Competitions Support

 

Training available for teams using NXT-G & ROBOTC

 

Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy is committed to supporting teams competing in robotics competitions.

If you are competing in one of the competitions shown below, click the competition icon and you will find lots of resources.

 

BEST Competiton Logo FIRST LEGO League (FLL) FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)
National Robotics Challenge Logo Robofest logo TSA logo VEX-robotics-competition-logo

 

TETRIX Boy working on tetrix robot

The FIRE Project

 

Fostering Innovation through Robotics Exploration’s (FIRE) mission is to “Sharpen American students’ abilities to solve complex problems” by teaching them algorithmic thinking skills, engineering design process, and mathematics - all gatekeepers to innovation. The FIRE team uses existing robotics competitions as well as existing partnerships with national organizations to reach hundreds of thousands of students. Robotics competitions contextualize skills critical to CS-STEM careers: precision, mathematical competency, computational thinking, and the ability to set goals and divide them into subtasks through abstraction. There are nearly 20,000 robotics teams that compete annually and use robotics to inspire students to pursue STEM careers, and team numbers increase each year.

   

VEX team working on robot

FIRE ensures that all robotics competitions will have access to high quality training that will allow all students to develop higher level CS-STEM skills. Additionally, FIRE will improve the retention of students inspired by robotics. First, the project promotes significant extensions for students who seek more interesting/difficult problems, and second, it creates alternatives for students whose interests have changed and are looking for different types of problems. The chart below shows the makeup of the development team, the groups that we reach out to, and the existing commercial partners for the sustainability plan.

 

Competition Partners

 

Hard Fun: Robotics Competitions – In 1992, Dean Kamen, founder of the highly successful FIRST Robotics Competitions, felt that conventional education was broken and wanted to provide students with an after school educational experience that was supported by industry, used industry driven timelines and metrics to measure success, and introduce students to engineers and scientist who would inspire them to pursue science and technology careers.

 

Kamen’s FIRST stands for...
“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”.

 

FIRST’s mission is “to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership”. The FIRST competition started in 1992 with 28 teams; today there are nearly 15,000 US teams: 12,000 FIRST LEGO League teams (FLL), 1,200 FIRST Tech Challenge teams (FTC), and nearly 1,500 FIRST Robotic teams (FRC). FIRST spawned a plethora of robotic competitions: BotBall (312 teams), BotsIQ (450 teams), RoboFest (550 teams), BEST robotics (700 teams), and VEX (2,500 teams), and there are many more teams that compete in unofficial robot tournaments.

FLL Competition Photo

FLL Competition 2009

The exponential growth of robotics competitions is a testament to robotics’ ability to generate student interest.

 

Our Approach

There are many successful robotics competitions that provide comprehensive challenging activities from middle through high school. As they are, there are gaps in the robot competition-to-STEM classroom translation. Many robotic coaches (teachers & mentors) do not have the pedagogical background of a mathematics or computer science teacher and struggle to teach the foundational mathematics and programming skills that students need to know to solve their design problems. Our approach is to leverage existing robotic competition infrastructures (see the logos above) and provide rigorous scaffolded cyberlearning training materials that foreground mathematics, algorithmic thinking, engineering process, and introduce students to computer science careers and make them available to all competitors.

 

Retention

Statistics show that many students stop competing in robotics competitions after middle school. The second part of our strategy is to promote and develop alternative CS-STEM activities that fit into existing robot competitions’ structures and in other informal education contexts. Several programs exist but need marketing like our Alice Animations and Computational Linguistics Olympiad. Other programs, such as an Autonomous Multi-Robot Challenge and Robot Art, need to be designed. Robotics competitions have proven excellent tools for creating CS-STEM interest; FIRE provides expanded options and improved STEM learning.