Norwell High School's robot competes in the Chesapeake Regional, held at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

In the last several issues, H&P has featured students from Norwell High School in Norwell, Mass., as their team participated in the FIRST Robotics Competition. H&P recently asked team member Jeffrey Begin how the competition went.

"The team had six weeks to build this robot, and we certainly used all the time allotted. We would work late into the evening, sometimes into the early morning to finish it on time.

"Our first meet, the Chesapeake Regional, was held at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Mar. 18-20. This was our first event, and, as was to be expected, there were a few glitches with the robot. We unfortunately had to spend most of the meet making adjustments and repairs. Because of this, our ranking was not very high. However, we accomplished our goal, which was getting the robot in top shape for the New York City Regional.

"The New York City Regional was held at Riverbank State Park in New York, March 25-27. With the robot in good shape, we were able to focus on the competition, rather than repairs and modifications. We placed fifth in the standings, and were able to move onto the quarterfinals, where we were eliminated. Overall, this meet was a huge success for us. It demonstrated the robot was capable of the tasks it was designed for and performed them well.

"Our final meet was the Palmetto Regional, held at the Colonial Center at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., April 1-3. We went through the qualification matches, but only placed 18th out of 42, with 4 wins and 4 losses. "We progressed through the quarterfinals to the semi-finals. By this point, we had already made it farther than we had in New York. We lost the first semi-final match by only five points (the smallest margin of loss possible). We had a second try, however.

"The second match was heated. Throughout the match, it could have been won by anyone. In the end, we lost by only five points again. At first, it was disheartening, but we soon realized that making it as far as we did was a huge accomplishment."

When asked if he thought FIRST was achieving its goal of getting high-school students interested in science and technology, Begin answered, "Definitely. There is no other program like FIRST in the world. Countless students on our team and others are entering engineering fields. The kids that are involved with FIRST would have no outlet for their enormous talent if the program didn't exist. It gives everyone on the team incredible pride to see the machine we have spent six weeks building actually go out on the field and rack up points."

But it's not only general engineering these teams are exposed to — it's fluid power in particular. For example, Norwell's team, which is sponsored by Piab, used pneumatics extensively on their robot. Two rotary actuators, four cylinders, and various solenoids, regulators, and switches played a part in putting the robot into action.