Youngstown, Ohio — May 3, 2013. NAMII, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, awarded on August 2012, and driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), is proud to announce its sponsorship of and attendance at the 2013 FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship in St. Louis, Missouri, held April 24-27.
The FIRST® Championship is the preeminent celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for youths to put their engineering skills to the test. NAMII was a sponsor of the event in conjunction with the Department of Energy – Oak Ridge National Labs’ Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.
This year, more than 10,000 students, comprising of 650 teams from 37 countries, traveled to St. Louis, Mo., to compete in the three levels of FIRST: FIRST® LEGO®League (FLL®, grades 4 to 8, ages 9 to 14 in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico; ages 9 to 16 outside the U.S., Canada, and Mexico); FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®, grades 7 to 12, ages 12 to 18); and FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®, grades 9 to 12, ages 14 to 18). In addition to the high-energy robotics matches, 40 teams of ages 6 to 9 participated in the Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®, grades K-3).
“At NAMII, we are committed to and support STEM initiatives,” said William (Bill) Macy, NAMII Deputy Director of Technology Transition. “Within the additive manufacturing sector, one of NAMII’s overarching goals is to transition additive technologies to the mainstreamU.S.manufacturing sector while creating an adaptive workforce capable of meeting industry need and increasing domestic competitiveness. With the FIRST Championship, we had the opportunity to interface with, educate, and encourage students who are not only interested in the STEM fields of study, but are also passionate about applying those principals to create sophisticated robots that achieve amazing tasks. Many of these teams are using CAD tools to design their parts. As a result, a surprising number of the teams—59 at the Championship—used additive manufacturing technologies to print custom parts that allowed them to optimize their robots’ performance.
“However, while many of the teams used additive manufacturing to produce specialized parts, there were still a large group of students that had not seen the equipment in person and several students shared that their only experience with the systems was from watching YouTube videos,” continued Mr. Macy. “It was very exciting to experience their reactions and hear their thoughts about how they wanted to use the technology. We were even able to print a few replacement parts for two teams that had parts that failed during practice rounds. The teams arrived at our booth with a thumb drive, containing their CAD models, and asked if we could build them replacement parts. It really solidified how well they understand the ways they can leverage the technology. We asked the students if additive technologies were more widely available to them, would they use the technologies. They answered with an overwhelming ‘yes.’”
In support of the event, NAMII put out a call to the additive manufacturing industry two weeks prior for discs to be produced and donated as “take-aways” for the students. Thirteen organizations responded, including some NAMII members and other industry collaborators. NAMII, along with the following organizations were able to print more than 2,300 discs: DEPCO LLC; SolidConcepts; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Ford; Boeing; Cimetrix; 3D Systems/Paramount; Johnson Controls, Inc.; MET-L-FLO; Stratasys; RapidPSI; and Thogus.
Once at FIRST, NAMII held a contest to award the team with the most functional 3D printed parts on their robot with a MakerGear X1 3D printer, which was donated by MakerGear LLC founder Rick Pollack. FIRST Championship judges validated part counts.
FRC Team 3824 – “RoHAWKtics,” won the contest with 91 officially verified functional 3D printed parts. In practicing “Gracious Professionalism,” a guiding principal of the FIRST organization, they decided to donate the MakerGear X1 to the runner-up team, FTC Team 3590 – “Ingenium” with 55 official 3D printed parts.
As the event came to a close, Mr. Macy cautioned the students that while NAMII’s award this year was for the team with the most 3D printed parts, next year’s efforts would be judged against different set of criterion. He shared that efforts would be evaluated based on how teams applied additive technologies, including the utilization of 3D printing design rules, mentorship, and innovative designs that consolidated parts into functional components.
Additionally, Mr. Macy asked the winning team to help next year’s FIRST competitors by having them document the design rules and methods that they identified from their work with 3D printing. Mr. Macy explained that in doing so, it will also help shape the future of the industry by enabling manufacturers to define the specifications, requirements, and fundamental decision processes for effective use of 3D printing.
“It was a truly inspiring and important event for NAMII to attend and support,” added Mr. Macy. “We gained a great deal of insight into how the next generations of potential engineers view additive manufacturing, or ‘3DP’ as they like to call it. We look forward to attending the 2014 FIRST Championship and becoming more involved with the organization.”