About 150 eager high-schoolers gathered at UF on Friday, each anticipating their own robotic takeover.

At 10:45 a.m., a live-streamed broadcast watched by 60,000 people across the globe announced the details of the 2017 First Robotics Competition. Building Others Through STEM, a UF student organization created last Fall, hosted a season-kickoff event for the competition, which is steampunk-themed this year. This was the first year an annual kickoff event was at UF, held at the New Physics Building.

Teams now have six weeks to build a robot, said Daniel Fischman, the event co-coordinator.

At competitions, teams complete objectives to win points in a themed obstacle course, like having the robots climb ropes or throw balls. Teams can compete in as many competitions as they can afford.

Sarah Parker, a 19-year-old microbiology sophomore and the UF organization’s marketing director, said the competition’s registration costs $5,000, and successive competitions cost $4,000.

Michael Bresk, the instructor of the Suwannee Bulldogs from Suwannee High School, wanted to start a robotics class at his school after teaching disadvantaged students at a teacher-intern program.

Bresk said he hopes by exposing his students to STEM, they will be inspired to attend a university.

“Whether they study robotics or not, they see that going to college, and what they’re doing right now, it can be fun,” he said.

The Bulldogs opted for a quick-build the day of the kickoff, meaning they would construct the robot on the spot while UF students could help.

Other teams take the whole six weeks to build their robots while still receiving mentorship. The Roaring Riptide, from Gainesville’s P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School, receives guidance from UF students and professors.

“It’s nice knowing that we can go to people who have a lot of knowledge in engineering to help us make our robots the best we can,” Andrea Wright, 16, said.

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