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02-13-2006

Clarkson FIRST Robotics Team Readies Robot for International Competition

Students from Clarkson University and Salmon River and Massena High Schools Prepare for Upcoming Fast-Paced, Challenging Regional Robotics Competitions

[A photograph for newspaper use are available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/robotics06.jpg]

Division by Zero, the name of the Clarkson team, will compete at the Finger Lakes Regional, March 9-11 in Rochester, N.Y., and in the Greater Toronto Regional, March 30-April 1 in Mississauga, Canada. The team is one of more than 1,000 groups from around the world competing in this year's international robotics competition. robotics06

Each year participating FIRST teams are given design instructions the first week in January and have six weeks to build a robot that meets strict size and weight guidelines and performs a set of designated tasks while competing against other robots in sporting-like events.

"This year's competition is quite challenging," says Clarkson senior and team leader Adrienne Emerson, an applied mathematics and statistics major. "The game involves a 54" x 26" playing field where teams composed of both humans and robots will be trying to score by getting balls into goals located on opposite ends of the field. In addition to the challenge of the game itself, additional rules are imposed that allow time for robots alone to play, as well as special three-on-two game play periods."

"The goals are 8 1/2-feet tall but the guidelines stipulate that the robot cannot measure or extend past five feet," adds Emerson. "In order to reach the goal, the balls must be shot out of the robot. Calculating the projection, that is the arc and distance needed for the ball to make it into the goal, is our biggest challenge."

Division by Zero is composed of 28 Clarkson students working with 30 high school students from Salmon River and Massena central high schools. Technical advisors include Clarkson Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor James Carroll; high school teachers Bernie Bissonnette (Massena Central) and Chuck Raiti and Brian Trzaskos (Salmon River); and Charles Storrin, a retired supervisor for electrical maintenance at New York Power Authority.

The team has divided its meeting locations between Clarkson and the high schools. Sponsors include St. Lawrence BOCES and the New York Power Authority.

Thirty teams sponsored by private industry and universities have pre-registered for the Finger Lakes competition and 73 teams are scheduled to compete at the Greater Toronto Regional. Teams who place well in the regional competitions around the country will then be invited to compete at the national competition to be held in April in Atlanta, Ga.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national program that teams high school students with engineers from universities and industry to design and build remote-controlled robots for competition. Its mission is to inspire high school students to pursue college degrees and ultimately careers in science and technology.

The Clarkson FIRST Robotics team has been in existence since 1998. Last year the team had an outstanding season, finishing in second place at both the Rochester, N.Y. and Cleveland, Ohio regionals and at the semifinals at the national championship in Atlanta. They completed the season with a first-place finish in the Rah Cha Cha Ruckus, held in Rochester last fall.

Clarkson University also offers FIRST scholarships to graduating high school seniors who have participated on a FIRST Robotics team. Recipients of this merit-based award may enroll in any course of study at Clarkson and receive up to $6,000 per year for four years. FIRST founder Dean Kamen received an honorary degree from Clarkson in 2001.

FIRST Robotics is part of Clarkson University's SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program, which promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork, and communication skills. The SPEED program is one of the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives promoting the "Vision of a Clarkson Education" through experiential learning by hands-on application of academic theory to real-world problems.

For more information on the team, visit http://www.team229.org.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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