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Students' Basketball-Playing Robots Face Off at Rebound Rumble


Worried that you won't be able to get your fill of youth basketball once the NCAA tournament wraps up next week?

Allow me to introduce you to the Rebound Rumble, the 2012 edition of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Ever since January, teams of high school students and volunteer engineers have gathered together to design robots created entirely to shoot basketballs into hoops.

Yes, that's right. Basketball-playing robots.

Without getting too far into the detail of the rules, two teams (so-called "Alliances") of three robots each work to score as many baskets as possible in a 2-minute, 15-second time period. On each side of the court, there are four baskets at varying heights; the higher the bucket, the more points a team earns for each made basket.

The robots can operate on preprogrammed commands for the first 15 seconds of the contest, at which point drivers take control of the robot for the remaining two minutes. At the very end of the match, drivers work to balance the robots on three platforms in the middle of the court for extra points.

If this description conjures images of the old Comedy Central show "Battlebots" in your mind, you're not the only one.

Words don't really do the competition justice, so below, I've embedded a tutorial video from US FIRST explaining the rules a bit more. To see some of the Rebound Rumble in action, click the "basketball-playing robots" link above. If you're interested in checking out the Rebound Rumble nearest your hometown, here's the schedule of remaining events.

The Rebound Rumble championship will be held at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on the weekend of April 26-28. (Just in time for the NBA playoffs!)

Photo: Students control their robots from behind the boards at the 11th annual Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in Cleveland on March 23. Drawing competitors from high schools across the United States and Canada, the engineering competition has a different objective every year, with this year's being to build a 120-pound robot that plays basketball. (Amy Sancetta/AP)

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