Categories: ,

Robots from Stratford head to the Smokies for intense competition

Even more robot action! Metro schools are teeming with robots lately, and that's a-okay by us. Robotics classes, clubs and competitions help develop practical STEM skills and keep students engaged in classwork.

Plus, it's really fun to watch.

Stratford STEM Magnet High School, home of team Sparta Bot and last year's frisbee throwing robot, is sending students to Knoxville RIGHT NOW for the FIRST Smoky Mountain Regional Competition. Eleven students are there this weekend to face off with other teams from around the nation in an event called AERIAL ASSIST.

What is Aerial Assist, you ask? Here's how it works:

Teams are called "Alliances," and two of them, driving three robots each, compete in a match on a flat field straddled by a truss suspended five feet above the floor. Goals are at the end. The objective is to score as many balls in goals as possible during a two minute and 30 second match. The more goals they score, and the more they work together to do it, the more points their Alliance receives.

The match begins with a 10-second "Autonomous Period" where robots operate on their own, independently of the driver. Each robot starts with a ball and tries to score it in a goal. Alliances earn bonus points for scoring balls during this time and for any of their robots that move in to the right zones. Additionally, different goals will be designated “hot” for five seconds, and for each ball scored in a hot goal, the Alliance earns even more bonus points.

For the rest of the match, drivers remotely control robots from behind a protective wall. Once all balls in autonomous are scored, only one ball is re-entered in to play, and the Alliances must cycle a single ball as many times as possible for the remainder of the match. With the single ball, they try to maximize their points earned by throwing balls over the truss, catching balls launched over the truss, and scoring in the high and low goals on the far side of the field.

Alliances receive large bonuses for “assists,” which are earned for each robot that has possession of the ball in a zone as the ball moves down the field.

Now why isn't this game as popular as the NFL? I think we've found America's new national past time.

Want to watch it at home? You're in luck. FIRST is broadcasting the competitions live on its website. Watch Team Sparta Bot as they compete for a seat in the National Championship scheduled in April in St. Louis, Missouri. You can also watch the scores and standings to see how the team is faring.

Go Sparta Bot!!