Students Vie for Victory at Robotics Competition

Corporate Communications
Office of Naval Research
875 N. Randolph Street
Arlington, Va. 22203
Phone: 703-696-5031
E-mail: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 8, 2010
By: Tammy White, ONR Corporate Communications

ARLINGTON, Va. – Hard work and determination may advance a team of high school students to a national robotics championship, although they missed the top prize at a regional competition last weekend.

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and coached by the Naval Reserve Program’s Cmdr. Jim Grove, students from the McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C., put their bot to battle in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition, March 5-6, at the Washington Convention Center.

Despite being edged out of the running Saturday, the group already is mounting its second attempt to qualify for the national championship in Atlanta. Team McKinley will vie for victory at the Palmetto Regional FIRST competition March 25-27 at Clemson University in South Carolina where its performance will determine whether the students advance to nationals April 15-17.

“It always is a lesson learned,” Grove said. “Just like a football team, the first practice game or scrimmage is not nearly as productive as the last game of the season. You’ll see that in college teams all the way up to the Super Bowl … that’s the way it is with any sports team and that’s the way it is when with these guys.”

Team McKinley competed against 58 other schools from across the region. Typically with less than an hour to spare between matches, students performed diagnostics, repaired, modified and reassembled equipment to face the next opponent.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) donated more than $10,000 in supplies -- such as bearings, tubing, slides, switches, tools, controls, software and robot frames – to help complete the students’ robot kits. In sponsoring the team, ONR furthered its goal of bringing science and technology to future innovators and hopefully finding the “next big thing.”

As part of the competition, high school student teams worked with volunteer mentors as they attempted to design and build a robot – weighing no more than 120 pounds –  in six weeks with a kit of commonly used sprockets, widgets and other parts. The students use the robots in a gaming competition called “Breakaway” – similar to soccer – in which robots operating on a 27-foot by 54-foot field try to gather soccer balls in their own goal to accumulate points. These competitive robots can operate autonomously or by guided wireless controls to complete this task.

Winning teams receive awards based on their leadership, commitment and innovation rather than their team’s final score. Several students will also receive scholarships from colleges and universities.

This competition aligns with ONR’s longstanding agenda to attract and nurture the next generation of innovators. ONR is taking part in a national effort to attract students to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

More on ONR’s STEM efforts:

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning, and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.

Image - FIRST Robotics Competition

Corporate Communications
Office of Naval Research
875 N. Randolph Street
Arlington, Va. 22203
Phone: 703-696-5031
E-mail: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil

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