April 23, 2013

477 words 3 mins read

FIRST Robotics Championship Competition in St. Louis

Cerner places a high value on talent development programs offering students the experience to build practical and tangible skills for the modern work environment. As part of this focus, Cerner supports FIRST Robotics, a competition providing experience in software engineering, where students learn to deal with complexity, time constraints, quality, and technical communications. Sound familiar? I wish they had this program when I was a kid!

High school students from Kansas City will be testing their minds, willpower, and teamwork in this global robotics championship competition April 24-27 in St Louis, Missouri. The secret game design was revealed in January, and with just six weeks to build, over 2,000 teams created completely unique robots. Design, engineering, metal fabrication, project management, marketing, and fundraising are all activities that students gain exposure to in this real-world project. Most importantly, they practice creative problem solving in complex team dynamics.

The championship teams you may have seen in the Kansas City Regional are:

  • Team 1710 - The Ravonics Revolution
  • Team 1730 - Team Driven
  • Team 1806 - S.W.A.T.
  • Team 1939 - The Kuh-nig-its
  • Team 1986 - Team Titanium
  • Team 1987 - Broncobots
  • Team 3528 - Up Next!

Students are challenged with two software programming components: digital media marketing and robot controls. Students will use a wide range of web, mobile, and media development technologies to create their team’s marketing strategy.

Robot controls is broken down into two types: autonomous and teleoperated programs. In autonomous mode the robot responds exclusively to preprogrammed commands based on sensor feedback from a camera, accelerometer, gyro, encoders, and more. In teleoperated mode, the robot continues to use sensors but now can receive input from the drive team using game joysticks.

Students can use three different programming languages for the robot control system:

  1. LabVIEW from National Instruments
  2. C++ with Wind River Workbench
  3. Java with Netbeans

The most important tool for control system programmers is a white board. Students diagram and visualize all the inputs and outputs of each system: motors, actuators, sensors, and driver station. Mapping inputs to outputs is important not just during the construction of the program, but it also helps to train the drive team. Students use online resources, collaborate with other teams, and receive guidance from their technical mentors. Practicing resourcefulness prepares them for the complex professional engineering environment they will soon become a member of.

Cerner is engaged in the Kansas City community at many levels. We are a sustaining partner in the KC STEM Alliance. Many Cerner associates mentor local teams, volunteer at local events, and are involved parents. These experiences exercise student minds in very real and practical ways. They are more prepared for technical and non-technical Cerner careers. Their passion and commitment is the fuel for delivering our future innovation.

Here is this year’s gameplay video:

For more information, check out the links below: