Every entrant in the FIRST Lego League Robotics Competition
labors under the strict tyranny of the clock. The robots
, which are allowed just three motors, have exactly 2.5 minutes to complete whatever challenge the judges present. It makes sense, then, that sisters Taytlyn (14) and Tesca (11) Fitzgerald of Tigard, Oregon, wanted to give themselves a competitiveadvantage.
So the sisters, who grew up building increasingly complex structures with Legos, decided to develop a software program that would could react quickly to commands, and take up a minimum of space on the robot
mini-computer. They also wanted a high degree of control over steering and the like. So they built what they called a "generic" robotic software program that could execute programs rapidly, do quick downloads, and leverage the three motors the FIRST Lego League allowed them.
Their new program delivered. They won second place in the FIRST Lego League's programming section here in Atlanta a few weeks ago, and have spent this week entertaining passersby at their booth at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair
by having their Lego robots scoot around a platform. One robot placed a "solar panel" made out of Legos onto a house. Another scooped up "corn."
It's pure fun for them "“ the sisters taught themselves programming, and even read about it in their spare time (when a booklet about the FIRST competition came out, "every single day, she'd read about it, she'd read about it"¦" Taytlyn jokes about her little sister). They're members of an all-female robotics group called "The Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies
" (the member who named it is "dangerous if you give her caffeine," Taytlyn says by way of explanation) and "have always been interested in getting girls involved in robotics," Tesca says.
But they can occasionally be normal kids with Legos, too. "Sometimes we just like to build houses for fun," says Taytlyn.