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Dos Pueblos High Engineers Ready to ‘Kinect’ in 2012 FIRST Robotics Challenge

D'Penguineers excited to use Microsoft video game technology in this year's competition

Excitement and enthusiasm filled the air Saturday as the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s robotics team learned the details of this year’s FIRST Robotics challenge.

The announcement came via a three-minute video clip that set the stage for the students’ future over the next six weeks.

Their mission?

Build a robot that can shoot hoops, balance itself on a narrow bridge, and be controlled through Microsoft Kinect technology.

All in six weeks.

The game is called Rebound Rumble and it is played by two alliances with three teams on each side. The game emulates basketball, but it contains several modifications. It is played on a field that contains a low barrier stretching across the middle. There are also three bridges that cross the barrier and act like teeter-totters.

Each alliance has a hybrid period at the start of the match during which the robot can shoot foam basketballs into the hoops organized in a diamond without humans physically using controls on the robot. However, during this hybrid period, using Microsoft’s Kinect system, humans can signal their robot by making various movements. Once that period has ended, human players step up to the controller and operate the robot until time is called to end the match. Bonus points are earned if robots can manage to balance on the bridge before the time is up.

An important element that is specific to this year’s robotics season is the inclusion of Microsoft’s revolutionary technology: Kinect. Although many teenagers are familiar with the product as a video game console, it can be implemented in various circumstances, especially in robotics.

This engineering marvel has changed FIRST Robotics, and senior Jake Moghtader, a member of the programming team, is determined to rise to the challenge. Moghtader says one of the most important and challenging components this year is “we have to be able to control the robot using Kinect during the first part of the game. It’s pretty exciting.”

More than 300,000 students from more than 60 countries participate in the annual competition. After the January announcement by FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, the teams have six weeks to prepare before taking their robots on the road to regional competitions. The goal is the world championships in St. Louis.

Engineering students and mentors assembled in the Change Happens Meeting Room on Saturday morning, eager to discover the details of this year’s competition. This was the first year Team 1717 assembled in the new Elings Center for Engineering Education building at the Dos Pueblos High School campus, 7266 Alameda Ave in Goleta.

Eyes were fixed on the projector screen when various American figureheads and icons spoke about FIRST Robotics, including former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. After about 40 minutes of introductory speeches, the team members’ excitement skyrocketed as they viewed the three-minute video clip that would determine their future for the next six weeks.

Kinect isn’t the only challenge in this year’s competition.

“I think the most difficult task this year is to get the robot over the barrier because it will take a lot of balance and a great design,” said Gwen Archambault, a member on the transmission team.

Upon viewing the game, the D’Penguineers clapped and cheered fervently. Almost immediately, Team 1717 gathered to exchange and brainstorm ideas for the season. Students finally have the chance to put their knowledge to the test and create a robot with the education they have acquired over the years.

» Click here for a related article from the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Public Relations & Event Reporting Team.

» Click here for more information on the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy.

» Click here for more information on the DPEA Foundation. Click here to make an online donation.

— Malika Agrawal is a student at Dos Pueblos High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. Connect with The Charger Account on Facebook. Follow The Charger Account on Twitter: @ChargerAccount. This article is republished with permission.

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