The FIRST Robotics National Championship is underway in St. Louis and some 400 teams have designed and programmed robots to toss a flying disc across a playing field, but the students who created them didn't just rely on their kit of parts -- in some cases, they used newly available technology to take their bots to a whole new level. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
Team 2468 really does appreciate the parents who chipped in to buy them their machine. About 16 or 17 pieces in their amazingly accurate robot were custom designed and created with a 3D printer.
With the help of a mentor, they were able to design and print some of the items for under $20 when they could cost hundreds.
The competition sets a cost of limit of $4,000 per robot. Printing their own pieces allows teams to stretch that budget a lot further.
Viking Robotics' Team 4276 from Marina High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. only spent about $2,200 on their robot.
"About the cost of a high end PC computer," Eric Gever said. "But the value it provides myself and the students is much higher than that."
Not only does it save money, it can save time or even save the day.
"If something breaks at competition we can always just print another one, which is pretty wonderful," said Team 2468, or Team Appreciate, member Akash Thaker from Austin, Texas.
Think of the printer as a hot glue gun. Plastic strips are melted down and fed into a nozzle which then lays down a very thin layer of plastic and another and another as it builds the object from the bottom up.
This technology could revolutionize the way FIRST teams compete. So far only a handful of teams use them to make parts, but team 3824 of Knoxville, Tenn. takes it a lot further.
They say at some point, they could build their entire robot with a 3D printer.
Their team works with the Oak Ridge National Labortories, using their equipment to custom print in both plastic and titanium.
That machine costs about $1 million. While he admits giving teenagers access to that kind of equipment is risky, Matt Love says using it helped him not only shape his robot, but his future as well.
"It really inspired me to major in engineering," Love said. "I'm going to the Ohio State University next year. Go Buckeyes."
The final round of the national competition is set to take place Saturday afternoon.
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