A little late on the FIRST 101 this week as even professors can get ill and stay home sick!
This weeks lesson is about one of the kookiest yet lovable ideas FIRST has ever come up with. The Placebo was a very simple concept. FIRST supplies a robot to fill in during matches where there was an open space in the scheduling! Now, of course FIRST wouldn’t just throw some random box on wheels to fill the shoes of some teams engineering marvel…noooo way. Instead FIRST would utilize the typical engineers sense of humor and put a remarkably engineered (yet slightly humorous) robot out to dazle the crowd! Unfortunately I dont know anything about Placebo’s previous to the year 1995, but lets go back and take a look at the history of Placebo’s…
The Simple Placebo
The Simple Placebo was featured in 1995 (Possibly earlier). It was quite simply a cylinder on wheels. Colored black with big bright yellow letters spelling “PLACEBO” all around it, it would tool around the field doing victory spins and avoiding contact at all cost! As the name says…simple…yet quite funny.
Probably one of the more beautifully engineered Placebos ever created was the Hovercraft. Cylndrical like its predicessor, this placebo would tool around the field propelled by small fans. Were they the muffin fans that were supplied in the kit? I dont think so…someone should have checked the rule book on them! Anyhow, it was probably the placebo that had the most downtime, as there were moments where it would pretty much die in a corner. However, when it did work, it was a sight to behold! One of my more interesting memories would be when I was sitting next to the field as a human player in a match.
Did you know in 1996 the human player was actually seated next to the field, strapped down by a seatbelt?
I looked on in astonishment at the beautiful piece fo machinery tooling around the field in a match we were involved in. Next thing you know, its comming right at me! I leaned in to get a good look to see if I could tell what was underneath it…next thing you know, the Placebo turns right in front of me and BAM! One big blast of air right to the face. A thing of beauty.
Thats right folks…before there was the Roomba…there was the Placebo. It was quite a sight during Torroid Terror when we walked into the stadium to look down at the playing field and we saw a vacuum cleaner roaming around on its own! For that whole competition we were plagued with the question “Does the Placebo actually suck?” Later in the competition Dr. Woodie Flowers himself confirmed to my teamates and myself that the Placebo did not acutally suck. In fact, its sucking components had to be removed so that it could drive on its own. However, I am quite convinced that the creator of the Roomba was a FIRST participant in 1997. Once again…FIRST molding the future.
The Passive Placebo
I really dont have much to say about this one. Basically in 1998, FIRST decided to ditch the normal Placebo’s in place of a box on casters that robots could push around for defensive use in rounds they were in. Actually…they never even left the starting box and were quite bland.
Showbot was never really a true placebo, but it goes down as one because I do believe it was used in matches during the National Competition in 1997. Showbot was created by Disney Ride and Show engineers and would roam around talking and shooting confetti into the crowd during and between matches. It was quite an interesting robot but had a short life span due to the extinction of the Placebo in general (along with the extinction of Nationals from Disneyworld).