Robotics World Championship 2014: Epic Battle Retrospective

Students battled it out at the epic Robotics World Championship 2014. Our Tim Downs provides a retrospective of the debut — and a tally of final results. Photo gallery inside. — St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome came alive this weekend as the best of the best in high school robotics pitted their mechanized athletes against one other at Robotics World Championship 2o14. Students from 38 countries participated in this year’s alliance-based melee, a game called “Aerial Assist.”

The three-day event is the season finale for 65,500 students who have been building, programming, training and competing since January 2014. Of the 27,200 teams who entered regional events, 400 qualified for the finals. These remaining contestants battled for the coveted championship trophy — and to qualify for over $19 million in college scholarships.

FIRST Robotics World Championship

Photo courtesy: FIRST®

The Game

The game “Aerial Assist” consists of two alliances of three teams (four teams in the final championship matches). The teams work together — passing, catching and shooting a giant ball to each other and through their goals. The competition is fierce. Robots scramble defensively, blocking and juking each other, not unlike a soccer world cup match, as the opposing team launches high-powered shots across the stadium.

This year top honors went to the four-team winning alliance, collectively from: San Jose, CA, Bloomfield Hills, MI, Dallas, Texas, and Holland, MI. Thunderous applause poured from 20,000 spectators who filled the Edward Jones Dome as the team took home the championship.

FIRST Robotics World Championship

Photo courtesy: Adriana M. Groisman

Founded in 1989, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was the brainchild of Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Personal Transporter. It has captured the hearts and imaginations of high school future engineers and scientists since the first championship in 1992.

Says junior Olivia Downs, from the San Diego High School “Robosaurus” team:

I joined our robotics team last year because of my earlier experience with the FLL (FIRST Lego League) in elementary school and because I was excited to be a part of a team that was just starting.”

The Robosaurs from San Diego High School won the “Highest Ranked Rookie” award at the Southern California regionals in last year’s competition. This year they won their regional event and were propelled to the world championship tournament where they placed 42nd in their division. Downs continues:

I learned a lot that I hope will benefit me later in life. I learned the importance of communication and planning in group-work and stressful situations, how to deal with adversity and how to be an effective part of a group. I learned how to lead, how to follow and how to get out of the way.”

A fellow Robosaur adds, “I joined the team because I was looking for a club for science and technology, and FRC seemed like the most fun.”

FIRST Robotics World Championship

Photo courtesy: Adriana M. Groisman

The FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) is the premiere-level championship in the FIRST family, but it is not the only competition. There are also competitions for younger budding scientists — Jr.FLL (Junior FIRST Lego League) for children 6-9 years old, FLL (FIRST Lego League) for elementary and middle school students and FTT (FIRST Tech Challenge) for middle and high school students.

You can learn more about all of these programs at FIRST.

For, I’m Tim Downs.

Based in San Diego, Tim Downs is a technologist, reviewer, commentator, and senior art designer at He’s also the NYT best-selling author and illustrator of the New York Times best-selling How Computers Work and other award-winning and NYT best-selling books.  He is a lifelong curiosity monger, a geek, an explainer, a top tier and award-winning graphics artist and, to put it mildly, a pop culture genius. Email him at