Full Steam Ahead

Robots built by 48 high school teams competed in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition, which was themed after the Steampunk stylings of authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

School teams mostly from Utah but from as far away as California and Alberta, Canada, converged at the Maverik Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Dr., on March 10 and 11 for the annual Utah Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. The event was co-sponsored by the University of Utah’s College of Engineering.

Titled “FIRST Steamworks,” the competition had a retro-tech feel in which students built robots that must lob “fuel cells” (in the form of balls) into a mock steam boiler to build enough fuel to operate a simulated steam-powered airship. Meanwhile, robots also transported giant gears to the airship to engage the ship’s propellers. Teams score points for each action. Finally, teams then must hoist the robots to their hovering airship to complete the round.

The Steampunk aesthetic combines science fiction or science fantasy with the design of industrial steam-powered machinery from the 1800s. In addition to books and graphic novels, Steampunk has been the backdrop for movies such as “Hugo” and “Wild Wild West.”

This year’s regional FIRST contest is the culmination of six weeks in which student teams design and order the parts for the robots, then build, program and test the bots.

Click below for a gallery of photos from this year’s competition.

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