WATERLOO, Ont. (Wednesday, March 23, 2011 ) - High school students keen about robots will compete this weekend at the University of Waterloo in a Canadian qualifying round for an international robotics competition.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition challenges teams of high school students and mentors to build robots in order to qualify for the world final next April in the United States. Robots are built in six weeks from a common kit of parts, provided by FIRST, and weigh up to 120 lbs., excluding battery and bumpers.

The Waterloo regional contest, open to the public, will be held Thursday through Saturday (March 24-26) in the physical activities complex on the University of Waterloo campus. Admission is free. Thursday is a day of practice rounds.

"Through FIRST, kids realize that building a robot can be fun and cool," said Rob Gorbet, a University of Waterloo professor of electrical and computer engineering and planning committee member for FIRST Robotics Waterloo Regional. "It gives them very real role models, from outside the worlds of professional sports and entertainment. It's about opening their eyes to careers in math, engineering, science and technology - and it works."

The high-tech sports competition involves brainstorming, teamwork and mentoring. Referees oversee the contest and judges give awards for design, technology, sportsmanship and commitment.

This year's game, called LOGO Motion, is played with special inflatable tubes in square, triangular, and circular shapes - the shapes of the FIRST logo.

In teams of three, each robot will try to organize the shapes into the FIRST logo in order to score points. At the end of the two-minute match, robots will deploy an inependent pole-climbing "mini-robot" and will get bonus points for mini-robots which reach the top of the pole.

In spite of a lack of weapons, games are fast-paced and competitive, offering fun for the entire family. Besides learning about science, math, engineering and technology, students must work with each other in a spirit of "co-opetition."

Twenty-nine teams involving about 450 students will participate in the Waterloo event - 26 from Ontario and three from Michigan.

Local schools competing are St. David Catholic secondary school in Waterloo, Our Lady of Lourdes in Guelph and Eastwood collegiate in Kitchener. Eastwood has already qualified to attend the chamionships in St. Louis, having been on the winning alliance at the Wisconsin regional March 12. Although most schools come from the Toronto area, many represent rural towns from southwestern Ontario.

Waterloo is one of two Canadian venues hosting a regional FIRST competition in 2011. The other Canadian regional takes place March 31-April 2 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.

The annual contest involves more than 51,875 students in Grades 9 to 12 on 2,075 teams in regional competitions in 11 countries, including Canada, the U.S., Israel, Germany, Australia and Brazil. The world final will be held April 27 to 30 at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo.

Major sponsors for the Waterloo regional competition include Research In Motion, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Google, TD Bank Financial Group and the University of Waterloo.

To learn more about FIRST Robotics, go to www.firstrobotics.uwaterloo.ca. The site includes information on registering a team and volunteering, as well as photos and video from past competitions.

About Waterloo

The University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle, is one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities. Waterloo is home to 30,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students who are dedicated to making the future better and brighter. Waterloo, known for the largest post-secondary co-operative education program in the world, supports enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. For more information about Waterloo, visit www.uwaterloo.ca.


Rob Gorbet, associate professor, electrical and computer engineering, and Centre for Knowledge Integration, 519-888-4567 ext. 33489 or rbgorbet@uwaterloo.ca

John Morris, Waterloo media relations, 519-888-4435 or john.morris@uwaterloo.ca

Waterloo news release no. 19

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