FIRST Robotics Team Sponsored By AutomationDirect Hits The Ground Running

The Forsyth Alliance is a team of Atlanta area high school students, sponsored by AutomationDirect, participating in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization’s 15th Annual Robotics competition. They spent the fall months of 2005 building the previous year’s game robot to gain the experience needed to hit the ground running in January, when this year’s competition was officially launched. Skills the students learned in those twelve weeks included microprocessor programming, principles of servos, hydraulics and pneumatics, welding, CAD and 3-D modeling programs, and more.

At local Kickoff meetings in January, all teams were shown this year’s game field for the first time and received a common parts kit and manual of game rules and regulations. Registered teams have 42 days to take the 300-lb. pile of parts and design, build, test and ship a 130-lb. man-sized robot to a FIRST regional competition in their area starting in March 2006. Over 1,100 teams of high school students from the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Israel, Mexico and the U.K. are expected to participate in this year’s competition.

The game this year is named “Aim High”, and is set up similar to a basketball court. On each end is a wall with three goals. The objective is simple – to shoot, push or roll balls through any of the goals for pro-rated points. The game consists of three periods in which two alliances of three robot teams each compete against each other. In the first period, one team alliance is on offense, the other is on defense. In the second period, the roles reverse. During the final period of the game, both goals are turned back on and both alliances can score. During the last 40-second period, teams need to get all three robots in their alliance up on a platform in front of each station wall to obtain bonus points. Teams winning their regional competitions will move on to the World Championship event being held in April at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

For more information about FIRST and the competition, visit


Discussion Forums A Good Way To Get Answers (Or At Least Opinions!)

In the Internet-enabled world, users of automation products have a wealth of technical information available to them. Suppliers’ sites typically offer data sheets, manuals, and selection guides for their own products, while industry sites tend to focus on technology and applications. Sometimes there are questions that just can’t be answered by the published documents, and for that, many designers turn to their peers in the discussion forums that have sprung up on suppliers’ and user sites. One of the earliest forums was the Automation List, and there are now literally hundreds of sites where topics from PLCs to PCs allow users to pose questions or problems and get ideas or solutions from others across the globe. A few of the more well-known sites are: – Online community of control and automation engineers with forum topics such as Applications, Automation Business, HMI and Open Control. Encompasses the Automation List. Go to extensive link page for other informational sites. – Site that features new products and job listings for automation professionals, also has a technical discussion list – Subsite of, encompasses a wide range of engineering and industry topics, including patents and engineering failures

Of course, suppliers such as AutomationDirect ( and NationalInstruments ( maintain forums that focus on applications and questions regarding their own products.


AutomationDirect Recognized By Readers Choice Awards For Fifth Year

For the fifth consecutive year, the Readers Choice Awards, an unaided survey performed by Control Design magazine, has recognized AutomationDirect’s products and service as being tops in the industry. AutomationDirect received the highest scores of any supplier for technical support in the categories of Operator Interface, PLCs, PLC software, Power Supplies, I/O and Motor Starters.


Alameda County Electrical Jatc Builds Drives Lab With AutomationDirect Products 

The Alameda County Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee provides training for hundreds of electrical apprentices and thousands of journeyman wiremen through intensive courses and lab experiences at their facility in San Leandro, California. Courses offered include instruction in the National Electrical Code, OSHA, PLCs and motor controls. To develop an advanced technology lab in the motor control/drives area, Coordinator Mel Switzer utilized Programmable Logic Controllers and AC drives from AutomationDirect. The resulting lab (pictured) gives students taking the Advanced Motor Controls class the opportunity to program variable frequency drives and learn advanced motor control techniques. For more information on the Alameda County JATC, visit