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Posted 6/19/2013

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Months of intense preparation at ERDC’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) center facilities culminated in impressive performances at two regional competitions by  Vicksburg Robotics Team 456, composed of 35 home schooled and high school students from St. Aloysius, Vicksburg and Warren Central High Schools. 

The team, sponsored in part by ERDC’s STEM outreach program, placed in the semi-finals at both the Bayou Regional Robotics in New Orleans, La. March 23-24 and at the Razorback Regional First Robotics Competition at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville April 4-6.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition (FRC) identifies itself  as "the varsity sport for the mind," combining  the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.  FRC says it’s as close to "real-world engineering" as a student can get and offers 16 million in college scholarships.

ERDC’s volunteers mentors

Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. EL’s Charles “Chuck” Dickerson, Ginny Dickerson and Eddie Melton serve as mentors for Team 456 who compete in FIRST arenas each year.

The FIRST mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, 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.

This year’s challenge pitted teams playing ULTIMATE ASCENTSM, using their robots to collect and score with discs in a variety of goals.  Teams earned additional points by climbing an alliance pyramid at the end of the match.

Special recognition awards

In addition to the semi-final rankings, Team 456 won the "Underwriters Laboratories Industrial Safety Award" for the sixth consecutive year and the "Innovation in Controls Award" at both the Bayou Regional at the Razorback Regional.

Sponsored by Rockwell Automation, the “Innovation in Control Award” recognizes an innovative control system or application of control components (electrical, mechanical or software) to provide unique machine functions.

“The “Innovation in Control Award” was for our Panda Tracking System.  It is an automated tracking system that would locate targets to lock on for shooting Frisbees,” said Ginny Dickerson.

Sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories, the “Industrial Safety Award” celebrates the team that progresses beyond safety fundamentals by using innovative ways to eliminate or protect against hazards.  The winning team consistently demonstrates excellence in industrial safety performance that shines throughout the competition from unbagging to re-pack.

Brandon Robotics Team at world championship    

FIRST Robotics Team 3486 from Brandon, MS, also sponsored by ERDC Vicksburg, competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championship in St. Louis in April.  Team 3486 advanced to the quarter finals and was a finalist for the MOTIVATE Award. 

This judged award celebrates the team that exemplifies the essence of the FIRST Tech Challenge competition through team spirit and enthusiasm and for their effort to make FIRST known throughout their school and community.

Four student members of FRC Team 456 served as field support volunteers at this world championship competition while mentors Chuck Dickerson, MJ Miller and Eddie and Amy Melton worked as official event volunteers.  Working to ensure that each robot met the official FIRST Robotics specifications for competition in one of four 100-team divisions, Chuck served as Lead Robot Inspector, Eddie and MJ as Robot Inspectors, and Amy as an Inspection Manager.

EL ERDC robotics STEM Vicksburg