I am with thousands of spectators watching robots storm a castle. We see Chewbacca rallying the crowd. Hundreds of high school students cheer for their teams; lab coats and safety goggles abound. Where am I? Have I landed in another dimension?
No, I am at a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition. This year more than 3,000 teams, comprised of 78,000+ students from around the world, will compete for glory in FIRST STRONGHOLD℠.
Each year in January, FIRST assigns a new challenge for a robot to complete. Teams have six weeks to build and program a working robot that can accomplish the assigned task. They then enter their robots in District and Regional competitions to try to earn a place in the World Championship which will be held in St. Louis this year. In the six weeks they have to build a robot, the kids on the team work very hard. They become skilled CAD users, apply their math skills, and learn the mechanics of building a robot.
Here is one of my favorite videos that captures the essence of the six-week “build season”:
Due to the unique way FIRST tournaments are designed, teams from all over the world must come together to help each other out because the team you compete against in one match, could be part of your alliance in the next.
I especially loved the end of the last match of the tournament. The members of the alliance drive teams were all waiting silently with their arms around each other, watching for the final score. The camaraderie that FIRST fosters, in addition to high-tech learning, is apparent.
Here’s a video from the Robotics Competition in Minneapolis:
Why should you care about all of this? Well, if you have read any current news articles you have probably seen that the U.S. is facing a shortage of students and workers who are proficient in math and science.
“The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”
FIRST Robotics Competition truly encourages youth to pursue an education and career in STEM fields. By supporting FIRST you help inspire the next generation of engineers in our industry!
If you want to see this in action, attend a competition. You will find a list of competitions here. All events are free, so stop by to see what is going on!
How can you get involved? Teams need sponsors and mentors. Visit this link and view the options available under the “Ways to Help” tab.
Automationtechies proudly sponsors Talon Robotics (Team 2502), our local FIRST Robotics Competition team from Eden Prairie, MN.