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FIRST Robotics Meets the President December 1, 2009

Posted by emiliekopp in robot events.
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On November 23, President Obama announced the Educate to Innovate campaign, to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The campaign will include efforts not only from the Federal Government but also from leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies to work with young people across America to excel in science and math.

“As president, I believe robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering,” says Mr. Obama.

Here here!

Robotics is challenging, at times frustrating, for many reasons. As Dr. Ben Black had put it: “A roboticist has to have at minimum a working knowledge of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science / engineering and controls engineering.”

So it’s hard, to say the least. But it’s also really cool. And any young kid interested in robotics is going to get a taste of several different engineering disciplines. What better way to bring the U.S. to the top of the world-wide list in science and math education, than with robotics?

I’m obviously not the only one on this bandwagon. National Instruments invests a lot in STEM education. And so has Dean Kamen’s foundation, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). FIRST has been a driving force in changing the perception of science and technology in highschool students, using robotics design competitions as a lure. NI has partnered with FIRST to provide the FIRST Robotics Compeition (FRC) control system, which includes a high-performance, industrial-grade real-time controller (NI donated CompactRIOs for the FRC Kit of Parts).

With the mission and success of FRC, it is no surprise that Mr. Obama introduced the Cougar Cannon, an FRC robot from Oakton Highschool. Students provided a demonstration of their robot in action, the flickering sounds of camera flashes almost deafening. Even The MythBusters crew was there, as onlookers to the Lunacy competition robot. Booya!

“I also want to keep an eye on those robots in case they try anything, ” said Obama.

Don’t worry, Mr. President. As stated in my updated version of Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics, “With Will Smith alive, no robotic apocalypse is possible.”

Here’s the full White House presentation, worth watching:

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1. Dr. Angelito - December 3, 2009

Sorry to say, it would have been much more inspirational if this Robotic Technology had been demonstrated instead.

No disrespect, but we must make sure the robotics effort is taken seriously, hope we will continue to raise the bar and especially for high profile opportunities like this, we must present the best image possible as stewards of the solution to all problems, i.e. the Wageless Economy Robotic http://RoboEco.com/best_foot_forward

Best regards,


2. emiliekopp - December 3, 2009

No disrespect taken, sysop. I’m all for showing of the coolest, most cutting-edge robotics applications, so thanks for sharing. This robotic hand is an exceptional example of sophisticated control and robot design. Sensor fusion at its best.

I must say, however, that I think President Obama was hoping to show off technologies that were within reach of students K-12. The robotic hand from Ishikawa Komuro Labs was obviously a project that required extensive expertise and development time from robot experts; the entire design team consists of graduate students and several professors.

The FRC robot, on the other hand, was designed by high-school students, in a 4-week build period.

So while I agree the robotic hand is a much more eye-catching and sophisticated demonstration, I think the intention was to show off what high-school student are capable of when they are inspired with robot competitions like FIRST.

Please don’t hesitate to share some of the other cool robot demos you’ve come across. You can always show them off here.

Michael White - December 6, 2009

Hi Sysop

As a mentor of a FIRST robotics team the Presidents “Educate to Innovate” is to promote STEM education to the youth of the country an area where the USA is most lacking. So while a FIRST robotics kit is not exactly cutting edge it most certainly has raised the interest level in science and it applications at our high school.

I watched your demo and it was very impressive but you missed the underlying point the “Educate to Innovate” is not about robots but again to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics among young people. The very ones who may in the future be working on advanced variants of the technology you are working with today.

I will be sharing your video with my students as it will surely peak their interest.

Dr. Angelito - December 7, 2009

Hi Michael,

No reason to defend your noble efforts, they are exemplary.

Only point, and wish we could have edited our original post to make this clearer, was to at least have both on display, i.e. the high end and the educational too.

The best available should always be the starting point, the foundation to build the next level upon, over and over again until WE-R, i.e. Wageless Economy Robotic.


There is no reason that students should not start with and work with the best available robotics: then the best will just get better that much faster, and they are smart enough to start with the best, that much is obvious.

Bravo on your efforts sir.

NI is simply the best software readily available for Robotics.

NI’s G-Language is pure genius.



3. person - December 22, 2009

shut up Obama!!!!!!!!

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