The Bit by Bit 4-H FIRST robotic team, including teens from Barry, Lawrence, Stone and Greene counties, will attempt to defend their regional title in the FIRST Robotic Competition (FRC), slated for March 1 and 2 at Hale Arena in Kansas City. The team won the regional championship in 2011 and hopes to repeat as back-to-back winners.
This year's challenge is named "Rebound Rumble," and according to Peggy Painter, Bit by Bit 4-H robotics program director, the competition is a cross between a basketball game and an obstacle course.
Robots made by competing groups of students will be placed into alliances of three teams on each end of the arena. Operating in completely wireless mode with no human assistance, robots will score points by either balancing on a teeter-totter with another robot or manuevering along a 4-inch by 6-inch metal rail to reach basketballs and try to make baskets at four goals.
"Points can be made by balancing with another robot on the teeter-totter or by making baskets," said Painter.
To get ready for the regional competition, the Bit by Bit robotics team practiced with a Springfield team last week at Nathaniel Greene Park. At the end of the practice, the team sealed their robot in a bag, which marked the end of the six-week building phase for the 2012 Robotics Challenge.
The Bit by Bit 4H robotics team includes: Jack Pendleton, 8, of Marionville; Lillie Thomas, 13, of Verona; Noel French, 13, of Verona; John Rausch, 13, of Monett; Will King, 13, of Crane; Evan McMahon, 13, of Republic; Jordan Painter, 16, of Mt. Vernon; Andrew Rausch, 15, of Monett; Trevor Gaffery, 16, of Willard; Maranda Townsend, 16, of Springfield; Ashley Painter, 18, of Verona; and Marie Townsend, 19, of Springfield.
The group had assistance over the six-month robot building process from parents and the following mentors: Melissa Gallian, retired nuclear power plant operator who lives at Crane; Dave Duncan, retired mechanical engineer who lives in Aurora; and Robert Botts from IMEC in Monett.
The team is sponsored by NASA, JC Penney, IMEC in Monett, the Marionville Public Library, Missouri 4H, Journagan's True Value and other local organizations and individuals.
FRC is sponsored by FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. The not-for-profit organization designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.