High school students get first look at robotics challenge

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -  An international robotics competition unveiled what puzzle it wants young aspiring engineers to solve.

Each year the FIRST Robotics Competition puts a different robot design and build challenge to high school students. Students from 27 high schools in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida watched the announcement live via satellite at Stennis Space Center Saturday morning.

It was the students' first look at the challenges they will be up against in this year's competition. Stennis officials say southeastern teams tend to be up to the task.

Education Director Katie Wallace said, "Everybody nationwide and world wide gets the challenge at the same time. We never know what it's going to be until it's announced. This year they did something completely different. They completely changed the floor that the robots run on. They used to run on carpet so friction and traction are very important."

Even some of the veteran competitors believe it will be tough going this time around.

"It's a lot different this year because they made the surface more slick," said Robert Smith, a Gulfport High student. "In the previous years we've had a design that we pretty much keep basic. This year it's pretty much leveled the playing field for the new teams and the old teams."