|Author Kaki Flynn (right) with Joseph Bolling, student president of the FIRST Robotics club.|
These students from high schools around Jacksonville have just six weeks to build a fully functioning robot.
Lovelace's house is filled with robot parts as well. The kitchen table has about six kids sitting around the kitchen table, working on the Team Resistance website. The living room has ten kids staring at computer monitors, talking back and forth, trying to build the code that will program the robots actions.
The kids on the back porch - surrounded by previous years versions of the robots - are sifting through all of those boxes of parts. A kid that looks about 12 is welding something, sitting cross-legged on the concrete below me. I see small spurts of orange sparks fly as I chat with the different members of the team flowing back and forth around me.
"Engineering is fundamental to everything that supports the developed world," says Lovelace. "You need systems that provide fresh water, and ways to dispose of human waste. Engineers design those systems."
FIRST (First in Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national non-profit founded by iconic inventor Dean Kamen, the guy who became famous for coming up with the Segway, but who is also responsible for everything from breakthroughs in water purification systems to solar technology.
Kamen says that FIRST is his favorite invention, and formed the non-profit as a way to get kids inspired in math and science.
Robot Soccer, A Past Competition:
Some of these young inventors have gone from tinkering with ways to get a robot to put a ball in a basket to working at NASA-a national sponsor of FIRST-to attending MIT, Yale and other prestigious colleges.
Most find out about the club through word-of-mouth, with the majority of the students from Stanton College Prepatory School and Paxon School for Advanced Studies.
Team Resistance is sent a box of robot parts, but no instructions; so they have to design and test on the fly, right up until the deadline.
A recent day at Lovelace's house found Stanton College Prep seniors Madeline Bellemore and Priscilla Brubeck huddled around a desk in the kitchen drawing diagrams of a claw for the robot using a computer graphics program.
Another handful of students sat around the kitchen table designing the website (teamresistance.com), while another group was on the back porch testing the programming code that controls the robot's movements.
The rest of the students were rummaging through boxes of spare parts, soldering pieces together, or consulting with the engineers and former students that act as mentors.
Despite the high-pressure competition, the is team knows how to have fun, even if it occasionally means rattling the judges, wich is what earned them the name "Team Resistance."
The lead inventor on the team is Stanton senior Joseph Bolling. "One year, we added Pac-Man audio along with some belching sounds to our robot; the referees were so annoyed they made us turn it off."
The judges that heard the "wakka-wakka" sounds, however, were impressed, and Team Resistance was given the Xerox Creativity Award for Innovation.
At the FIRST events, teams participate in Battle-bot like competitions against each other, running the robot through obstacle courses and other challenges for points.