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Big brains, robotic brawn—our engineering students are a force to be reckoned with

April 30, 2015

With competition from more than 18,000 students around the globe in the fields of engineering and robotics, it requires more than just big brains to take home the ultimate prize at the annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Championship. On April 25, the Clear Creek Independent School District (CCISD) high school robotics team the Robonauts and their robot “Empire,” along with their alliance partners from Davis, Clovis and Palmdale, California, won the coveted FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC®) Championship and were crowned Alliance World Champs.

So what’s the secret to having some of the smartest teenagers in the world right here at the epicenter of human spaceflight? Many of the ingredients for this winning team can be found at Johnson Space Center, in the form of passionate engineers for mentors, a sports-arena-like playing field for the Robonauts’ creations in Building 9—and countless hours and late nights spent perfecting their winning strategy.

This year’s challenge, “Recycle Rush,” was to build a robot that could lift boxes onto each other and top it off with a recycling bin while students tried to have their robot throw pool noodles at the opposing teams’ robots. Competing alliances scored points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In front of a roaring crowd of more than 40,000, the four-day event came to a heart-pounding conclusion—with CCISD’s Robonauts and their alliance partners on top.

The Robonauts consist of students from Clear Brook, Clear Creek, Clear Falls, Clear Lake, Clear Springs and Clear Horizons Early College High Schools. After being seeded first and winning the Newton division, the Robonauts headed into Einstein, the final round, with the Citrus Circuits, Buchanan Bird Brains and the Gryffingears as alliance partners.

For more information on the Robonauts and JSC’s involvement with engineering education in CCISD, visit: www.Robonauts.org
 
For more information about NASA’s overall involvement in robotics education programs, visit: www.Robotics.nasa.gov

 

Catherine Ragin Williams

NASA Johnson Space Center

CCISD's Robonauts revel in their championship win. Image courtesy of CCISD.
CCISD's Robonauts revel in their championship win. Image courtesy of CCISD.
FIRST champs get the star treatment after a huge win against more than 18,000 students from around the globe. Image courtesy of CCISD.
FIRST champs get the star treatment after a huge win against more than 18,000 students from around the globe. Image courtesy of CCISD.