Talented students who have made their way to the FIRST Robotics Nationals are being cheered on by a crowd that's just as excited as those competing. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
With back-to-back matches underway, there's plenty going on at the FIRST Robotics Competition in St. Louis. The official kickoff Friday morning included an exhibition match between FIRST founder Dean Kamen and Black Eyed Peas front man, Will.i.am., who spent three days building a robot with a couple of kids.
"I was like, 'You wrote this code?' He was like, 'Yeah let me show you.' I was like, 'Wow, 15, 16 year old writing code, building robots," Will.i.am. said.
The performer said he's also aware of what he calls a gap that exists in America. Science, he says, isn't considered cool, and yet what comes out of science is.
"Everybody waits in line to get the new iPod, or iPhone or iPad. That takes science to be able to do that. And code," Will.i.am. said. "Mark Zuckerberg is cool. He wrote the code. I'm just on Facebook."
Of course the kids taking part in the competition don't need convincing. Those in attendance are the cream of the crop. And like any other high school all-star event, the competition draws recruiters, with both colleges and industry giants setting up stations around the pit.
"For science and technology this is the olympics. This is as good as it gets," said Boeing Representative Valori Bring.
The exhibits not only give students a chance to get some hands on experience, it also gives the companies an opportunity to assess the future workforce. And while industry leaders obviously need that workforce to have both knowledge and ability, it turns out the quality they're most looking for is passion.
"We're a technical business. We need young people who have skills in math and science and engineering," said Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt.
"They're our future. They're going to build the next great planes, robots, or anything they want to build," said United States Air Force Lieutenant Eduardo Nieto.
Time Warner Cable is a significant sponsor of the FIRST program and encourages students to pursue math and sciences through its own Connect a Million Minds program.
For more information, visit www.connectamillionminds.com.