Back then I started a basic robotics class for middle schoolers, and here I am in 2011 gearing up for another campaign. Here in abridged form is the stirring introductory speech I give each year:
"Welcome to Robotics. I would now like a show of hands. How many of you took this class to learn about electronics, and design, and material science?"
(A few hands dutifully go up. Slowly)
"Right. OK, who took this class because you think its cool to build machines that pound other machines into smoking rubble?"
(All hands go up with enthusiasm)
"Here is the basic plan. You will each build a robot. It will weigh either one pound or three pounds. You must make weight. If you show up at the tournament with an enormous 58 pound tank I will not say you can't compete. I will however say that you can't compete in Earth's gravitational field" (1)
"Other than that the rules are simple. No flame throwers. No hand grenades. (2) And no live animals." (3)
"The end of class tournament will be in January. Robots will go head to head. Some people object to a competition where there are Winners and Losers. This will not be that kind of event."
"Instead there will be Winners and Debris".
(2) By this I mean you are not to design robots intended to explode and/or burst into flames. Sometimes this happens by accident. That is Right, Meet, and Salutary.
(3) Live Plants are OK. Dead animals in whole or part would be legal. A taxidermy chipmunk would get you some serious favoritism from the judges.
Periodic updates from now to late January