They’re getting ready to play a game

Crescenta Valley High School teacher and robotics/engineer mentor Greg Neat listened to his students share ideas on how to build a robot that will compete in a soccer-like game in March. The competition is part of the FIRST robot program. Photo by Mary O'KEEFE


About 40 Crescenta Valley High School students met in a classroom last week and began talking strategy.
“OK, how do we want to play the game?” said Sam Sampson.
“Do we want to shoot the ball and wait 15 seconds and shoot the other ball?” asked Julian Shur.
The discussion continued about the best way to get the ball to the goal and how to work with other teams.
This may sound like a typical meeting of a soccer club but with a twist. The player is a robot.
The students are part of the CVHS Falkon Robotics team and had just been given their instructions for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition.
FIRST is a not-for-profit organization that was founded by inventor Dean Kamen. Each year FIRST challenges students with a sporting competition that has teams from around the world participating. Team members not only have to design a robot that can play a game but must also keep in mind fellow teams that they will be paired with during the competition.
The game this year is titled “Breakaway.” It is a robot’s soccer game that will have two alliances of three teams compete on a 27-by-54 foot field. The robot can gain points by making goals with its soccer balls and more points are earned for each robot not touching the field at the end of the match. Robots can be designed to either climb up bumpers that separate the field and park under a center tower or have an arm that extends to hook onto the tower and pull itself, and possibly another robot, off the ground.
Let’s see Dave Beckham do that.
“This meeting is for those who want to define what our robot is going to be…I want you to share your ideas,” said teacher and mentor Greg Neat.
“The hardest part of the game is working around the bumps,” said Santiago Sanchez, team member for three years.
The field is in three sections divided by bumps, then the whole field is divided in half with a white line. The robot has to get the balls over the bumps and into the goals, which also has a small bump.
The Falkon students sat quietly and listened to the game’s description then immediately went into a brain storming discussion of first how to play the game.
Students asked questions like, “Do we want to hang the robot?” and “What’s the best way to work with other teams?”
“We use previous experience including past designs and we’re guided by our mentors,” Sanchez explained.
The students will meet every day to discuss, design, debate and build the robot. All must be done and ready to ship by Feb. 23. The students will face other teams at the Los Angeles Regional FIRST competition March 25-27.