Robot wars heat up at Drexel

March 28, 2008 2:52:14 PM PDT
It's not the NCAA championships, but a different kind of competition pitted team against team in a local robot war.Though there are drivers, cheering fans, and track officials, this is not a NASCAR race; it's the first robotics competition.

Regional heats took place today on Drexel University's campus.

"You have these giant 40 inch diameter track balls that you have to handle and shoot over an overpass," Scott Malinowski of Lenape Regional High School said.

"There's a blue and a red team, and each team has their own ball and they have to work together to get their ball around the track," Kenneth Jones of Mastbaum High School said.

FIRST is an acronym- For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

44 high schools competed for points, pride, and a chance to go to the championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

Preparation for this event is intense and time-consuming.

"It's more than a part time job; it's a full time job on top of school. Probably four to five hours a day, six days a week," Phil Ross of Lower Merion High School said.

Corporate sponsorships help pay for the monster machines.

The robots need tweaking, even on race day, to avoid a nasty crash.

"Anything can happen. Your transmission system could break, your drive system could break down, your electronic system could stop working," Ross said.

These races aren't every man for himself. There's a lot of teamwork.

Just as individual NASCAR drivers are still part of a team, these guys and girls work together in the heat of battle, too.

"We meet with the other teams we're playing with and come up with a plan of how we're going to play the game," Malinowski said.

"Everybody knows their weaknesses and their strengths and we all combine and make one team," Jones said.