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FHS Robotics in ‘FIRST gear’

Farragut High School’s Robotics Team preparing for spring competition held in Knoxville for the first time.- Photo submitted
Farragut High School’s Robotics Team is gearing up for its yearly competition in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition, which will be held this spring in Knoxville for the first time.

Team sponsor, FHS science teacher Jane Skinner, said, “The idea behind the FIRST program is to get kids excited about science and technology.

“The robot that we build every year … it is like a sporting event when it competes and that is the idea behind it–to make it as exciting as a sporting event and have it be science and technology related,” she added.

The team attended a Local Kickoff, Saturday, Jan. 8, at The University of Tennessee’s Dougherty Engineering Building, where FIRST revealed the specifics of the Smoky Mountain Regional competition, which will be held Thursday, March 31, through Saturday, April 2, at Knoxville Convention Center.

This year’s game will be called LogoMotion.

“LogoMotion is played by two competing alliances on a flat 27-by-54-foot field. Each alliance consists of three robots each. They compete to hang as many inflated plastic shapes on their grids as they can during a two minute and 15 second match,” Skinner said.

“The match begins with one 15-second Autonomous Period in which robots operate independently of driver inputs and must hang ubertubes to score extra points. For the rest of the match, drivers control robots and try to maximize their alliance score by hanging as many logo pieces as possible.

“The match ends with robots deploying minibots, small electro-mechanical assemblies that are independent of the host robot, onto vertical poles. The minibots race to the top of the pole to trigger a sensor and earn additional bonus points,” she added.

Prior to the kickoff event the teams had no knowledge of what game the robots would play, nor the specifics of robot requirements.

The teams will now have six weeks to build the robot.

“It is a pretty intense six weeks,” Skinner said. “The robot will ship out on Feb. 22, ready or not.”

Although the team could not actively begin working on its robot until after the kickoff, they have been busy.

The students, Skinner and the rest of the sponsors–FHS teachers Jill Hudson, Kristin Baksa and Matt Milligan–have been pounding the pavement to find sponsors and mentors for the team.

“One of the major objectives is to form partnerships and get mentors for the team and have professional adults helping them. That is what we have been doing this fall, forming those relationships, asking people to sponsor us and doing fundraisers, because the fees to enter are $5,000,” Skinner said.

In addition to the Kit of Parts each team receives from FIRST, they are allowed an additional $2,500 in enhancements they may purchase themselves.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently announced it would sponsor FHS for the initial $5,000 registration fee.

In addition, several local businesses have stepped in to offer sponsorships.

JCPenney has sponsored the team with $2,000 and Remotech has pledged $1,000.

“Lee Martin, with The University of Tennessee Engineering Department, sent us a check for $500. The Junior League of Knoxville gave us a grant for $500. Wakefield Corporation, Hicks Orthodontics and State Farm Insurance also have sponsored us,” Skinner said.

She added the team is very grateful for the support from its sponsors.

“We couldn’t do this without them,” she said.

Skinner said the team is still in need of mentors, especially after finding out the specifics of the competition.

“The game this year involves using a tracking system and a camera to maneuver the robot successfully. We have been told that having a good working knowledge of National Instrument’s [LabView] interface will be key to building a successful robot. We could use a person who works with this programming system and has time to help our students,” she said.

Due to the six-week time frame, anyone interested in mentoring the team should contact Skinner at FHS as soon as possible.

For more information on the team and its progress, visit


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