Razorback Regional FIRST Robotics Competition set for April 4-6 at Barnhill Arena

Students compete in a FIRST Robotics Northstar Regional in Minnesota

Photo: Nic McPhee, CC 2.0

What if we told you there was a robotics competition happening Thursday – Saturday, April 4-6 on the University of Arkansas campus?

We ask, because that’s exactly what’s happening.

It’s called the Razorback Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, and it begins at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday at Barnhill Arena.

The event features 38 teams of high school students from Arkansas and surrounding states competing to see whose custom-built robot is best at performing pre-prescribed tasks designed to challenge students across disciplines from computer programming to mechanical and electrical engineering, all while incorporating math and science.

This year’s task is called “Ultimate Ascent,” where robots are designed to scoop up and toss flying discs to score points. For an added challenge, two pyramid structures will be placed on the court that the robots can scale to score additional points.

Event schedule

Thursday, April 4
8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Robot Testing and Inspection
1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Practice Rounds

Friday, April 5
9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. – Qualification Matches

Saturday, April 6
9 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – Qualification Matches
1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Final Rounds

“The climbing element may be the toughest I’ve seen,” said Chase Rainwater, an assistant professor of industrial engineering and co-chair of the event. “It’s a free-for-all at the end of the game, with 40-plus Frisbees in the air – the spectators will enjoy it,” he said.

This is the first time an event of this kind has been held in the state.

“We have the critical mass to make this happen now in Arkansas,” said Bryan Hill, event co-chair. “Last year, we had three teams in the state; this year, thanks to the competition here at the University of Arkansas, and the hundreds of hours put in by the Arkansas FIRST organization to bring new participants to the program, there are 17.”

The teams will compete for awards that recognize design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship and teamwork. Six teams will earn spots at the World Championship in St. Louis to be held April 24-27.

Organizers are hoping that the event will be beneficial not only the student competitors, but the University of Arkansas College of Engineering as well.

“We’re bringing potential engineers here to see our campus,” Hill said. “They are the best and brightest math and science students in the region, and this experience has prepared them well for engineering programs.”