Over the last couple of weeks my 8 year old son has returned home from his LEGO Robotics class brimming with the confidence that comes with his recently discovered ability to program a robot to perform a specific task. My normally shy, soft spoken, and age appropriately awkward son transforms into...well my other son. The 6 year old that when he comes downstairs from his playroom with his shirt off and sweating, explains how he's doing push-ups and sit-ups in between jumping jacks. My 8 year old goes on and on about his upcoming robot tournament and what he is going to make his robot do next Tuesday. I'm man enough to admit it... chokes me up a bit, to see my otherwise shy son break out of his shell and be outwardly excited about engineering. I get the same reward from that as I do when my 6 year old scores three goals in one soccer game. So what am I getting at...?
I talk a lot about some of the "cool" things I get to do as a part of my job, but nothing is more personally rewarding to me than our continued partnership with FIRST Robotics. Last year I was fortunate enough to be one of the judges for our Inventor model competition. The level of detail, motion, FEA, and renderings that these high school kids put together rival some of the most advanced industry models that I have ever seen, and congrats to Team 234 Cyber Blue for winning the Excellence in Design award for the 2010 season.
This was not an easy competition to judge. Check out this example from Team 1574 MisCar. As you can see, very capable Autodesk Inventor users and just sick models.
This Saturday I have the privilege of presenting at FIRSTFare 2010 at Catlin Gable School in Portland, OR. This is an event designed to get new teams prepared for build season and for veteran teams to continue networking and passing along best practices between the teams. My presentation to the group will talk about our continued (20 year) commitment to FIRST Robotics and how Autodesk Inventor is used by teams all over the world to not only document their designs, but to solve game challenges digitally, befoer a physical model is built.
I've seen teams spend time modeling up frame members, fasteners, gears, chains, and pulleys manually so I'll introduce them to the design accelerators, frame generator, and content center. Six weeks is just not enough time to be modeling a 1/4-20 from scratch. But the thing that I think is going to really fire up the crowd is how we are committed to not only FIRST, but to the future of engineering through them. We provide free software to students. F. R. E. E. free software to students and faculty, not just FIRST competitors at http://www.autodesk.com/first
Once registered click on the Competition link and it will send you into the FIRST Robotics Competition page where competitors can download the FRC kit of parts. Now is a great time to download the software, the kit of parts, and start setting up various configurations so that during build season, AKA crunch time, you'll be ready to make design changes on the fly.
Not a student, but want to get involved? Become a mentor for a team. If there is one thing that most teams have plenty of is pizza and snacks - all of them could use industry experienced mentors. What every team needs is access to engineers, machinists, welders, electricians, or otherwise handy people that want to pass along their experience and knowledge to these incredibly capable kids.
I know this sounds corny and lofty but when you hear people talk about the future and how this generation or that aren't as ambitious, or don't work as hard, and don't walk to school up hill both ways.... You've never met one of these kids. If you have the time and want yourself to be inspired by the effort and spirit these kids put into this program... Mentor a team. You'll be glad you did. Learn more about coaches and mentors here - FIRST Mentors.
See you guys from oregonfirst.org on Saturday!