On April 5, the UW/Bellarmine FIRST team hopped on their second red-eye flight that week to compete in the National Robot Games sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and NASA.
Under the supervision of UW EE Assistant Professor Alex Mamishev, a team of UW EE and other engineering students partnering with students from the Bellarmine Preparatory high school (in Tacoma) returned from Orlando, Florida where they competed against nearly 280 teams and finished in the top ten percent, ranking 28th.
According to Kevin Ross, former President of the Seattle Robotics Society and Team Leader, “this was a much harder competition than the Western Regionals in San Jose. We were a rookie team competing with experienced professionals and some of the best talent in the country. Rainmaker One was in some of the highest scoring matches, and, in many cases, came extremely close to winning. This was a battle against the best teams in the U.S.” Mr. Ross agreed with Professor Mamishev that students exceeded the FIRST project goals and had an outstanding showing for a first-year team.
Only a few days prior to leaving for Florida, the team spent a grueling weekend in San Jose, where they competed against 42 other teams in the Western Regional Robot Games sponsored by FIRST and NASA. There, after 14 hours of competition, the UW/Bellarmine team won the ‘Best Offense Award.’ Competition involved “alliances”, where pairs of robots (from different teams) competed. The UW/Bellarmine’s alliance was so strong that only two alliances were ranked higher.
“Rainmaker One” is the name of the remote-controlled robot the UW/Bellarmine students designed and constructed during six weeks this winter as part of the FIRST project. The FIRST project is designed to give high school students an opportunity to work side-by-side with engineers and incorporate their class work with real-life lessons. Many of the engineer mentors are from industry and government agencies. This is the first year the University of Washington Department of Electrical Engineering has participated in this project. Thanks to the initiative of Bellarmine student Ashley Snodgrass, Seattle Robotics Society members Kevin Ross and Larry Barello, and UW EE assistant professor Alex Mamishev, the team was formed. The UW student contingent was led by EE junior Dinh Bowman.
In both the regional and national competitions, Rainmaker One did exceptionally well, particularly for first-time efforts. Many of the teams had been participating in these competitions for six or seven years. Rainmaker One also had the best performance in the Northwest. “I was very proud of our students, who outperformed many of the teams. This was a very difficult competition with several unexpected challenges. Our team members’ superior strategies, counter-strategies and skill in designing an agile and quick robot are to be admired”, said professor Alex Mamishev.
Support for the Rainmaker One team was provided by the Electrical Engineering Department, the Mary Gates Scholarship Fund, and by the Ford Fund, the Seattle Robotics Society, its members Kevin Ross and Larry Barello, NASA-Ames Research Center, and the parents, students, and alumni of Bellarmine Prep. Additional support was provided by the University of Washington College of Engineering, the Computer Science and Engineering Department, the Mechanical Engineering Department, and the Minority Science and Engineering Program.
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