirts we sent them, and showing off some of the Fluxx decks we gave them to give out as gifts to the other teams they will be competing with at the upcoming regional competition.

Here is some detailed information about the competition in the words of Yolanda Luick, a Math/Science teacher and the Robotics Supervisor of Team 880:

I absolutely love the competition. From start to finish the phrase "gracious professionalism" is encouraged. Although we are competing against the other teams, we are all willing to share information, strategies, and parts if necessary. It's kind of hard to explain but here goes. When we arrive on Thursday, March 6 at 8 am we will find our robot in its crate in our pit (a 10' by 10') area. We have 8 hours to pass inspection. The robot must be no larger than 30" X 36" X 60" and a maximum weight of 130 pounds. We will be inspected by judges to make sure our parts meet all regulations. During these eight hours we will also get three two-minute ten seconds practice rounds. While all this is going on....the PR members of the various teams are going team to team presenting them with their gifts and handing out brochures that state what their team's robot is capable of doing. The team scouts are going around checking out the competition.

Friday and Saturday morning we will be in 8 seed matches. In each match four robots will be competing. Two will be on the red team and two will be on the blue team. For each seed match, you have one ally and two opponents. Your ally for one round may be your opponent for the next round and visa versa. Between seed matches, you do maintenance on your robot, introduce yourself to your next ally, together with your ally team you go scout out your two opponents (your opponents will tell you their strengths and weaknesses) and then you and your ally plan your strategy for the next round. By that time it is time to compete and then you start the whole process over again.

Each year the goal of the robot is different. Again hard to explain. This year we are trying to move Sterlite brand tubs into scoring areas and stack them. Your score is based on your highest stack tub number times the number of tubs in your score zone. A round is comprised of three parts. During the first 10 seconds each team has 8 tubs. Part of the team's strategy will be whether to stack these tubs 8 high or two stacks of 4 high or 4 stacks of 2 high etc. Humans will place the stacks on the playing field in the first 10 seconds. In the next 15 seconds, the robots are expected to function autonomously (by themselves without manual control) this is a challenge for us....hence the fourth mentor who will be helping us with programming. During the last one minute and 45 seconds, we will have an operator controlling the robot. There is also a ramp on the floor and at the top of the ramp is a pyramid of 29 more tubs. These tubs can be positioned by the robots for higher scoring. THE BEST PART of the competition is that teams will actually score for the other team because the winner gets their score plus twice the losers score. This adds a great deal to the strategy and makes it more fun because no one is skunked.

We are a small high school. We have only 45 kids in grades 9-12. Of those 45 kids, 17 are on our team. We are team 880, the North Dakota Border Patrol, and this year's robot is called the Winged Wonder. Our design has two "wings" on the robot to maximize control over the pyramid of 29 tubs and to allow our ally robot to piggy back us at the apex of the ramp.

Do we stand a chance of winning? We've already won. These kids are meeting nights and weekends and are basically learning engineering and programming. They are learning to sell themselves and their robot to their allies and to strategize with their peers. I watched our team members mature during last year's competition, it was so fun to watch. Will we take top honors, probably not. But that's not why any of us is doing it. We are going against teams where the kids never get to touch the robot other than to operate it because the construction is dominated by engineers. Our students make the robot or it doesn't get done. I have been teaching for 22 years and this is the best competition I have ever been a part of.

By the way.....before the top eight teams head off to the final rounds, they each select two other "allies" to go with them. Again with the gracious professionalism. As a result, 24 teams head off to finals and each of those robots MUST compete at least once during the three rounds. That is why your gift [the Fluxx decks] is important to us. We are hoping to impress them with our robot and our gift so that "if" we aren't in the top eight, maybe someone will ally with us and take us along. As I said before, whether we make the finals or not... we will have already won!

The Regional Competition is March 6-8, 2003 - we wish them luck!

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