Robotics competition pits teen builders

Posted April 8, 2011 2:55 p.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2011 6:49 p.m. EDT

— Two thousand high school students from across the state converged on Raleigh's Dorton Arena Friday to see whether their creations would come alive under the pressure of competition. The 52 teams were entrants in the 2011 NC FIRST Robotics Competition.

Each team got a standard set of equipment with which to build a robot that could pick up inner tubes shaped like triangles, squares and circles and hang them on pegs at three different heights.

Hannah Sims said she and others on Team Spork spent about six weeks planning and designing their machine.

"We weighed the benefits and the costs, and we came up with a much simpler design," she said. "Sometimes simple is the best, but it's working!"

NC FIRST was formed "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." The robotics competition is part of USFIRST, a national program funded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen to get students involved in hands-on science and high-tech projects. Winners can advance to national and international competitions and qualify for scholarship money.

The teams learn more than just how to build a robot. Nina Daye, a teacher at Orange County High School, characterized it as "cooper-tition." 

"You might be with somebody this time, and you're against them the next time," she said.

Marie Hopper of NC FIRST was inspired by the brainpower on display at Dorton Arena. 

"There's a lot of messes in the world, and I look at these students and know we have the problem solvers in this building," she said.