“We're catering to the younger teams and students who are looking for ideas and inspiration, so we really have to think outside the box and find the simplest solutions.”
As a returning Robot in Three Days strategist, Kirsten Smith (’26, Mechanical Engineering) understands the value of thinking outside the box.
“Strategy is absolutely everything,” she explained. “Of course, we want to build a working robot that can be competitive, but we have to keep in mind who our audience is. We're catering to the younger teams and students who are looking for ideas and inspiration, so we really have to think outside the box and find the simplest solutions.”
Smith, from Brighton, participated in FIRST’s annual Robot in Three Days (Ri3D) Challenge, which requires competitors to build a robot for the 2024 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Game, CRESCENDO. The Ri3D Challenge took place Jan. 6-9 in the Robotics Community Center at Kettering University.
In CRESCENDO, teams compete to score notes and amplify their speakers, aiming to harmonize their robots onstage and take the spotlight within a time limit. In the first 15 seconds of the match, robots operate autonomously. Drivers control the robots during the remaining two minutes and 15 seconds. Teams earn bonus points when they meet scoring thresholds and cooperate with opponents.
“If strategy is everything, creativity is even more,” Smith said. “We have to be resourceful, not only with our time, but with the spare parts and materials available. We don't want to intrude on the teams' stocks, so we have to use parts and chunks of old robots that are years old.”
As teams work within a three-day time frame, tools like Computer-Aided Design (CAD) modeling software are a crucial part of the build. This year, Kettering shared the Bulldogs’ progress by making the team’s virtual CAD platform, named OnShape, available to the public.
For students unable to make the trip to Kettering's Robotics Community Center, watching teams design and build robots online is inspiring.
“FIRST students from all around the world go to the First Updates Now (FUN) YouTube channel or OnShape to see the many designs created by Ri3D teams like Kettering University,” said Kim Shumaker, the Kettering Director of Robotics Outreach & Robotics Center. “These designs are often a starting point for the high school teams and can save design time, especially for rookie teams.”
As Kettering continues to support young robotics teams, platforms like YouTube continue to be a crucial connection point for new students.
“The FUN YouTube channel is a go-to for robotics students. The attention they dedicate to robotics is phenomenal,” Shumaker said. “They’re an important partner for Kettering University as we reach out to these talented young students involved with robotics.”
This year, Kettering University will host two FIRST Robotics District events Feb. 29-March 2 and March 7-9.