What is Competitive Robotics?

What it means to me, and how it has changed my life

By Samuel Mohn

Robotics comes in many forms and is quite popular in many of them. Three forms of robotics that are big in my life are FIRST robotics, VEX robotics, and Battlebots. Each form teaches students the basics of STEM, and also the importance of designing and teamwork. Most of them are for the same age group, however, there are slight differences in all of them. FIRST and VEX robotics are completely different programs and every year the people that run the programs come out with a new game for the entire season. The FIRST season only lasts four months, starting in January and ending with worlds in April. FIRST uses robots that start within a 120 in. perimeter and a height of four feet. The FIRST game for this year is called Deep Space. It is played with two three team alliances, red and blue. The matches are three minutes, and each team has a cargo ship and a rocket to which they attach round flat disks called hatch panels and attach foam balls for points. At the end of the match they can have their robot climb up a platform about four inches above the ground. Whichever alliance gains the most points wins that match. The VEX robotics season is all year long ending with worlds in April and revealing the new game at worlds. VEX robotics uses smaller 18in. x 18in. x 18in. robots on a 12ft. x 12ft. field. This year the game is called Tower takeover. It is played with two two team alliances, red and blue. The matches are two minutes long and teams score by placing and stacking 5.5 in. square cubes in scoring areas in the corners of the field. Teams can also increase the points that they receive from each cube by placing them in towers around the field that are at three different heights, approximately 19 in., 25 in. and 38 in. Whichever alliance gains the most points wins the match. For both FIRST and VEX, each team plays several matches, then the top eight teams select their alliance partners for the elimination matches. FIRST plays them best two out of three; VEX changed their format to single eliminations. VEX also has a level for college students to compete in, whereas FIRST is only up to highschool. Battlebots is completely different from both FIRST and VEX. They still build a robot, but instead of competing in a game to score the most points, they equip their robots with weapons such as blades, flamethrowers and giant hammers. Then in one versus one matches, they try to disable their opponents robot within a five minute time limit. If neither is disabled at the end of the match, then judges decide who won the match based on who they thought would have won if they had had more time. I have learned a lot from my six years of doing robotics. I was in VEX robotics and it has taught me how to design well, how to make a schedule and stick to it, and how to work with a team. It has also helped with my talking skills and interpersonal skills. Robotics also was where I started working with CAD and how I realized that I really liked working with it and want to do it as a career. I am now going into college and I am still doing robotics on our college VEX robotics team. Continuing what I have been doing all of my middle school and highschool life.