FIRST Stronghold Kicked-Off the 2016 Robotics Competition

What could possibly be better than watching teams of robots trying to destroy each other’s fortress, and all that in real life? That’s exactly the goal of the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Senator for New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and New Hampshire Governor Margaret Hassan (D-N.H.), along with more than 1,000 people, attended yesterday at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., hometown of FIRST HQ, the kickoff of a new robotics game called FIRST Stronghold, which marked the beginning of the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition season. They were all joined through a miracle called live broadcast by 75,000 high-schoolers that make up more than 3,100 teams at 114 venues from the entire world.

“One of the amazing things about FIRST is that everyone involved gets more out of it than they put into it,” said Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research & Development, inventor and founder of FIRST. “The kids get opportunities they’d never get elsewhere; it might give them career options they’d never thought about. The teachers see kids who become passionate about learning and the relevance of technology and math. The corporations are creating their own futures. Most of what I get out of it is being part of an incredible community. We get to be part of a group that is creating the future of the world.”

The FIRST Stronghold game has a very simple premise: two Alliances of three robots are on a Quest to destroy each other’s fortifications. Boulders are used for weakening each Alliance’s tower, and capturing the opposing tower grants victory to whoever does that. However, that last part can only happen in the final 20 seconds of the Quest.

At yesterday’s Kickoff, each team was explained the details of the competition and got a Kit of Parts that included motors, batteries, control system components, construction materials, and a bundle of additional automation components. The high-school students will be tutored by adult Mentors, and over a period of six weeks, they need to design, build, program, and test their robot. Once they do this, they can take part in one or more of the 118 Regional and District events that gauge just how effective each robot is, and how closely the team members collaborated.

“We recognize that the talented youth who join FIRST Robotics Competition teams are learning the skills Comcast NBCUniversal needs in the future engineers and technologists we hire,” said John Schanz, executive vice president and chief network officer at Comcast Cable. “That’s why we are thrilled to support FIRST and pledge our resources, funding, talent, and time. We wish the teams a great build cycle and competition season.”

A replay of the live broadcast can be watched below in glorious 360p. To watch the game explanation, jump to 35:38. It’s really weird that a competition that listed NVIDIA and Comcast NBCUniversal among its sponsors didn’t get a higher-quality broadcast.

Comcast customers have until February 6 to watch the FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff video and some extra content from FIRST on Xfinity On Demand, and hopefully the quality of those videos is higher.

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