BLACKSBURG, Va. – Robots took over Blacksburg High School during the weekend, but it was a friendly invasion.
High school teams from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia faced off in the FIRST Robotics Competition qualifying event. The teams built robots in six weeks, then put them to the test in Blacksburg by having them pick up objects in an arena.
"A lot of times people think it's going to be more like a science fair, but it's not," said FIRST Chesapeake executive director Leighann Boland. "It is a full-blown competition."
The competition also featured a team from Blacksburg High itself.
"It especially motivates us to not only say, 'They're going to be in our house, let's really show them what we can do,' but it also motivates us to say, 'What can we do to help them?'" said Hope Bass, a senior at Blacksburg High School and a member of its robotics team.
The event can also be a bridge between high school students and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related degrees and careers. Bass says her three years with the robotics team inspired her to attend Virginia Tech after high school and study mechanical engineering.
"I want to do all of this in my career and in my future," Bass said. "It's taught me that I'm able to do this now, so what can I do in 10 years?"
Teams that performed well in Blacksburg will compete at the regional FIRST championship at George Mason University from April 10-13. Winners from that event will go on to the national FIRST championship in Detroit from April 24-27.