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High school robots battle it out in Florida

Team 71 from Hammond, Indiana scored the highest points with their "bot" balancing two balls  

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Working together

Encourages young minds


ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- The brains behind the mysterious "Ginger" contraption has been more than an inventor during his prolific technological career. Dean Kamen also founded a national robotics competition for high school students, the finals of which took place this weekend.



The event was like the Super Bowl of robotic competitions. Some 14,000 students from 350 high school teams competed to become national champions in a contest called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

At the Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida, these kids ignored the rides and attractions to work on robots.

Working together

The game changes every year, developed in secrecy by Kamen.

"We're good at keeping some things secret. We're not so good at keeping other things secret. But we have never, never had a leak on one of our games," Kamen said.

Bots developed during the competition


Kamen is a hero at the competition, showing kids what engineers face in real life. They have six weeks to build their bots, with strict budget, size and weight restrictions.

"Every little bolt that was not needed we took out," said one competitor. And no two bots are alike. Some have arms. Some are low riders. Some become ramps for other bots.

Adding to the confusion, the students have to cooperate to compete. Two minutes before each round each team learns it's going to be working with three other teams. And they have to work together to score points, doing everything from putting balls on goals to balancing on a teeter totter bridge.

Encourages young minds

The games have done much to encourage interest in technological careers.

"I had planned on being an architect and then I got involved and just seeing the design process and the brainstorming and problem solving skills it turned me onto engineering," said Kevin Kolodziej, a student from Hammond, Indiana, and a member of team Beatty Hammond.

"I thought I had to wait until college to learn this kind of stuff. They taught me so much. I never thought I could do any of this," said Enrico Fermi team member Katie Atiyeh of Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

After the final round, team Beatty Hammond from Hammond, Indiana, is the high scorer. But in a sense all the competitors are winners.

"One of these kids as a result of how they are being steered will win a Nobel Prize. One of these kids is going to cure some disease or invent some new technology to make the world better," Kamen said.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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