Robotics Competition Coming to SWOSU


Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford is gearing up for a FIRST Technology Challenge (FTC), a high school and junior high school robotics competition that will be held on the Weatherford campus during the fall of 2009.

SWOSU Industrial and Engineering Technology Department faculty Brad Fitzgerald and Frank White recently volunteered with a competition in Oklahoma City to learn more about the project. SWOSU recently received a $2,000 grant from the Oklahoma NASA Space Consortium to start a robotics regional competition for high school students on the SWOSU campus. 

The FTC is one of three similar robotic competitions in the state that is offered to junior high and high school students by the FIRST organization. FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segwa. His goal was to inspire young people's interest in science, technology and in robotics.

Teams of up to 10 students purchase a kit for the construction of a robot. Teams are then responsible for designing, building and programming the robot to compete against other teams' robots. Up to 50 teams can compete at each event. During the competition, the robots are judged and awarded based on their programming skills, ability to overcome floor challenges and the construction of their robot. Winning robots will continue on to a national competition.

White said the various competitions are not cheap. The FTC competition is more accessible and affordable for the size of schools in western Oklahoma. The robot kit costs $900.

Schools can provide the money or teams can raise the necessary funds.  Teams are encouraged to seek the support of corporate sponsors to fund the robot.

"We have heard positive input from many schools in Oklahoma and surrounding states," White said. "Students are excited for the opportunity to compete."

There are currently no other venues in the state that offer a regional competition for FTC. SWOSU is excited to bring the competition to western Oklahoma.

"Our goal is to provide western Oklahoma high school students with an opportunity to experience hands-on learning in technology and engineering and also promote the excellent people and resources we have at SWOSU," said Brad Bryant, chair of the DIET.

The FIRST organization annually offers over $9 million in national scholarships for high school students across the United States.