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Clarkson First Robotics Team Building Five-foot High Robot For International Competition

Engineering design competition brings together Clarkson University students and high school students from Salmon River and Massena 

[A photograph for newspaper use is available at]

Clarkson University’s 2004 FIRST Robotics Team, along with more than 900 other teams from around the world, received the instructions January 10 for this year’s international robotics design competition, “FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar.” firstrobotics2004

Now the Clarkson team has less than six weeks to design and create a robot that can score the most points by shooting 13” and 30” balls into both stationary and mobile goals in two-minute matches against robot opponents. The 24-foot-by-48-foot playing field includes a six-inch high platform in the middle with a 10-foot bar overhead, which the robots can hang on to receive additional points. 

Design guidelines stipulate that the robot measures no more than five-feet high and three-feet wide and weigh less than 130 pounds.  The robot must also run on a maximum of 12 electric motors and a single 12-volt battery. 

“Creating a robot that can hang all its weight on a bar that is 10 feet up in the air is definitely the most challenging aspect of this year’s game,” said Clarkson student and team leader Eric O’Brien. “But we have finished most of the design, ordered many of the parts and started construction. We have an ambitious schedule ahead of us but we are really excited. Our goal is to build a reliable robot that plays the game consistently well.” 

Division by Zero, the name of the Clarkson team, this year consists of 25 Clarkson students working with 30 high school students from Salmon River and Massena central high schools. Technical advisers include Clarkson Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor James Carroll; Charles Storrin, a retired supervisor for electrical maintenance at New York Power Authority; and high school teachers Bernie Bissonnette (Massena Central) and Chuck Raiti (Salmon River). The team divides its meeting locations between Clarkson and the high schools. 

Assisting the team this year are students from Clarkson’s senior engineering design class who are working to develop sensors that will improve the robot’s autonomous motion. 

The Division by Zero team will participate in two regional competitions: the Granite State Regional, March 4-6 in Manchester, N.H., and the Long Island Regional, March 18-20 in Brentwood, N.Y. 

Fifty-two teams sponsored by private industry and universities have pre-registered for the Granite State competition. The Long Island competition has 37 teams pre-registered. Teams who place well in the regional competitions around the country will then be invited to compete in the national competition to be held in April in Atlanta, Ga. 

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national program that aims to inspire high school students to pursue college degrees and ultimately careers in science and technology. The annual robotics competition teams high school students with engineers from universities and industry to design and build a remote-controlled robot that competes in a sporting-like event. FIRST founder Dean Kamen received an honorary degree from Clarkson in 2001. 

The Clarkson team has been in existence since 1998. Last year, the team had an outstanding season, finishing well in regional competitions and winning a Delphi “Driving Tomorrow’s Technology Award” for creative use of materials and gearboxes. 

Clarkson University also offers FIRST scholarships to graduating high school seniors who have participated on a FIRST Robotics team. Recipients of this merit-based award may enroll in any course of study at Clarkson and receive up to $6,000 per year for four years. 

FIRST Robotics is part of Clarkson University's SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program, which promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication, and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork, and communication skills. The SPEED program is one of the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives promoting the “Vision of a Clarkson Education” through experiential learning by hands-on application of academic theory to real-world problems. 

SPEED receives its primary financial support from Alcoa, Corning, Eastman Kodak, the General Electric Fund, and Procter & Gamble. SPEED was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award and the 2002 Corporate and Foundation Alliance Award for its exceptional contributions to improving undergraduate engineering education. 

PHOTO CAPTION: Members of the Clarkson University FIRST Robotics team (L-R) Massena High School student Jay Trzaskos and Clarkson University students Eric O’Brien ’05 and Pamela George ’06 are hard at work constructing the robot for the 2004 international robotics design competition, “FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar.” The team is comprised of 25 Clarkson engineering students and 30 high school students from Salmon River and Massena.  The Clarkson team will be participating in two regional competitions in March. 
[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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