Outstanding Defensive Player: Boston Univeristy Robot Heads to Nationals at Disney

in College of Engineering, News Releases, Science & Technology
March 30th, 2000

Contact: Joan Schwartz, | joans@bu.edu

(Boston, Mass.) — At only 2’5-1/2″ tall “Blue Light Special” doesn’t cut an imposing figure on the playing field, but the diminutive robot, built by a team of high school and college students, pushed its way to the top of the MidAtlantic Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in Rutgers, New Jersey to win the “Outstanding Defense Award.” Wearing the colors of team sponsor NSTAR and led by Boston University College of Engineering sophomore Elizabeth Tyree, team members successfully exploited the strength and tenacity of their little robot to prevent the top-ranked robot from scoring, exposing its weaknesses and effectively eliminating it from the final round.

The 35-member team includes engineering students from Boston University and Wentworth Institute of Technology, high school students from John D. O’Bryant High School and Boston Latin Academy, and engineers from Foster Miller, IRobot, and Raytheon. With help from a generous $27,000 grant from NSTAR, the parent company of Boston Edison, the BU-led team designed and built their robot from scratch, using an assortment of parts specified by competition officials. At Rutgers they competed against 30 other student teams in a game that demanded not only engineering expertise, but also strategic thinking. “It was like being in a highly contested game of basketball, only much more intense,” said Tyree. “The energy level in the pit was unbelievable.”

Now, polishing up their robot and their strategies, the team is preparing for the national FIRST competition in Orlando, Florida, April 6-8. With 380 teams competing in a temporary facility that will cover half of Epcot’s enormous parking lot, this is the largest event ever held at Disney World. “Last year’s tent was big enough to hold three 747s nose to tail, and this year’s will be even bigger!” says Tyree.
Photo Credit: Douglas Powell

Photo caption:1. Phung Vo (O’Bryant), 2. Thanh Ha (O’Bryant), 3. Guenson Lotin (O’Bryant), 4. Danh Ha (Boston Latin Academy), 5. Philip Der (O’Bryant), 6. Sohini Shah (BU), 7. Sean Stone (Wentworth Institute of Technology), 8. Elizabeth Tyree (BU), 9. Gideon Colt (Engineer, Foster Miller), 10. Ravi Panchu (O’Bryant), 11. Christian Weagle (Wentworth Institute of Technology), 12. Branden Gunn (Wentworth Institute of Technology), 13. Banu Prihartono (O’Bryant student), 14. Sotthea Hem (O’Bryant student), 15. Robin Cleveland (BU Professor/Advisor), 16. Colleen Shaver (BU), 17. Joan Williams (O’Bryant Teacher/Advisor), 18. Erin Boyle (Boston College), 19. Joe Theriault (Wentworth Institute of Technology), 20. Christelle Celestin (O’Bryant), 21. Gabe Ladd (BU), 22. Dennis Goodrum (Engineer, IRobot), 23. Nicole Pesch (Boston University Acdemy), 24. Susie Wong (O’Bryant), 25. Jerry Nicola (O’Bryant), 26. Shiv Balgobin (O’Bryant), 27. Alex Savain (O’Bryant), 28. Blue Light Special (robot), 29. Nick Harrison (BU)”We’ve solved some of the technical problems we encountered at the regionals, and we’re all really looking forward to the challenge of the national competition.”

Jonathan Carey, manager of community relations programs and planning for NSTAR, said, “This competition is a wonderful opportunity for us to support a program that will truly change the lives of many Boston area students. The teaming of high school and college students with industry engineers creates a stimulating environment for everyone and is consistent with many other business and education partnerships that NSTAR supports.”

FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to generating an interest in science and engineering among students. To this end it began holding robot competitions in 1992, teaming up engineers from businesses and universities with high school students.

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