FIRST Robotics Competition
has been described as a "varsity sport for the mind" but according to David Kane, a long time organizer, fundraiser, judge/advisor and promoter of the event, the magic of FIRST is its goal of "drawing out the kids that aren't thinking about college because they never realized how much fun engineering and science can be."
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by Dean Kamen and now sanctions and organizes robotic competitions around the country.
In West Michigan, the high school teams are getting ready for the regional event,
March 18 and 19 at the GVSU Fieldhouse in Allendale. The winner of this competition moves on to the state competition with hopes of advancing to the national finals.
Kane explains that each team, compromising of 25 or more students, has six weeks to build the robots after "it's announced in a link from NASA." After the six week period, the robots are boxed up and shipped to a site and teams are not allowed to work on the hardware until a day before the event.
At the competition, the robots are put through a series of prescribed activities, challenging the engineering, science, creativity and teamwork skills of each team.
Afterwards, each team is judged in a variety of categories and awards are given out. Kane says the event is very spectator-friendly with the finals beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
"The matches are exciting and it is also interesting to see the robots up close," Kane says. "I recommend that visitors walk through pits to see the teams working together with the mentors on their robots."
For information on the FIRST movement in Michigan, including dates and times of the regional events, you can visit their site here.
Source: David Kane, FIRST
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs Editor