Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive April 2009 Show 0914 Robotics


For most, remembering what you learned in your high school math and science class isn't always easy but that is changing thanks to a one of a kind competition that brings math and science to life for Oklahoma students.

Robotics competition

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U.S. FIRST Robotics
Oklahoma FIRST Robotics

Show Dates

Show 0914: Robotics

Air date: April 5, 2009



Rob:  Well most everyone has fond memories from their years in high school, from Friday night football to homecoming or senior prom.  Yet for most, remembering what we learned in math and science class isn’t quite as easy.  Today, however, the story is much different.  Our Russ Jowell takes us inside a one-of-a-kind competition that’s bringing math and science to life for Oklahoma students.

Three; two; one.

Russ:  It was a day of Lunacy at the Cox Center in Oklahoma City, and while lunacy was no doubt indicative of the ambiance of the day, it was also the name of the game that drew hundreds of students from around the state.

Cheering; clapping.

Russ:  Among those in attendance were members of team 2435 from Lawton, Oklahoma, led by advisor Tracy Wicker.

Tracy Wicker:  We are the Soldiers of Technology, a team,  out of Lawton, Oklahoma, at the technology center.

Russ:  Tracy’s team will be facing a host of about 35 others from across the state. And while this is no doubt a high school sports competition. The student competitors will never enter the ring. They’re leaving that to their mechanical creations.

Music; three; two; one; and they’re off!

Russ:  This is the 2009 regional match of the Oklahoma FIRST Robotics competition, an annual event where high school teams, from around the state, design and build their very own robots to compete in a uniquely designed game.

Phil Berkenbile:  We have 50 teams; forty-seven from Oklahoma, two from Texas, and one from Kansas.

Russ:  Phil Berkenbile is the head of Oklahoma’s CareerTech system, and says the impact the FIRST program has on its students is almost as far reaching as where those students come from.

Berkenbile:  If you’re here, you see the exact extent of all the math and science, and business plans, electronics, computer technology that we have for students all across Oklahoma.  They’ll go on to great careers in engineering and designing the next vehicle that drives over Mars.

Russ:  And driving on the surface of another planet is exactly what the teams had to contend with in this year’s game, Lunacy.

The crater is covered with a slick polymer material, called regolith, that provides a unique surface for the robots to drive upon.  Special wheels are used on the robots to create a low friction interaction with the regolith.  This simulates the low traction effects of driving in the one-sixth gravity on the surface of the moon.

Wicker:  It’s not just about a mechanical electrical robot.  There is a way for every student to participate and offer their talents, whether it be in publicity or communications, or if they do have the mechanical or electrical talent.  We’re able to involve all the students.

Russ:  And for students, like Chris Burns, being involved in his school’s FIRST Robotics team meant a chance to explore a new opportunity that turned into a full-time passion.

Chris Burns:  At first, we were supposed to do it because it was would have been a grade.  But then she made it an option, and I just decided to come one day and thought it was fun.  You know, we get to hang out with friends and build on a robot that’s pretty much your own design.

Wicker:  We’re purely an extracurricular activity, and they really commit a lot of their time and still maintain their grades.  And some even play on sports teams.  They just make a huge commitment and give a lot of their time.

Russ:  A commitment today that will reap big rewards tomorrow.

Rob:  Well seven teams from Oklahoma are advancing to the national competition being held later this month in Atlanta, Georgia.  Now our congratulations go out to Claremore and Duncan high schools, Moore Norman Technology Center, Francis Tuttle Pre Engineering Academy, Booker T Washington and Memorial high schools in Tulsa, as well as Tulsa Technology Center.  And we wish all of them the very best of luck.