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22 international teams, 51 Aussies in robot battle

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High school teams from across the Asia Pacific arrive at Quaycentre Sydney to battle it out at the FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) Robotics Competition Australian Regionals. The battle will be held from 11–18 March and this is the 27th season of the competition.

This year’s theme is Power Up and finds teams and their robots stuck inside an old-school video arcade game where they have to use power cubes to defeat the boss.

For the first 15 seconds of each match the robots operate autonomously, following pre-programmed instructions. Then human operators remotely control their robots for the remaining two minutes and fifteen seconds of each bout.

“It’s a competition, but it also teaches students design and engineering skills when they’re building their robots,” explains FIRSTAustralia director Luan Heimlich.

“They benefit from learning how to work together in teams, and cooperate and solve problems with tangible outcomes.”

After only a six-week preseason in which to build their robots, three-team alliances face off against each other in the two-and-a-half minute matches.

FIRST Australia is an initiative of the FIRST Foundation and Macquarie University, and is presented with the support of Google Australia, Ford Australia and other partners.

Executive Dean of Macquarie’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Barbara Messerle, says it gives players a valuable insight into what a career in science, technology, engineering, or maths might look like.

“The best scientists and engineers have a passion for their field, and a desire to tackle the global challenges of our times,” she says.

“We’re hoping that by taking part in FIRST, these students will not only have a lot of fun but realise the kinds of careers they now have the skills to pursue.”

“Future innovations and inventions in Australia will come from students gaining skills in STEM and computer science today,” says Google Australia’s Engineering Community and Outreach Manager, Sally-Ann Williams.

“We support FIRST in Australia to increase participation from students from rural, remote and other under-represented communities, and to help ensure that all students can develop the skills they need for the future.

Founded in the US in 1989, FIRST was brought to Australia in 2006 by Macquarie University.

Seventy-three teams from across the Asia Pacific are taking part in the two 2018 Australian Regionals: Southern Cross Regional from 11–13 March and South Pacific Regional from 16–18 March 2018.

They include 51 Australian teams and teams from the United States, Taiwan, China, India, Singapore, Vietnam and Turkey.

More than 3,000 participants, family, schools, industry supporters and major sponsors will attend the event at Sydney Olympic Park over the course of the two three-day events.

That includes over 1,000 participants and 500 volunteers.

There will be 73 robots competing (one from each team) and organisers estimate over 350 batteries will be used in the course of the competition.

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