Knoxville, Tennessee-based TNFIRST sought a site to hold its FIRST Tech Challenge Tennessee Regional Robotics Competition. With one of the fastest growing robot-driven mechatronics engineering programs in the nation, Middle Tennessee State University offered the solution.
Citing central location and other key factors for hosting, MTSU engineering technology Chair Walter Boles acknowledges mechatronics being “all about robotics and automation.” MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer openly welcomes programs like FIRST Robotics because “they are imperative to the future of engineering and technology.”
The regional for 28 teams and 300 middle school and high school students with a keen interest in all things robots will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 2) in Alumni Memorial Gym, 2610 Middle Tennessee Blvd., in Murfreesboro. The event is free and open to the public.
Teams from Knoxville, Memphis, Tullahoma, Lawrenceburg, Oak Ridge, Shelbyville, Manchester, Nashville, Dayton, Ohio, and others will be competing. Murfreesboro’s entry, Tennessee Robotics Club, is mentored by Mike Puckett.
“We’re seeing our next generation of engineers, designers, programmers and scientists (at these events),” said John Rozell, director of research and developmental labs for MTSU engineering technology, referring to the participating seventh- through 12th-graders.
Fischer said the opportunities through this endeavor “give students a hands-on learning environment where real job skills are practiced, from team problem-solving to critical thinking.”
“First Robotics Tech Challenge inspires a lifelong love of learning that is critical to persevere in today’s ever-changing workforce.,” Fischer added. “(Through this) we’re developing the innovators, technology leaders, and creative problem-solvers who will make the world a better place. MTSU is proud to sponsor a competition in which younger leaders exercise their curiosity and experiment with science and technology.”
Mechatronics engineering combines mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering along with systems integration and technical project management.
“This annual event will give MTSU high visibility in automation and robotics endeavors and attract more students to our programs,” Boles said. “Of course, job opportunities for graduates are incredibly good, along with high salaries.”
Teams are comprised of up to 15 students per team and two to three mentors. Participants and their robots compete within a 12-by-12-foot playing field. The robot’s starting maximum dimensions, in inches, is 18 wide, 18 long and 18 high.
The robotics kit is powered by Android technology, features professional-quality software options and includes 11 motors, nine sensors, two game controllers, wireless communications, metal gears and all the building materials participants need.
This year’s game is called “Rover Ruckus,” using a 2-on-2 format played on the 12-by-12 field. Sixty matches are scheduled to rank the 28 teams, with elimination matches to determine the event winner.
A number of awards will be presented at the end of the competition.
Mike Wehrenberg of Knoxville is chairman of TNFIRST, a nonprofit corporation organized to provide resources and activities that build and expand mentor-based robotics programs throughout Tennessee.
The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. To learn more, visit https://tnfirst.org.