‘Lunacy’ to take over Purdue Armory

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Thirty-five teams of students from the Midwest will attempt to defy gravity for the fifth annual FIRST Boilermaker Regional Robotics Competition March 19-21 at Purdue University.

FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — combines sports with science and technology to create a high-tech event for high school students. The 2009 game, called Lunacy, features fast-paced matches in which robots race around a track and toss “moon rocks” into trailers attached to opposing teams’ robots. The track will be covered with plastic sheets, which will simulate the low-gravity surface of the moon.

Teams from Hatton, N.D. (left), and Rolling Meadows and Wheeling high schools in suburban Chicago, work together to guide their robots to move inflatable balls during the 2008 FIRST Boilermaker Regional robotics competition at the Purdue Armory. The three-team alliance of the Hatton and Rolling Meadows-Wheeling teams, and another team from Indianapolis, captured first place and qualified for the international competition in Atlanta. Forty teams from six states competed in the regional. (Purdue News Service file photo/David Umberger.)

Teams from Hatton, N.D. (left), and Rolling Meadows and Wheeling high schools in suburban Chicago, work together to guide their robots to move inflatable balls during the 2008 FIRST Boilermaker Regional robotics competition at the Purdue Armory. The three-team alliance of the Hatton and Rolling Meadows-Wheeling teams, and another team from Indianapolis, captured first place and qualified for the international competition in Atlanta. Forty teams from six states competed in the regional. (Purdue News Service file photo/David Umberger.)

“This year’s competition, which is designed to commemorate NASA’s 40th anniversary of putting Purdue alumnus Neil Armstrong on the moon, will be quite exciting,” said Evan Helmeid, competition chairperson and a Purdue sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering from Fond du Lac, Wis. “More than 1,000 teens and parents will cheer for their favorite robot as they slide all over and ram into each other.”

Teams will travel from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. A complete list of teams and the event schedule are available on the Boilermaker Regional Web site at: http://regional.purduefirst.org/

Top-ranked teams will compete in final rounds at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 21. After the competition, which will take place in the Purdue Armory, awards and trophies will be presented in the Elliott Hall of Music. All events are free and open to the public.

High school students work with professional engineers, teachers and parents to design, build and test a robot in just six weeks to compete in regional competitions across the nation and world. Regional winners will join more than 300 teams to compete in the international championship event, which will take place April 16-18 in Atlanta.

“For high school students interested in a future career in engineering or science, FIRST Robotics is a great opportunity to get hands-on experience,” said Daniel Somerville, Purdue engineering outreach coordinator. “They also learn how to work and communicate effectively as a team.”

Sponsors for the regional competition include Purdue University, Indiana Space Grant Consortium, Rolls-Royce Corp., Schlumberger Co., General Motors Corp., Delphi, Coca-Cola Co., BAE, Dupont, AndyMark and Snowbear Frozen Custard.

FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway human transporter. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs innovative programs to motivate students to pursue studies in science, technology and engineering. Since its inception, FIRST has expanded internationally to Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Israel, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil.

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