Greg McCorkle
Members of High Tekerz Robotics- FIRST Team 3574, took part in a major robotics competition last summer. Next July they and others will compete in a first ever robotics meet as part of White Center's July Jubilee Days celebration.

July Jubilee Days will feature a robotics competition next summer

The board of White Center's July Jubilee Days announced a partnership on Dec. 12 between the festival and the High Tekerz Robotics- FIRST Team 3574- to create a robotics competition as part of the 2013 community celebration.

The High Tekerz, from the Burien/Highline area, are a member of FIRST “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. FIRST was created by Segway inventor Dean Kaman in 1998, with the goal of promoting science and engineering in young Americans. The concept has grown into an international phenomenon with teams on every continent.

The mission of FIRST- “is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”

The competition, proposed by the High Tekerz team, is to create a robot that can climb a 20 foot tether. While this might sound trivial it’s founded in real science. Scientists have been doing research on a system to replace rockets as a means of reaching earth orbit. One such idea is a “Space Elevator”.

The web site “How Stuff Works” explained it this way:

"When the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off on April 12, 1981, from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to begin the first space shuttle mission, the dream of a reusable spacecraft was realized. Since then, NASA has launched more than 100 missions, but the price tag of space missions has changed little. Whether it is the space shuttle or the non-reusable Russian spacecraft, the cost of a launch is approximately $10,000 per pound ($22,000 per kg).

A new space transportation system being developed could make travel to Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) a daily event and transform the global economy.

A space elevator made of a carbon nanotubes composite ribbon anchored to an offshore sea platform would stretch to a small counterweight approximately 62,000 miles (100,000 km) into space. Mechanical lifters attached to the ribbon would then climb the ribbon, carrying cargo and humans into space, at a price of only about $100 to $400 per pound ($220 to $880 per kg)."

The competition outlined by the High Tekerz will require a robot to climb a 20 foot tether as many times as possible in a five minute period. Team members believe they may garner interest from as many as 30 teams from the Puget Sound region.

The long term goal is to develop this event into a national competition in the next five years.

The board discussed the possibility- if the event grows- of moving the competition from its proposed street location to the Ball field at Steve Cox Park where there is seating for approximately 800 people.

If the event is successful, the stadium seating at Steve Cox Park may not be enough.

Last spring the FIRST Regional Competition was held at the Century Link Events Center. FIRST teams from across the western United States, Canada, and even a team from Turkey competed for the right to go to St. Louis and make it to the world finals. Local teams included the High Tekerz and teams from Airline HS in Des Moines, Evergreen HS in Burien, and a team from Ballard HS. Ballard upset last year’s winner from Airline HS to win the competition.

For three days the event center was packed to the doors with participants (90 teams) and crowds viewing the competition. An estimated ten thousand people attended the event.

For parents out there with high school children interested in science, you can contact your schools to start a FIRST program. If you have elementary age children there is a program for them, First Lego League. Mentored by their high school age counterparts, Lego League promotes the same precepts that the older FIRST members aspire to.
For more about FIRST and how to get involved go to - www.usfirst.org.

Greg McCorkle is a board member for White Center Jubilee Days.

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