Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Army Ants Prepare for FIRST Competition

While most of us were just waking up to watch our Saturday morning cartoons and eat our big bowl of cereal, over 30 students were gathered in the conference room of the Columbia Area Career Center to watch the kickoff of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.

Ever heard of such a thing?  Probably not--but it's a big deal.  Think of it like this:  Every high school sport has a regular season, playoffs and championships.  Robotics, thanks to Segeway creator Dean Kamen, now has something akin to the varsity model.  And while the state football championship might, like the FIRST Robotics Competition, be held in St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome, state football sure didn't have over 70,000 students competing.  Nor did state football end with a concert by the Black Eyed Peas.  Yes.  The Black Eyed Peas.  Evidence below.

In all fairness, the robotics competition in St. Louis is actually a fierce international competition, but for the "varsity sport of the mind," one would be rather surprised about the time, effort, and diligence it takes to get there.

Those 30 students who came to school on Saturday, plus about 10 more who went to St. Louis to watch the unveiling of the "game," are members of CACC's robotics team, the  Army Ants #3792.  The team is open to anyone who wants to take part in the building of a robot to function independently of human direction and insync with other student-made robots.  During the kickoff, teams learned the detailed specifications of their robot and what it would have to do in competition.  This year, the robot must be able to pick up a basketball, cross the court by way of a teeter totter, and then shoot.

Students and instructors from the Army Ants are at the career center 6 days a week, most nights as late as 7pm and Saturdays from 9am-5pm designing and building a robot that can compete with other robots from the thousands of others that will be entered by similar FIRST robotics teams from around the nation.  The team has until February 21 before they must stop work and bag and tag the robot.

Until then, the Army Ants will continue to raise funds to support their efforts.  From a Shakespeare's give-back night, busing tables at Fudruckers, selling LED lightbulbs and cookies every Wednesday at Rock Bridge, the Army Ants are doing everything they can to make sure they make it to St. Louis. Additionally, students have been making sales calls on area businesses selling sponsorships.  We'll be keeping you up-to-date on their progress as the season continues.  Be sure to check out their website or facebook page for more information, or email sponsor Julie Lyman on how you can help our CACC students achieve their goals!  

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