FIRST World Robotics Championship and MoonBots!

FIRST World Robotics Championship and MoonBots!


Normally, the thought of a huge stadium packed with thousands of cheering fans over intense competition draws to mind the idea of any number of "prime time" sports and well known super star athletes. Last week the Edward Jones Dome was filled with 30,000 screaming fans but it wasn't for football or basketball, but rather the FIRST World Robotics Championship in St. Louis, MO. It was quite a sight to behold. The Packers, Rams and Patriots don't have a thing on this year's winners, The Cheesey Poofs, Las Guerillas and The All Sparks (10 points for pop culture references.) The robots went head to head in teams of three in a game called ariel assault, in which they had to navigate, defend and shoot a ball through goals located several feet off the ground. An amazing technical feat that these talented young engineers spent an entire season refining in order to bring them to this moment.



Although the epic robots challenging each other in heated competition tends to steal the show, it is always apparent that the core of this event is the educational component. It's no secret, when attempting a FIRST competition, that at any given moment you are surrounded by future scientists, politicians, engineers and every other great mind that will build our future. The program teaches the fundamentals of programming and engineering to kids in a very real and applicable way from early on starting with the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) at age 9.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE was also present at the event with our educational component to the prize in the form of MoonBots. Designed to complement the FLL format, it offers students a chance to refine their skills and compete over the summer to win some majorly awesome prizes while also learning about the challenges our real Google Lunar X PRIZE teams face.

The best part about MoonBots is that it's free and simple to participate in. The process is as follows:

Phase One:
Form a Team and create a three-minute video essay in which you answer “Why We Should Go
Back to the Moon for Good?” Winning teams will receive a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3
Robotics Kit

Phase Two:
Design and create your EV3 robot to perform a Mission and Game Play in a simulated Lunar Landscape

Grand Prize:
Trip to Hilo, Hawaii to visit the Pacific International Space Center
for Exploratory Systems (PISCES)
1 MATRIX Base Set
1 ArduRover from 3D Robotics
A GoPro Hero 3+ Silver Edition Camera for every team member
Runner-Up Prizes:
The three Runner-Up teams will each receive the following:
1 team registration for FIRST® LEGO® League or FIRST® Tech Challenge
(season 2014-2015)
1 MATRIX Base Set
1 ArduRover from 3D Robotics
A GoPro Hero 3+ Silver Edition Camera for every team member
Registration ends May 15th so be sure to sign up today!

To find out more and register, visit our website at www.moonbots.org


The team here at XPRIZE was at the event to both cheer on the teams and spread the word on the future of robotics in space via the Google Lunar XPRIZE Dome Show titled "Back the the Moon. For Good". The film, narrated by Tim Allen, is both breathtaking and educational as it illustrates the history of lunar exploration, the challenges faced when attempting to land on the moon, and highlights a few of the teams competing in the prize. Kids and adults alike were able to crawl into a giant inflatable dome-shaped room with a digital projector inside that displayed the 24 minute long film all around the audience and placed them on the moon with our team rovers.

Many other vendors were also present on the show floor to display their technologies and capture the imaginations of the young bright minds present. It was high technology sensory overload as huge names like Nvidia, SpaceX, Boeing and LEGO showed their newest and most entertaining products in hopes of inspiring a future generation of scientists, computer programmers and aerospace engineers. They may be playing with LEGOs now, but they'll be building rocket ships tomorrow.

There was no shortage of things to see and booths to explore!

Nvidia Quadcopter with its camera pointing right back at us.

LEGO Mindstorms R2D2 with interactive sensors.

Even MoonBots was showing off some cool tech!


Last but not least I would like to mention the incredible fashion demonstrated at the event. Each team shows their spirit in a variety of ways from neon wigs to LED covered overalls. No two teams are alike and many of them bank on pop culture references to make a splash. You never know what you'll see walking down the aisles (in full protective eyewear of course.) Don't be surprised if you encounter a giant armored knight with blinking lights within 30 seconds of seeing a team of super hero clad engineers. Everything is fair game!


After the competitions were over, the entire convention center was converted into a dance club/carnival/madhouse with 30,000 kids running around having the time of their lives, amidst trapese artists, stilt walkers, and unicycle jugglers. Lets also not forget the all you can eat chicken nugget and meatball buffet. This proves the age old addage that you must "Work hard and play hard." Trust me when I say, these kids are fully capable of doing both.


If this is not incentive enough to be enrolled in the FIRST program then I don't know what is. Kids of all ages (and parents too) are bettering themselves and bettering the world around them buy, literally, building the future and are rewarded for doing so with a plethora of activities, including a "Robo Prom" and a concert by Will I Am of the Black Eyed Peas.

One high school girl told me that her biggest problem in life was deciding on whether she should attend MIT or Stanford, to which a a nearby adult over head and offered her advice, as she was an alumni of both. Sounds like a good problem to have.

The theme of the FIRST World Champioionships is "Make It Loud" to encourage others to sign up and compete in order to raise awareness for science and engineering. After being part of such a special event, I see how important it is to spread the word on educational programs like this one in order to build the future through the minds of kids. Also, I want to see more robots running around playing sports.


-Leo Camacho




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