Partnership for Engineering Education and Entrepreneurship, or PIE3 for short, is a 501(c)(3) Not For Profit dedicated to inspiring K-12 kid’s interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics though robotics programs in Carroll County and surrounding areas. We sponsor FIRST Robotics Teams (www.firstinpires.org) in 4 levels covering the entire K-12 spectrum. Our dream is that every child in Carroll County who wants to be on a robotics team can be.
Grades K-3 can begin with FIRST Lego League Jr. (FLL Jr.) building working models using the popular LEGO WeDo system, and presenting their work to adults at a FLL Jr. Expo. As in all FIRST programs there are no plans for the robot, and, the base kit is not sufficient to complete the robot. FLL Jr. teams worldwide learn their new challenge in September of each year and present their work in FLL Jr. expos in the Fall / Winter. Top teams may present at the World Expos in April. In Grades 4-8 kids move up to FIRST LEGO League. Teams build robots based on the LEGO EV3 “Brick” which is programmed with an intuitive graphical language. Robots compete on a 4′ x 8′ field with the object of completing as many tasks as possible by moving, lifting, touching, or otherwise manipulating LEGO models into scoring position or configuration. All robot actions are autonomous, once one of the two drivers presses the robot’s button the robot is on its own until the drivers are forced to retrieve it (with penalty points) or the robot returns to its home zone. Teams compete on side by side fields with just one robot on a field, generally with a LEGO model in the center of the two tables which one or both teams might score with. The games are themed to important societal issues and teams must also present a project, which solves a problem related to that year’s theme.
The next level of competition is FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). Grade 7-12 kids build robots made of aluminum whose starting configuration is 1.5 feet on a side, but may expand in various directions depending on that year’s game. Teams all across the world learn the new challenge in September and have several months to design and build their robot prior to competition season in fall / winter. The Championship event occurs in April. The robot’s on-board computer is a cell phone programmed in the popular Java language. Teams play in 2 robot versus 2 robot alliances.
The ultimate level of competition is FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). Grades 9-12 students build large robots made of aluminum which can weigh up to 120 pounds and are typically 2-3 feet on each side. The on-board computer is an industrial control computer made by National Instruments which can be programmed in C++, Java, or Labview. Components include powerful electric motors, servos, pneumatic devices using 60 pounds per square inch working pressure (storage pressure is 120 PSI), video cameras, and various electronic sensors. Teams worldwide learn the new challenge the first Saturday in January and then have just over 6 weeks to build their competition robot before putting it in a bag, not to be opened until their first competition. The competitive season goes from late February to early April with the championships in the last week of April.