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Clarkson hosts FIRST Championship this weekend

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POTSDAM - Robots and their handlers will invade Clarkson University’s Student Center for the sixth annual FIRST Championship Tournament Friday and Saturday.

More than 400 students and their coaches, comprising 45 teams, are expected to participate in the two-day event. There are 23 teams from 13 local school districts and two private schools, as well as teams from central New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

On Friday, high school students will participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). The opening ceremony is at 11:45 a.m. with the robot competition beginning at 12:15 p.m. and the awards ceremony at 5:30 p.m.

This year’s game, “Ring It Up,” requires students to design, build and program a robot that can place rings on to a center peg with the added challenge that some rings are “weighted” and score more points than others score.

After several individual rounds, top-scoring teams will form four alliances of three teams each. These alliances will use their combined robotic power, maneuverability and strategic programming to determine the semi-final challenge alliances. These challengers will compete for the ultimate competition honors.

The middle school students, ages nine to 14, will compete on Saturday in the FIRST Lego League (FLL) challenge. The opening ceremony is at 12:30 p.m. with the robot competition beginning at 1 p.m. and the awards ceremony at 4 p.m.

The theme this year, “Senior Solutions,” challenges teams to improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged, and connected in their communities.

The FLL competition has two parts: a research project and robot game. Students are required to explore the topic of aging and solve issues related to maintaining an independent lifestyle, as well as research obstacles to independence and develop innovative ways to improve the quality of life for seniors. They must design, build, and program a robot with the mechanical capabilities to complete a variety of tasks.

The tournament is sponsored by the Northern New York Robotics Academy, a local higher education consortium, and Clarkson University. The academy is directed by Clarkson Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor James Carroll.

The tournament is also sponsored by St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES, the “Connect a Million Minds” initiative of Time Warner Cable, Champlain Valley Transportation Museum, the U.S. Air Force, National Grid and the New York Power Authority. Coordination and logistical support for the tournament is provided by Clarkson’s Office of Marketing & External Relations, and Office of Educational Partnerships.

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering.

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