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Two Weekends of FIRSTs

Last Saturday, I refereed for the Edmonds, WA regional of the FIRST Lego League competition. The competition went smoothly and the regional sent six teams to the state championship, which took place at Bellevue High School yesterday. Once again, I refereed and once again the competition went smoothly. The overall level of play was higher, as all teams at the state championship had already been vetted at the regionals the previous week.

Today, I was once again a referee, but this time at the FIRST Tech Challenge, a new competition that evolved out of the Vex Robotics competition, which I refereed for last year. Unfortunately, this time the competition did not go smoothly. There were numerous technical glitches for hours, and in the end the tournament turned into a “scrimmage” and the real competition got rescheduled for February. After leaving the competition, I went to check out the new robot control system that will be used for the 2009 FIRST Robotics competition. It is an interesting conglameration of commodity and proprietary hardware — 802.11N wireless gear, Cat 5 cables, National Instruments processor and breakout boxes, new “Jaguar” and old “Victor” motor controllers, and misundry connectors and accessories. All told, it’s a major update of the robot controller package, and should make for an interesting start to next year’s competition.

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