Robots take over U of M sports arenas April 2-3

Two arenas full of screaming fans and 126 high school teams from Minnesota and surrounding states are extending the Minnesota tournament frenzy another week at the Minnesota Regional FIRST Robotics Competitions 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday April 2-3 at the University of Minnesota's Williams and Mariucci arenas. The championship matches are 1:45-4:45 p.m., Saturday, April 3, when there will be non-stop robot action.

The event is free and open to the public. In addition, the first 500 people entering each arena on Friday and Saturday mornings will receive free admission tickets to the Science Museum of Minnesota courtesy of the Medtronic Foundation.

The University of Minnesota Institute of Technology (soon to be called the College of Science and Engineering) is one of the sponsors of the event.

Borrowing a page from the sports playbook, the robotics competition uses the excitement of sports to promote science, technology, engineering and math in a fun and interactive way.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition challenges each team of high school students and their mentors to build a robot in six weeks and enter the robot in competitions designed by a committee of engineers and other professionals. The competing robots are nearly three feet by four feet and stand up to five feet tall.

This year's game, called "Breakaway," is a game played on a 54-by-27-foot field. Two robot alliances, one red and one blue, composed of three teams each, compete in each match of two minutes and 15 seconds. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than your opponent by shooting soccer balls into a goal, climbing on the tower or platform, or by lifting a robot from the same alliance off the playing surface. Robots are autonomous during the first 15 seconds of play and teleoperated for the remaining two minutes.

Watch a video simulation of this year's game.

Those attending the competition are also allowed into the pits area where they can talk to teams and see robot repairs in action.

Winning teams from the regional event will advance to the national championship April 15-17 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Just four years ago, there were only two FIRST Robotics teams in Minnesota. With sponsorships from the University of Minnesota and corporations such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, 3M, St. Jude Medical, Lockheed Martin, General Mills, Cargill, BAE Systems, PTC, Pentair and others, the number of robotics teams in Minnesota has grown to more than 100 teams this year. Worldwide there are more than 1,800 FIRST Robotics teams involving more than 45,000 high school students.

For more information, including a full schedule and list of competing teams, visit http://www.mnfirstregional.org