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BFHS robotics team kicks off the season

January 10, 2013
FIRST Robotics Team 2130 Alpha + design team members are already working on a prototype for the March competition.
Story by Sally Balcaen
Photos by Sarah Schuman

On Saturday, January 5, FIRST Robotics Team 2130 Alpha + met in Mr. Katz’s science room at the high school for this season’s kickoff. This year’s challenge was released with speeches from FIRST’s founder Dean Kamen and FIRST’s national advisor, Dr. Woodie Flowers. In addition, members had the chance to visit with a NASA astronaut.

This year’s game is called Ultimate Ascent . It is played with Frisbees on a 27-foot by 54 foot field. All games last two minutes, and teams are in three team alliances on opposite sides of the field.

There are four goals at different heights on each side of the field. There is a lower goal on the far side of the wall. Frisbees shot through this goal are worth one point. There are two middle goals 84 inches up the wall; Frisbees scored through these goals are worth two points. Finally, there is a high goal between the two two-point goals that is 90 inches off the floor. Frisbees that are shot through that goal bring in three points.

There are also two pyramids in the middle of the field. Each pyramid has three rungs. The bottom rung is 30 inches off floor. The second rung is 60 inches off the floor, and the third rung is 90 inches off the floor. During the last 45 seconds of the game, robots can attempt to climb the tower. Robots that pull themselves up onto the first rung will receive 10 points, the second rung receives 20, and robots that make it to the third rung collect 30 points.

There is also a goal at the top of each pyramid. These goals are difficult to reach and any robot that scores into these goals obtain five points.

NASA astronaut John Phillips
All in all, there are 118 white Frisbees on the field. Each alliance also receives six color Frisbees, red or blue depending on the alliance you’re on, to shoot at the goal at the top of the pyramid.

In the last 30 seconds of the game, human players can also step in and try to score a goal on the top of their respective alliances using the colored Frisbees. To better understand the game, visit this website: and watch the FIRST video.

The team also had a surprise guest speaker, NASA astronaut John Phillips.

He made three trips to space in 2001, 2004, and 2009 to the International Space Station (ISS). The first and third time he went into space, it was for two weeks to do construction on the ISS.

Russian gloves for the suits astronauts wear in space. The bigger glove is a space walker glove and the smaller one is for launching and landing.
The second time, however, he was launched in a Russian capsule from Kazakhstan. During that trip, he was a resident crew member of the ISS for six months, and he had the opportunity to use the robotic arm to continue building.

In Mr. Phillips’s NASA career, he spent a total of 203 days in space.

Besides explaining the engineering behind the robotic arm, Mr. Philips also brought two different space gloves that he passed around to students to look at and try on. After his presentation, many students asked him questions about space and the robotic arm.

Mr. Phillips is now retired and resides in Sandpoint.

Along with watching the video several times, discussing the rules and regulations, and listening to Mr. Phillips’s presentation, the team broke into several groups to discuss strategy and designs that could be used.

While nothing has yet been decided, the team is getting the creative juices flowing and figuring out which strategy will be the most effective for the competition, which takes place in March.
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