This year's FIRST robotics competition is in some ways a game within a game.

In the premise of this year's competition, dubbed "Power Up," the robots built by high school teams are video-game characters trapped with their human operators in an arcade game.

In each match, the alliances -- composed of three FIRST teams -- work together to defeat the boss in order to escape.

Robots are designed to complete a series of tasks, including collecting and placing "power cubes" (aka milk crates) on a scale, delivering cubes to their humans to earn power-ups, and climbing the scale.

The Grandview Heights High School FIRST team -- the acronym means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology -- unveiled its robot during an open house Feb. 17 at its work space in the kindergarten annex at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School.

Students designed, built and programmed the robot in the six-and-a-half-week window allowed by FIRST rules.


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The team will compete Feb. 28 through March 3 in the Miami Valley Regional at Wright State University, looking to qualify for the FIRST Championship, set April 25-28 in Detroit.

"It's the first time we'll be competing in a 'first-week' regional, which means it's being held the first week after the team finishes working on the robot," high school FIRST adviser Sue Godez said. "Having that quick of a turnaround will be a real challenge. It's a lot of extra pressure."

But this year's team "has a special flavor to it," she said. "It's a veteran team, but the younger students are able to contribute as well. There's a real team spirit this year."

The components of this year's robot "are all mounted together, so it's allowed us to work together as a team," senior Taylor Wilson said.

"It forces us to interact together," senior Hannah Meyer said. "We're not all working separately on our own thing."

Senior Jing George said she is a big fan of this year's FIRST game, which offers a variety of ways for alliances to earn points.

"It has just the right amount of tasks to be interesting and challenging," she said.

The challenge is to learn from past year's competitions, but not rely too much on what worked in previous games, George said.

"You have to be open to adapt to what each year's game is asking your robot to do," she said. "There's always a different feel to each season. It's always a new game."

Everyone on the team, from freshmen to seniors, has contributed to the robot's design and construction, Wilson said.

"Just because you're a four-year FIRST member doesn't mean that you have all of the ideas," she said. "A lot of our best ideas come from new team members."

Grandview is proud that its robots are truly student-designed and student-built, Godez said.

"The students spend so much time and effort working on FIRST," she said. "They're here every day after school or at night and on the weekends, and that's on top of their studies and all of their other activities.

"I don't know if people understand how much time they put into it," Godez said.