With the increase in educational focus on technology, it was only a matter of time before extracurricular activities began to follow the lead. Our FIRST Looks series focuses on one of the long-running programs, but FIRST is not the only game in town. We have seen a rise in interest for the VEX robotics program over the past few years. We have also seen new ideas come about that are gaining some serious traction.
One of those newer ideas is the Electrathon. This organization produces an electric car race program, which encourages participants to build a certain size vehicle to compete against other teams. The difference between this race and others is it is not about speed, but instead about the number of laps completed within the time limit. While this might sound like semantics, it is not; in the former, you complete a certain number of laps in a little time as possible, while in the latter you complete as many laps as possible within a given time.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to completing fewer laps, with the primary challenge, of course, being battery performance. The age of the battery can contribute to the amount of power it can produce, as can the type of battery, with Lithium Ion providing more power per pound than the more traditional Lead Acid.
Outside factors, though, cause the biggest challenge. The weight of the vehicle, including the weight of the driver, can create different requirements on the mechanics. A heavier vehicle will require more power to move the same distance, and will likely do it in a longer timeframe. The distance between the wheels can also change the performance because it will change the way the driver interacts with the vehicle. These are just some of the considerations that must go into the design of the car.
Unlike many programs of this type, including FIRST, Electrathon has teams from high schools, colleges, and the general public all competing together on a single track. No preference is given to a particular group, so all compete equally. Anyone can join a team, and if you are in Florida, a great resource is the Electrathon of Tampa Bay website.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLuGHiTz Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the DDR community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bar Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and judging engineering notebooks at competitions. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors.
Daniele is a student at Florida Polytechnic University who is studying Computer Science with a concentration in Cyber Security. In High School, she was introduced to the science and technology world through the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a robotics foundation where students of varying ages can compete through tasks that their robots perform. With help from mentors she met through FIRST, she became interested in programming and developing. Today, Daniele is a special events host for F5 Live: Refreshing Technology and PLuGHiTz Live Special Events and a co-host for both The New Product Launchpad and FIRST Looks.