By Molly SHELTON
Every year high school teams all around the world gather around their computers, anxiously awaiting what challenge they will encounter in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition (FRC).
On Jan. 4, FIRST organizers released the game Aerial Assist. Like previous years, the game is played by two alliances each made up of three FRC teams. Teams have created robots in years past that would play games similar to basketball and soccer. This year’s Aerial Assist shoots yoga-ball sized balls into the goal to score points. But it gets more complicated than that.
There are four goals, two on the floor and the other two seven feet high. The high goals yield more points than the floor goal. The amount of points can also change depending on the number of assists used during a cycle, or period of play.
Using assists, as suggested by the title, is one of the main goals of the game this year. An assist is when one robot passes the ball to another on its alliance team either by throwing it over the truss located in the center of the field, throwing it directly to another robot or bumping it over to them. The more assists that are used the more points each goal is worth.
Working together has always been a part of the FIRST competition, preparing students for real world problems when they have to work with others to find a solution.
At this year’s kick-off party at Crescenta Valley High School, Dr. Gregory Neat, the leader of Team 589 Falkon Robotics, echoed the intentions of the FIRST founders.
“I am excited about the game because of the emphasis it places on teamwork,” Neat said.
Within the first few hours of watching the kick-off video, the Falkon team had already started to think about their strategy, ways to build the robot and trying to understand the rules of the game.
“Students have been highly engaged in understanding the problem and figuring out how our team will play the game this year,” Neat said.
Team 589 will be participating in its 13th year of FIRST robotics. Current team member Isabel Martos-Repath is a recipient of the Dean’s List Award, one of the most highly sought after accomplishments in the organization.
Over the years, the team has won competitions and made it to the final rounds. Neat began an outreach scrimmage with the other foothill teams from Clark Magnet, St. Francis, and La Cañada high schools, which is now an annual event. But most impressive is that this team is completely focused on the students.
Dr. Neat teaches in all of his classes that he is preparing his students for the real world, allowing them to design and build the robot themselves. The mentors of the team are always available to answer any questions the students have and to help guide them, sharing with them their years of experience. But the real work, and real problems, are addressed, debated and solved by students.
La Cañada and Clark Magnet high schools both have robotic teams that also compete in FIRST.
For more information on FIRST robotics and for videos of this year’s game, visit USFIRST.org. For more information on Team 589 or to make a donation, visit cvrobots.com.
For Clark Magnet High School Robotic Team 696, visit
The robotic teams accept donations to help cover their competition and building expenses.