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02/03/2004: "The Titan Robotics Club and The 2004 FIRST Robotics Competition"

music: Christina Aguilera - Genie In A Bottle, Chumbawamba – Amnesia, System Of A Down – Toxicity, Linkin Park – Faint (Live in Texas), Jazz Legacy Dixieland Band - Battle Hymn of the Republic, Silverchair - Israel's Son
mood: Tadbit Frustrated

“What we really need… is a perfect CEO.” –Me
Three and a half years ago, with guidance from Larry Barello, I founded the Titan Robotics Club at my high school. That first year, the fledgling club raked in more than $22,500 in donations, entered two robotics competition events and sent 19 students to the Silicon Valley Regional of the FIRST Robotics Competition for $50 a piece. The fundraising of the first year has not yet again been matched – but of course we got a $10,000 head start that first year due to a grant from the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers. The next two years NASA treated us to $5000 – enough to cover entry to one regional. Each of those years, the TRC entered two regional competitions – one in Washington and one in California. This year, the NASA grant ran out, and so far the TRC has entered only one FIRST Robotics event – the closest one, in Portland, Oregon. What this translates into is that the TRC has pretty much had a flat level of income from the community, when KPCB and NASA are taken out of the equation. The first year, the extra money from KPCB let the TRC enter a second competition and subsidize travel costs. The next two years, the NASA money allowed the TRC to enter a second competition. This year, nothing – no extra money, just the basics: Students pay for their own travel, we enter one regional competition (even though the club got invited to the National Championships this year), and… well, who knows. It feels to me like things are winding down. But that is exactly the opposite of what I wanted. I want the TRC to take off. So, looking into the future, I have to figure out what it will take to get more students energized about the TRC. This is the great mystery…
For more on the TRC, visit titanrobotics.net

As mentioned above, the TRC participated in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC - http://www.usfirst.org). The FRC is a national competition of high school robotics groups teamed up with mentors of professional engineers and college students. Over 800 teams are at it this year. Every year, a new game is introduced, and a new Kit of Parts is released – and with the materials in the kits, each team tries to build a robot that will win the game. The compressed schedule simulates real-world engineering problems and forces students and mentors alike to balance the design, build, and test phases that every engineering project goes through. However, the six weeks of robot building are only the beginning. Every team enters one or more regional competitions. Throughout March and early April, weekends are turned into robotics extravaganzas, with thirty to sixty teams squaring off. These regional events are the real magic of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Sure, there may be better ways to teach the specific skills of welding, C programming, computer-aided design, turning drawings into pieces and pieces into robots, but there is no better way to get people who don’t give a hang interested in learning these skills in the first place. A FIRST Regional Event is part rock concert, part sports event, part nerd convention, and completely energetic fun. The FIRST Regional celebrates science and technology – flying in the face of our society that idolizes entertainment over all and pays more attention to the lives of sex symbols than to the amazing feats of science and technology (ie, Britney vs. Mars Rover). FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – is what we need more of.
And now, for a shameless plug: if you know of an individual or a company (including you and yours) that would be interested in supporting the worthy effort of a FIRST Robotics team… send them to this informational page



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