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January 9, 2010

Cyber soccer

Teens have a ball in robotics challenge

Thirty-one robots are in various stages of completion after 825 students from across the state came together to launch the FIRST Robotics Competition season.

This year’s kickoff event was held Saturday on the Oklahoma State University campus starting with a NASA-aired broadcast of the 2010 challenge and rules.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition involves 1,809 teams of 45,225 students ages 14-18 worldwide in building robots from a FIRST-provided kit of motors, batteries, a control system and a mix of automation components. No instructions are included.

“The neat thing about the robotics team is that it is set up for kids of all interests,” Ron Markum, a research engineer for Oklahoma State University’s mechanical department, said. “It’s not just about building a robot, but setting a small business experience and running your team like a business.”

FIRST, founded in 1989, works to inspires young people’s interest in education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while boosting self-confidence, knowledge and life skills, according to its Web site.

“It’s a great way to start out with what we want to do especially at our age,” Luke Davis, a Stillwater Middle School student, said. “There is so many things we can do and this is a great thing to do.”

It is the first year for Davis and schoolmate Eli Stewart to be on Thunderstorm Robotics, which is coached by Markum. It is an independent team that is not associated with any school or organization.

Markum said to be a member of the team, students must be willing to follow two rules: Conduct the work safely and maintain a Christian atmosphere.

On Saturday, four-year participant Daniel Huggins, Stillwater Junior High student, was showing the boys the electrical aspect of creating a robot.

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