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Just Another Tech Blog

Anything and everything having to do with technology, computers, science, and most of all... Linux! The documentation of my Linux endeavor.

FIRST, Robotics, and an Amazing Person!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The last 6 weeks of my life have primarily been consumed by robotics team. Yes, a nerdy sounding activity to say the least, but it has probably been the best 6 weeks of my life, and I think many others feel the same way. But first, let me get into what this robotics club is, what FIRST is, and of who Dean Kamen is.
What is FIRST?

FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." It is a not-for-profit organization founded by Dean Kamen. As Mr. Kamen says, FIRST's vision is "To create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes." Making up FIRST are four competition "realms." These are the FIRST Robotics Competition (high school), FIRST Vex Competition (high school), FIRST Lego League (9-14), and the Junior FIRST Lego League (6-9). Founded in 1989, FIRST has grown from just couple teams in one region with one event, to many thousands of teams from 45 countries around the world! There is so much more to FIRST than just engineering though, it is also about teamwork, and uniting a group of people in a common interest. Building the robot is but half the fun, the true fun lies in working with others, helping others, and learning leadership and responsibility. Even if a team doesn't manage to ship a fully functional robot, they have still learned irreplaceable values and skills that they can then carry with them throughout their life.And I think that is what FIRST is all about.

Dean Kamen
So Who is Dean Kamen?

Dean Kamen is simply an extraordinary person. Founder of FIRST, and the leader of DEKA (his research and development company), Dean Kamen is changing lives around the world, quite literally. People may know him as the inventor of the Segway. This super cool "human transport" device is already making great strides forward in the realms of police force transportation, and quick, reliable transport for the everyday person. However, this invention seems to be almost insignificant in comparison to the other remarkable work he has done for the medical field. Mr. Kamen's most profoundly important device is probably his small, portable HomeChoice™ dialysis machine. This astounding, practical device allows patients with chronic renal failure to have more freedom than ever imagined, letting them go just about anywhere. In addition to this, he has developed/ invented the first insulin pump, the IBOT, Hydroflex Irrigation Pump, and has led work in the production of better stents, fully functional robotic arms for those having lost an arm, and treatment systems for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). Already, an amazing list of achievements, but just the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Kamen is now working on bringing electricity and water to every remote area in the world that doesn't have any. His new inventions are a breakthrough to say the least. His device for purifying water can take literally any water, however polluted, and make it virtually sterilized. His device for creating electricity also works in a similar fashion. Through the use of technology including Sterling engines, he can take literally any "$#!T", as he puts it, and make it into electricity. Yes, this IS for real!
Just recently, I had the great privilege of attending two speeches Mr. Kamen made for the FIRST Robotics community in the South Carolina area. He is a true inspiration. Talking about being an entrepreneur, he made it apparent that conventional thinking just isn't good enough. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to think out of the box, and even further! He said that if you go to someone with an idea, and they claim it is possible, then it is probably not going change the world. Chances are, someone had already thought of it, and tried it. Nearly every one of Mr. Kamen's inventions was initially thought of as impossible, and look where he is now. The difference he is making in the world is real, and beyond belief. Gaining more and more momentum, he is trying to help ever more people, and to say "it's working!" would be an understatement!
Dean Kamen says he is NOT a bashful person, and this is one of his major strengths, as he illustrated in his talks. He told us about particular incident when he was meeting a group of governors from various states, rallying support for his FIRST Robotics league. He asked for use of their universities to hold the competitions. When he wasn't acknowledged he threatened them with a class action law suit, accusing them of fraud, and that if they want to settle it out of court, they should rename their university to something with sports, because that seemed like the place where all their money was going. That got him support.

Dean Kamen is a man to admire greatly. Step by step, he is changing the world, and even on the level of a single person (ie; me) he is making a profound difference. I just want to say Thank You Mr. Kamen, you really are a hero to many.

Robotics, Team 1293

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I myself am a member of a local robotics team. Team 1293 to be exact, D5 Robotics (District 5 Robotics). Since the build season started about seven weeks ago, the members of this team have dedicated countless hours of hard work, to produce a robot to accomplish a certain set of goals (see this NASA stream to learn more). The six weeks of build season were really the best I have ever experienced. Robotics has made me think in ways I never had before, and has made me stretch my realm of comprehension to embrace ever more ideas. We had our setbacks, but in the end, we managed to ship a fully working robot (we shipped on the 20th, last Tuesday). This is quite an accomplishment. I mean, in six weeks, we had to think up a complete design for the robot, build it from pretty much scratch, AND program it. This years challenge was "Rack 'n' Roll!" We had to create robot to lift inflatable tubes on to a dynamically moving rack. Not an easy task, but I believe our robot, Atlas we called him, accomplishes it quite nicely. Although the students did most of the work, we could not have gotten ANYWHERE without the immense help our mentors gave us. Educating us in every subject imaginable, we learned not only how to work power tools, but also how to act as a team, to get things done. I'd like to give all the team 1293 mentors a huge thanks. Giving up countless hours to help us was not something they had to do, but they wanted to make a difference, and, I think I speak for the whole team, when I say we are eternally grateful.

Now, go out, and promote FIRST! Also, be sure to check out the D5 Robotics website, which contains news and information about our team (be sure to view the media gallery too!).
posted by linnerd40, Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Hey I would like to know how you and your team got started with FIRST. I would like to start a FIRST team at my high school aswell. Do you think you can send me some info as to the steps you guys took to get started in FIRST?

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:09 AM  

Sorry I forgot to give my email address, it is darkgamer20 at gmail.com

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:10 AM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 2:58 AM  

Very interesting blog!

Check out Renegade's BS

commented by Blogger Renegade, 1:22 PM  


This is a message of support for this amazing blog. I know very little about the anatomy of a robot, but I think this could be the way forward in today’s world of terrorism. Intelligent robots with sensors are employed to check out explosive devices. Perhaps you could post some information on this technology.


commented by Blogger CoralPoetry, 5:55 PM  

This is a very interesting blog and it caught my eye right away when I first saw it. The FIRST organization is truly a great invention and I would really like to know more about it and maybe get to experience it someday. You explained what FIRST is very well and I must say that this entry gave me much more inspiration on robotics and technology. I have had a great interest in robots and how they work and now I know where I would really like to go on my holidays. I have really enjoyed reading your blog and out of all your great entries I find this the best because it really is an inspiration to everyone who loves technology. I really do hope that I could get to know more about this spectacular organization and thank you for letting me know about a really great place to look forward on going to.

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