FIRST Robotics Competition Ascends to Great Heights

March 12, 2013 Written by Lynsey Wilson

Robotics challenged based on ULTIMATE ASCENT competition

FIRST ® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), along with an executive advisory board representing Bechtel, ORNL, Y-12, Kendall Electric, TVA, Eastman Chemical, SAIC, ALCOA, The University of Tennessee, ETEC, Tech 2020, Energy Systems Group, and the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce are hosting the third annual Smoky Mountains Regional Challenge on March 29 and 30, 2013 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

The FIRST Robotics Smoky Mountain Regional is similar to the Super Bowl in its showmanship with its many referees, booming audio and streaming video, dedicated fans, energetic game announcers, and tearful award ceremonies. But the ultimate goal of the competition is to teach K-12 students the importance of teamwork and collaboration and the value science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to their education.

“This event is a unique, effective, and powerful way to get high school students to directly embrace the critical education goals we must focus on if we want to maintain the competitive, economic, and innovative edge that is a foundation of American ingenuity and manufacturing.” says Mike Wehrenberg, chairman of the executive advisory board, “This competition marries the thrill and excitement of a ‘world-class’ sporting event in order to motivate growth of STEM goals in our schools. You truly have to see it to believe it.”

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) joins mentors (teams, sponsors, colleges, and technical professionals) with high school students to develop a solution to the given engineering challenge in a competitive game environment. FRC competitions combine the practical application of science and technology with the fun, intense energy and excitement of a sporting event. This year, nearly 60,000 students will compete worldwide, representing approximately 2,600 teams. Teams come from every state, as well as from Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

The Smoky Mountain Regional will host over 50 teams from east, middle, and west Tennessee; Alabama; Georgia; Indiana; Kentucky; Mississippi; North and South Carolina; and West Virginia. Each team will compete for a chance to be among the 400 teams that will qualify to go to the FIRST Championship at the end of April at The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO.

During FRC’s January 5th kickoff, each team was given a kit of parts. In the weeks leading up to the event, teams and their mentors were tasked with developing a robot to compete in this year’s competition, “Ultimate Ascent.” The game involves two strategies that, based on the team’s design and construction, may be used separately or combined to score additional points during the game’s two-minute matches. The first strategy involves robots throwing discs into goals on the opposite side of the playing field where the higher the goal is on the playing field, the more points the alliance will receive. The second strategy involves the robot ascending a pyramid with ladder-type rungs in order to place a disc into the goal at the top.

The Smoky Mountains Regional is free and open to the public. If you’d like to volunteer for the event or know more about FIRST or the Smoky Mountain Regional, visit or You can also contact L J Robinson, FIRST Regional Director, ( – 865 388 5708) or Mike Wehrenberg, Chair FIRST Executive Advisory Board, ( – 865 389 9914).

FIRST is an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 to develop ways to inspire students to develop an interest in engineering, science, and technology. The organization is the foundation for several different competitions, including the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST LEGO League, Junior FIRST LEGO League, and FIRST Tech Challenge.