Gathering Steam: 2017 FIRST Robotics Challenge

How many gears and wiffle balls does it take to lift an airship?

I've been involved as a FIRST Robotics mentor for the last 7 years. FIRST Robotics is a series of robotics challenges for grade school, middle school and high school students. At the high school level, the competition is a true engineering challenge. Students have 45 days to build a 120-pound robot that competes and cooperates in a yearly game. The best robots move on to district and international competition. The robotics challenges for younger grades are different but also worthy challenges.

Each year the game is different. The 2017 FIRST Robotics video describes this year's game, SteamWorks. This year the game pieces are gears and wiffle balls. In years past, the game pieces have included foam balls, frisbees, inflatable pool rings, basketballs, and even tote crates.

FIRST Robotics 2017 Team 2412's robot for this year. "Falca" is her name. You can see the yellow gear gamepiece on the left.

The program is exceptional. It's amazingly rewarding watching freshmen who are scared to hold a screwdriver go on to become team leaders with strong engineering skills by the time they are juniors.

The best part is that this is not just limited to STEM students (science, technology, engineering and math).
There is always room for students of all skills, including fundraising, organizing, budget management and plenty more.

Just last week, the 45-day build season ended and we are looking forward to the competitions held in March. I can't tell you how amazing these competitions are. The students have been preparing for months and years for these and they all dress up, play loud music, sing songs and generally do chaotic things that make me feel old but proud.

If you have younger kids - especially if they are interested in STEM - take them to the competitions and encourage them to participate. You can find your local competitions at the FIRST site.

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