April 15, 2023

By Jim Dietz

Can you imagine a robotics competition being stopped for 10 to 15 minutes while mentors work in an attempt to get one of the robots working so they’re able to connect to the field and compete? Can you imagine taking vacation to assemble a field, inspect robots or reset the field between matches and then tear the whole competition field back down and load it into a 53 foot trailer? That’s exactly what happened the other week at Lee’s Summit North high school where the robotics team Broncobots hosted the Greater Kansas City FIRST robotics regionals at their school for 36 teams including two teams from Brazil.

In January, students from around the world learned what this year’s competition would be all about. And even before then mentors and volunteers were hard at work on details and planning for the many Regionals held around the World. Many of the Volunteers work in STEM related fields and many are FIRST alumni having competed in these same events when they were in high school. All volunteers enjoy helping the students and are amazed by the variety of robot designs created to complete each year’s tasks.

Wednesday before the competition, LSN students and volunteers unloaded all the elements needed for the competition. Then sheets of 4×8 paneling were laid out to protect the basketball floor followed by a carpet that is the same for all fields. The first of the many cases to be unloaded are the walls and the drive stations. You will see many tape measures and string lines used to make sure the field is square and all the field elements are in the correct location. At the same time many cables are laid out for lighting, scoring and for each team to hook their control stations to the main system. Thursday all teams competing arrive to set up their pit area, have their robot inspected, verify their radio connects to the field and even have a few practice matches. Then qualifying matches take place on Friday and last to Saturday around lunch. Fans can be seen in the stands wearing team colors and cheering loudly for their team and alliance partners. Finals and awards happen after lunch. While the teams are celebrating their wins or being congratulated for their effort, the volunteers swarm the field to unhook, disassemble and pack up all elements of the field to be shipped to the next location for it to happen again in another town.

Talking to students attending the competition you’ll hear them use words like Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition®. Those are some of the core values that FIRST inspires in students from 27 countries around the World. Those core values are used to show students how to be willing to help other teams they are competing against. Those same values are what it takes for the vast amount of volunteers to lend a helping hand to make these events run smoothly. And the volunteers definitely lead by example.

If you need a part or help with programming a robot back in the pit area, an announcer will put the request over a loudspeaker and then students jump to action to lend a helping hand. I have seen competitions where a team will show up with a box of parts and by the end of the three day event students from every team will have helped assemble a robot, program it and get it on the field so everyone can feel the joy of being able to participate.

With all the added tasks for the event, The Broncobots also competed. After all the qualification matches were done, they were the number one ranked team and selected a winning alliance for the competition. Congrats to the Broncobots.

By now all the Regionals have happened and just over 600 teams are working on last minute details and packing trailers with all sorts of tools to head to Houston Texas to compete in the World Championships. All three Lee’s Summit team: LSHS 1730 Team Driven, LSW 1986 Team Titanium and LSN 1987 The Broncobots have qualified for that honor to compete. The competition starts on April 19th and lasts through April 22nd.

For more information go to: FIRSTInspires.org.