Mar 15

Young minds, machines battle at Gwinnett Center

By: Frank Reddy

Published: March 15, 2013

DULUTH -- A phrase to describe this weekend's robotics competition at the Gwinnett Center?

How about "Super Bowl of the brain" or a "science fair on steroids." That's how teachers and mentors at the event explained it during Thursday's practice rounds in preparation for the big competitions Friday and Saturday.

The GeorgiaFIRSTRobotics Peachtree Regional 2013 features 60 teams from all over the Southeast vying for the top spot in a competition that rewards the fine-tuned minds of young students.

From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, local teams will compete. They include robotics groups from Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology, Norcross High School, Lanier High School, Peachtree Ridge High School and Collins Hill High School

Each team spent the past six weeks designing a robot to play a game called Ultimate Ascent, which features the remote-controlled contraptions shooting Frisbees at a goal.

Teams are randomly paired in three-team alliances for match play that starts on Friday morning and continues through Saturday. The highest ranked teams will pick their alliance partners for the finals, which will take place on Saturday afternoon.

Hanson Hoang, a 15-year-old Norcross student, said those looking to attend this weekend's event will have a blast.

"If you enjoy engineering, it's perfect for you," said Hoang Thursday afternoon during practice rounds. "If you're not into engineering, just come on out anyway. I mean, we've got robots shooting Frisbees."

Prerak Joshi, a 17-year-old North Gwinnett High School student, said he enjoys the competition, because it gives him a sense "of what being an engineer is like. You have to work together as a team, you have a deadline and that's a lot of fun to me."

Becky Tate, who has volunteered at the event for the past six years, said it's "getting to be around all the smart kids" that keeps bringing her back.

"The first time my husband and I came here, we sat up there in the stands, and it just rocked us," Tate said. "It was so exciting, I had to come back year after year to help out."

Added Tate: "If you've never been, you've got to come out and look at all the neat things these kids can do."

According to its website, GeorgiaFIRST is the regional arm of FIRST (For Recognition and Inspiration of Science and Technology) "that promotes endeavors in Georgia. GeorgiaFIRST engages kids in the creative, hands-on, minds-on process of technological innovation. Our goal is to get kids excited about science and technology, have them attend one of our prestigious institutes of higher learning and upon graduation stay in Georgia for their careers."

For more information about GeorgiaFIRST, visit What: GeorgiaFIRSTRobotics Peachtree Regional 2013

Robotics competition featuring 60 teams from seven states in the Southeast competing for a spot at the world championships in St. Louis.

-- When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday

-- Where: Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth

Admission is free