Young Minds Converge At Robotics Challenge
Over 45,000 teens across the country and the world are taking part in a robotics competition aimed at promoting achievements in science and technology. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
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High school students, mentors and teachers got their first excited glimpse of the playing field Saturday for the 2010 First Robotics Competition.
Hundreds attended the kickoff event at Southern New Hampshire University and thousands more tuned in for the NASA simulcast, after which some 1,800 teams across the country and around the world received their kits, which FIRST founder Dean Kamen describes as 130 pounds of really cool stuff.
"What they really get in that box is the recipe for imagination and they look at that stuff and from that they bake some exciting new invention," Kamen said.
And by invention, he means a robot -- one that will eventually compete against other robots in a pseudo soccer game.
"It's gonna be very challenging over the next few days working with our team through the design process and getting a robot designed but I'm very excited," said AusTIN CANs mentor Richard McClellan.
FIRST's first goal was getting young kids excited about science and, so far, it seems to be working.
"There were four of us that graduated together, all of us are in engineering degrees. My sister was on the team and she's studying math in college. We've had at least 70 percent of our kids go into science, tech or math after graduating high school," said Hudson High School mentor Selena Craver.
While the robots often get all the attention, FIRST is also about building better humans. Throughout the competition, team members learn lessons and skills that will come in handy outside the playing area.
"You learn quickly a lot about personal compromise, diplomacy, negotiation. All those things. In fact, first is probably a better way to ensure a better marriage," said FIRST National Advisor Woody Flowers.
For now, it's a marriage of the minds. Teams have six weeks to think outside the box as they design and assemble their robot. Part NASCAR, part World Cup, 44 regional competitions lead to the main event this April where FIRST organizers hope to fill the 72,000-seat Georgia Dome with screaming fans.
On the line for the students -- bragging rights and $12 million in scholarship money, and who knows, maybe someday a chance to change the world.
"I'd really like to get involved in designing robotic prosthetics to help disabled people," Craver said.
NY1 and parent company Time Warner Cable are partners in supporting teen achievements in science and technology.