Fostering the Future of STEM Through Mentorship — and Robots

Who knew robots could be so inspirational? Believe it or not, robots are the reason I became an engineer in the first place.

When I was in high school, I involved myself early on with the robotics team after someone on the team allowed me to drive the robot around. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “a robotics team, how do they compete?”

“The excitement of sport, the rigors of science”

That’s where FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) comes in. Founded in 1989, FIRST aims to encourage young people’s interest and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through exciting, mentor-based, research and robotics programs. Their program for high school students, the FIRST® Robotics Competition, enables teams to compete on a specialized playing field with robots they have designed, built and programmed themselves.

Each team is associated with a school or conglomerate of schools and receives a kit of materials that they utilize to construct a sizable robot that competes to perform challenging tasks against a field of competitors. Every season culminates with district and regional events where qualifying teams compete for awards and a spot at the championship.

This year’s competition had planned on (but COVID-19) two competing alliances of three teams picking up and shooting dodgeballs into goals in the wall, as well as pulling themselves up onto a metal bar and balancing with another team. Hosted at DU’s Magness Arena, about 55 teams were scheduled to compete at the Colorado Regional. It really turns it into a sporting event with stands full of cheering people. It’s a lot of fun and really energetic — and I’m looking forward to the next one, post coronavirus.

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