Riverview students compete in FIRST Robotics Competition

By Lisa Burnett Published March 16, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Tenth-graders Dana Smith, left, and Canon Reeves are shown with the robot the Riverview High School team built for the FIRST Robotics Competition. Dana was the human player for the team, and Canon was the driver.

SEARCY — The Riverview Raiders Robotics team was among 39 teams from 10 states that competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition at Harding University in Searcy last week.

More than 1,000 students and instructors met for the event, with the Raiders Robotics team from Riverview High School ranked 11th among the teams in the competition.

The acronym “FIRST” represents “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

According to the FIRST website, the FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.

The teams have to build a robot together in six weeks, said Danny Townsend, physical science, environmental science and physics teacher at Riverview High School.

“We bought a kit of parts [from FIRST] and built the robot,” he said. “We bought some extra parts to enhance it and make it better. We decided as a team how we were going to play the game.”

The teams were required to have their robots completed by midnight Feb. 18 and didn’t get to touch their creations again until they made it to the competition at Harding University on March 6-8.

Townsend said the FIRST competition is like a game with competitors playing against each other.

“The teams are randomly assigned into alliances,” he said. “We had never met them before. We had to come together as one team and decide a strategy.”

The three teams that form each alliance have a robot that the team uses to play the match.

“We played 12 matches in two days. The match is a 2 1/2-minute competition, so it’s fast and furious,” Townsend said.

This was only the second year for a team from Riverview High School to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

“The beauty of this is that if a team has a mechanical problem or breakdown of some sort, all they have to do is ask for help, and what is expected of FIRST is to help them,” Townsend said. “We’re all about helping each other out. We had a drive belt that was stretched out and wouldn’t work.”

An announcement was made over the loudspeaker at the competition about the belt the Riverview team needed, and within two minutes, two people walked up with the belt the team needed, Townsend said.

Townsend said he’s planning on competing in future FIRST competitions as long as he has interested students.

“As an instructor, I take great joy in watching my students realize they’ve done something, like solving a problem. I enjoy watching that,” he said. “It was fun watching those 1,200 problem-solving, critical-thinking children come together and battle.”

Teams from Jacksonville High School and Harding Academy also participated in the competition.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.