Sun, 01/31/2010 - 11:00pm
Get caught up as four teams from around the country head to the 2008 FIRST Robotics Regional Competition.
Gearing Up, a one-hour documentary airing Sunday, January 31 at 11 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/ cable11), chronicles behind-the-scenes drama and excitement leading up to the 2008 FIRST Robotics National Competition. More than 37,500 students in 48 states took part in the competition, which is a popular annual event created by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989. Participation in FIRST Robotics has grown tremendously, increasing from 28 teams in its first year to almost 1,700 in 2008.
Gearing Up focuses on four teams heading for the 2008 FIRST Robotics Regional Competition: Miss Daisy, a seasoned team from Ambler, Pennsylvania; RoboDoves, a small, all-girl rookie team from Baltimore; Rambotics, a team of teenaged felons incarcerated at the Ridge View correctional facility for boys in Watkins, Colorado; and Ratchet Rockers, a group of suburban kids from Wentzville, Missouri. Each team raises money for a robot kit, issued by FIRST. Each kit has identical parts, but no real instructions. The idea is for each team to create a unique robot capable of performing the same, predetermined challenge. After that, the game is on!
The robots are remotely operated, and the 2008 competition required them to zip around a small track maneuvering 40-inch, 10-pound balls that had to be lifted off, over, and onto an elevated bridge. Gearing Up details the triumphs and disasters teams encounter as they share ideas, discuss their designs, and work out technical challenges while racing to complete their robots in time for the competition. The RoboDoves celebrate finishing their robot two weeks early, while the Rambotics get a slow start complicated by three students who escape from school. Students on the Ratchet Rockers express doubts that their robot will even work, while the Miss Daisy team contends with a robot that must lose five pounds overnight to meet eligibility requirements.
At the regional competitions in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Denver and Annapolis, teams get a first look at the designs and solutions of other students, including a fearsome group of robots capable of flinging the huge balls to the other side of the playing arena. They also get a taste of the real world as they struggle for the competitive edge with no money, no time, and no resources. Through round after round, the RoboDoves, Miss Daisy, Rambotics and Ratchet Rockers contend with broken wheels, welds, and electronics; illegal bumpers; stripped gears; reckless navigating and robots that simply fall over. And round after round the teams find the support they need from their mentors.