At the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan, about 30 teenagers from schools in the Tokyo, Saitama, and Chiba prefectures gather every winter and early spring to learn robotics and build a robot—and not your everyday robot. The students are members of SAKURA Tempesta, a robotics team that’s competed in the worldwide FIRST Robotics Competition since 2017.
Most of the SAKURA Tempesta team members go to schools with no special engineering or computer science programs, so their time on a robot-building team opens doors to the worlds of technology and learning robotics in Japan. During the months they spend designing and building according to each year’s theme, the students learn about much more than programming and hardware design. They also learn the value of “coopertition,” or cooperative competition, as well as “gracious professionalism,” a term that FIRST coined.
The SAKURA Tempesta team is featured among three other global teams in More than Robots, a new Disney+ original documentary. The film focuses on the 2020 FIRST competition, which was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will premiere at South by Southwest and is available to stream on Disney+ March 18th.
Learning Robotics & Competition in Japan
Japanese Autodesk employees have been eagerly following SAKURA Tempesta’s progress and the launch of the new documentary—as well as gathering feedback from the 2022 team about their experiences. Noi Tatsuzaki, a student leader of SAKURA Tempesta, emphasizes the value of learning skills that will benefit communities far beyond the FIRST competition.
“I started building robots when I was in third grade and I built the serving robot when I was in seventh grade,” Noi says. “This serving robot was the first large robot for me and it won the competition. Since then, I’ve wanted to contribute to society and help people through robots. In the future, I would like to become a lead engineer who can contribute to society.”
Autodesk is a strong supporter of global teams like SAKURA Tempesta, ensuring that students and educators have access to Fusion 360 3D CAD/CAM software for CAD design training—and helping them learn robotics to bring their visions to life. With the 2021–22 theme of transportation and sustainability in mind, FIRST robotics competition entrants began designing their robot in January using Fusion 360. The robot buildout took place in February, in preparation for the FIRST competition events that began in March in Hawaii.
“Since the rules of FIRST change every year, the real thrill is actually designing and building a robot and coming up with a strategy to win,” says another SAKURA Tempesta student. “There are many tactics to make the robot perform its movements—it’s interesting to constantly think about which method is best and work with limited time and resources to create a robot that can win as a team.”
Bringing Diversity to Robotics
More and more of the FIRST teams include girls, which is true for SAKURA Tempesta. There’s even a group called FIRST Ladies made up of current and past members of robotics teams who support bringing more girls and young women, as well as younger students, into STEAM.
“We encourage many people, especially young women and high schoolers, to learn or to be interested in engineering by offering information about us working with FIRST,” says Kanon Nakajima, a student at Macalester College in the United States who founded the SAKURA Tempesta team five years ago while still in high school.
Many students at schools around the world and in global robotics competitions rely on Fusion 360 for their projects. If you’d like your students to learn about robotics and get inspired by design with CAD education, learn more about Fusion 360 for your class.
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