Team Universal Robots was the absolute rookie team participating in intense, qualifying rounds in Nevada. The new UR sponsored team, consisting of 12 handpicked high school students from all over Denmark, met tough opposition, formed alliances with other teams, and ultimately placed better than more experienced participants. The team is now creating a groundswell of interest in robotics among Danish youth.
The global FIRST Robotics Competition has more than 70,000 participants from the USA and Asia. Europe, however, is conspicuous by its absence with fewer than 100 contestants. Despite Denmark’s flourishing robot industry, the country had not had a robot talent team in FIRST before Team Universal Robots entered the arena in Las Vegas earlier this month.
The initiative was launched by RobotLab founder Lars Ringe in collaboration with the Danish Academy of Talented Youth with an investment of USD 75,000 from Universal Robots. The new team had only four months to build a robot to solve a long list of tasks, such as scaling obstacles, picking up and shooting balls. At the qualifying round in Las Vegas, the 12 Danish high schoolers were up against teams with decade long experience in FIRST, many with 50- 100 members on each team, with quite a few contestants already in college. Despite the odds stacked against them, Team Universal Robots ranked 12 out of 50 teams after the first rounds and ended up placing 40<sup>th</sup> overall. The result did not qualify the Danes to proceed to the finals in St. Louis later this month, but according to Lars Ringe, something much more important has been created:
“The amount of attention this team has created in Denmark - we saw a significant amount of media coverage, including appearances on national broadcast TV - has invigorated the interest in robotics among young people. This is just the first step. We’re now in a much better position to prepare our team, all members want to compete again next year. We’re also doubling the team now, recruiting 12 more participants. And let’s not forget; we were still able to beat nine very experienced teams,” concludes Lars Ringe, who is now busy expanding and improving the workshop in Copenhagen where Team Universal Robots soon will be joined by the new recruits.