ISA and Automation Federation commemorate kickoff of 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition

Associations encourage their members to participate in and contribute to FIRST programs.

On Saturday, 9 January, FIRST, a not-for-profit public charity designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, officially announced the rules and game-playing details for its 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

This year’s FRC, titled FIRST STRONGHOLD (watch video of game rules), is expected to involve nearly 80,000 high school students on more than 3,100 participating teams throughout the world. Working with adult mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge.

Saturday’s kickoff event, held in Manchester, N.H., was broadcast live to the participating teams at more than 114 venues around the globe. (Click here for a replay of the Kickoff broadcast.) Teams received a Kickoff Kit comprised of donated items and components worth tens of thousands of dollars—but only limited instructions.

Once these young inventors develop their robots, their teams will participate in one or more of the regional and district events that measure the robots’ effectiveness and students’ determination and collaborative capabilities. Qualifying FRC teams will compete for top honors at the 2016 FIRST Championship, which will take place 27-30 April in St. Louis, Mo.

As strategic alliance partners of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), ISA and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation, actively support FIRST’s multi-faceted educational programs that help young people discover and develop a passion for STEM learning and career pathways.

The FRC enables students to:

● Learn from professional engineers
● Master STEM skills
● Utilize sophisticated software, hardware, and power tools
● Improve teamwork, and interpersonal and communication skills
● Qualify for more than $22 million in college scholarships

The FRC’s positive impact on its student participants is impressive and well documented. More than 88% of student participants demonstrate greater interest in education; more than 90% display more interest in taking a challenging math or science course; and more than 90% are more interested in attending college.

“Fostering interest and enthusiasm among young people is critical to developing the next wave of automation engineers and technicians needed to meet the challenges of the future,” said Michael Marlowe, managing director and director of government relations at the Automation Federation. “Events like the FIRST Robotics Competition drive home just how exciting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and automation-related learning can be for young people. ISA and the Automation Federation have immense potential to tap into this excitement, and attract many more young people to our profession.”

Marlowe encourages all ISA and AF members to take a closer look at how they can get more involved in FIRST programs and activities. Last year, more than 200,000 volunteers (including mentors, coaches and judges) worldwide contributed approximately 16 million hours—covering a wide range of roles across FIRST programs. The FIRST volunteer website outlines the various ways automation professionals can become involved, most commonly as a mentor or coach or as an event-day volunteer.

“By participating in FIRST and other discovery programs targeted to young people,” Marlowe said, “we can reconnect to the enthusiasm that ignited our own drive to learn and pursue an automation career and, at the same time, inspire others to follow their own path toward success in the profession.”

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