A few months ago I met the coolest high school students. They were all members of robotics teams that compete in the FIRST competition.
FIRST was founded by Dean Kamen (the guy who created the Segway PT… that’s a post for another day). In conjunction with NASA, FIRST creates challenges for high school teams to build robots to compete against one another (No, it’s not like Battle Bots, although that show was awesome and Biohazard was the most badass robot).
The goal is to teach practical scientific skills and professional integrity.
There are over 1,500 teams around the world, and they are made up of more than 37,000 students.
Each team needs to buy a basic kit which provides some universal parts that every team has to use. Beyond that, they are free to design the robot how they please. Here’s the catch, the kit costs roughly $6,000. That’s a lot for a high school academic team (I know because I was on the Mock Trial team and we were lucky when we had enough money for an easel). As a result, these teams look for sponsorship from businesses.
The teams that I met blew me away. For one thing, I can’t build a robot and the fact that they can makes them awesome in my book. The other part of this that shocked me was how extensive and well organized some of the teams are.
I spent a lot of time talking with one of the larger teams. I wish I remembered who they were. They didn’t just have designers, engineers, pilots, and programmers. They had a public relations team. Not only did they have a PR team… they designed their robot so that it looked aesthetically appealing.
Why you ask?
So that they can sell their team’s image more easily and raise more money! How cool is that?
As I spoke with some of these students I became insanely jealous that I never had the opportunity to participate in this competition back in school.
Anyway, this year’s FIRST challenge was made public two days ago:
FIRST competitors, I wish you luck in the coming challenge. You have my admiration and respect.