From Holland in the southern lower peninsula, to Menominee in the western upper peninsula, 40 teams from all corners of Michigan converge on Sault Ste. Marie this weekend for a FIRST Robotics district event, hosted by Lake Superior State University. The competition runs Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7 in the James L. Norris Center’s Cooper Gym, just off the corner of Meridian St. and West Easterday Ave., kitty-corner from LSSU’s main entrance.
In all, organizers expect to attract up to 2,000 contestants and their families along with support staff from home high schools.
The acronym FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The program uses robotics to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Participating teams are allowed six weeks to brainstorm, design, and build a fully functional wheeled robot the size of a large dog that can accomplish an assigned task.
This year’s theme, “Power Up,” consists of alliances of three teams trying to accumulate “power” cubes that are accumulated in “switch” holding areas and then stacked to tip an oversized scale in the middle of a 27- by 54-foot playing field to their alliance’s favor. Each 2 1/2 – minute match begins with a 15-second autonomous period in which robots operate independent of human control, with only pre- programmed instructions. During the remaining two minutes and 15 seconds of the match, called the “teleop” period, robots are controlled by student drivers from behind areas at each end of the field.
Eastern Upper Peninsula teams include the Instigators from Sault Ste. Marie, the Deceivers from Brimley High School, the Tahquamenon Phenomenon from Newberry, Rudyard Nerf Herders from Rudyard, Great Lakers from Mackinac Island, Yooper Troupers from Cedarville, Raider Robotics from De Tour Village, Purple People Eaters from Pickford, St. Ignace SHIELD, and Accidental Success from the Ojibwe Charter School in Brimley.
Representing the northern Lower Peninsula are the Northport Wildcats from Northport, the Boyne City Blaze, Red Devil Robotics from East Jordan, Viking Robotics from Alanson, Ice Bots from Pellston, and Laker Logistics from Maple City.
Rounding out the field are teams coming from Houghton, Hancock, Lake Linden, Calumet, Ishpeming, Negaunee, L’Anse, Manistique, Escanaba, Gladstone, Cooks, Wilson, Powers, Bark River, Harris, Menominee, Ewen-Trout Creek, Watersmeet, Ontonagon, Flint, Dearborn, Corunna, and Mount Pleasant.
Opening ceremonies will commence at 10:30 a.m. Friday, with matches scheduled from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Saturday, opening ceremonies will start at 8:45 a.m. with a mascot parade led by LSSU mascot Seamore the Seaduck. Remaining qualification matches beginning at 9:30 a.m. and play-off matches from 2 to 5 p.m., concluding with an awards ceremony.
All ages are welcome to attend this family-friendly event, and there is no admission charge. Visitors are welcome to drop by anytime and stay as long as they want.
“This is the third year that LSSU has hosted a FIRST Robotics competition on our campus,” says lead LSSU event organizer Jeanne Shibley. “Robotics is a center of expertise at Lake Superior State University. We are one of the top public universities in the United States with an industrial automated robotics systems specialization at the undergraduate level. Companies involved in robotics and automation specifically seek out our graduates.”
LSSU’s robotics and automation laboratory is recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as one of the most complete and advanced of its kind in the country. Coming soon is a baccalaureate in Robotics.