The 2012 National Championships for members
of the National Robotics League were held this weekend
in Indianapolis. The league focuses on students,
from middle school through college, and helps them form ties with
industry groups who not only assist the students with materials to field
competitive teams, but make them aware of career paths available to them.
However, I was still surprised to see the young man above, 14 years old,
driving his high school's 'bot in the competition. Mayhem was involved.
The arena was strewn with the limbs, parts and shards of metallic
flesh from the little machines, but each driver was focused on the battle,
coolly steering and "strategizing" for some advantage over
The bouts, fast and vicious, are held in an enclosed arena made
of metal and plexiglass. They need to be, as sparks flew from the metallic
hides of the combatants, 'bots were thrown into the roof of the cage, tumbling
and shedding parts as they hit the arena's walls. They whirred, they growled,
they sawed, cut at and prodded each other. Mercilessly.
Between bouts, the teams worked on their 'bots, diagnosing
and repairing damage and shortcomings, all under the supervision
of an adult coach, usually one their teachers from school.
I was really glad to see several girls among the team members,
one of whom was proud to be the person assigned to bring
her team's 'bot to the arena for its bout, smiling happily
for her teacher who was taking pictures in the bleachers.
See the shiny bits reflecting off the carapace of the 'bot on the left?
Those are scars, scratches, and gouges received in battle,
often from rivals like the 'bot on the right, which has just been
upended and, unable to right itself, "shiny scars" won the day.
There is a referee assigned to the ring who retrieves the 'bots.
He handles them with caution in the form of a long stick,
which he uses to scoot the little machines
to their owners, who know its features and weapons.
He then sweeps up stray 'bot parts and cleans
the arena of metal shards.
Each 'bot weighs no more than 15 pounds, but
is loaded with electronic gear and weapons that whir
at high speeds, spin at velocities so high you can hear
the spin, as well as the screeching of metal
as the 'bots come into contact with each other.
Trophies are awarded!
And the NRL's website is cool, witty and well-designed.