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Webb builds robot, mentors KCHS

NASCAR for robots.

That’s how Webb School of Knoxville senior Henry Neilson described this year’s FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] Robot-ics Competition, and he and the rest of the members of Webb’s robotics team, Team No. 1466, are shifting into high gear as the deadline for the competition approaches.

FIRST is an annual contest that helps students discover the rewards and excitement offered by science, engineering and technology.

More than 37,000 high school students on more than 1,500 teams from around the world and every state in the United States are participating in this year’s competition.

At the beginning of January, all FIRST teams were shown this year’s game challenge and received a common inventory of parts and a manual of game rules and robot design regulations.

Working with adult mentors, the students have had just six weeks to design, build and test their robots to compete in vigorous tournament play against other robots.

Teams will compete in regional contests across the United States and abroad with the winners advancing to the 2008 FIRST Championship Thursday, April 17, through Saturday, April 19, at the Georgia Dome in At-lanta, Ga.

The Webb team, which has participated in FIRST for the past four years, also has been mentoring Knoxville Catholic High School’s robotics team, which will make its debut at this year’s competition.

David Pierce, Webb Upper School math teacher and robotics faculty advisor, said he is excited by Catholic’s participation in FIRST.

“The more this program grows, the better, and the more kids get a chance to do this, the better,” he said.

“Students learn things that are every bit as rigorous and challenging as what they learn in their classes, but it’s a whole different kind of thing – it’s hands-on, real world and practical. As a math teacher, I’m extremely interested in problem-solving. For me, probably the best environment for offering really tough problem solving for kids is FIRST,” he added,

“It’s tough. It’s very hard. There are many goals and many constraints. And trying to figure all that out and work as a team, and getting all that accomplished is really challenging.”

As traditional rivals, Webb and Catholic have faced off numerous times on the playing field, but they’re not likely to face each other at FIRST unless both teams advance to the National Championship.

Webb’s Team No. 1466 will compete at the Palmetto Regional, Thursday, March 27, through Saturday, March 29, in Clemson, S.C., and will be the only team representing Ten-nessee, while Catholic will be among the 45 robotics teams at the Peachtree Regional, Thursday, March 13 through Saturday, March 15, in Duluth Ga.


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