What's fiercer than a lion and as sturdy as a robot? The riddle is not so hard as if may seem – it's a robo-lion, of course.


Liberty High School's robotics team, the Robo-Lions, is competing on July 31 and Aug 1 in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Indiana Robotics Invitational (IRI). This 10th annual event will bring together about 80 robotics teams from around the nation to demonstrate their mechanical prowess. In the team's three-year history, this is the first time they have been invited to this event. The teams compete for a handful of awards and scholarships.

The Indiana Robotics Invitational

But will the Robo-Lions become kings of the mechanical jungle?

"This prestigious competition, unlike official FIRST events, is extremely difficult to enter, as teams are hand-picked by the hosts, and only the best teams in the nation are selected," the Robo-Lions Web site states.

Even with the potential rewards, Rose Young, a mentor for the team, said the biggest reward was the invitation. "It's more of the pride of being asked to go," she said. "It's all about the experience."

The experience, she explained, comes from communicating with the other teams involved and learning from them. According to Young, the other teams are usually very open about sharing information and helping each other out.

The Robo-Lions are part of First (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization founded by Deam Kamen. The organization challenges youth to solve a common problem by constructing a robot in a six-week timeframe with a common set of parts.

The game set to be played at the invitational is called "Lunacy." In it the robots play on a 54-foot by 27-foot low friction field. Adding to the mayhem, the robots must be equipped with slippery wheels. Each mechanical player also totes a trailer behind them. The object of the game is to score the most points by having the robot pick up and offload "Orbit Balls" into the opposing team's robot's trailer. For the first 15 seconds of play the mechanical constructs function autonomously, without human control. For the remaining two minutes they are remote operated.

Winning is good, but it isn't everything

The team saw previous success in the Washington, D.C. regional, where they finished as semifinalists, and the Chesapeake regional, where they achieved second place. Perhaps they can keep this steak going and score big in Indiana. Though the competitions are not always about who can score the highest.

"FIRST redefines winning for these students because they are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and the ability to overcome obstacles," the FIRST Web site explains. "Scoring the most points is a secondary goal. Winning means building partnerships that last."

Going along with this, Young said winning, while it would be welcomed, wasn't necessary. "If we place well, great. If we don't place well – well, we went up against some of the best and that's not going to be bad either."

She explained that some of the teams involved had backing from big companies such as General Motors (GM), while the Robo-Lions did not. While other teams have access to professional engineers, she said, the Lions build their own robots.

The Robo-Lions are still looking for support for their team. Young said their first event next year will cost about $6,000, so more donations and increased sponsorship were always welcome. For more information about the Robo-Lions, contact Rose Young at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Robo-Lions Web site:

FIRST Web site:

"Lunacy," the game played at the invitational:

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