FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, launched its nineteenth FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) season today with the Kickoff of a new robotics game called “BREAKAWAY”. “FIRST is about giving kids the opportunity to build skill sets like analytical thinking to then develop what they may or may not use to build a robot; but they might use these skills to become a scientist, engineer, or inventor,” said Dean Kamen, FIRST Founder, as he explained how what students learn from FIRST is very different from other sports. “Ten years from today, one of these students is going to be out in the world having done something extraordinary for a major, global problem.” FIRST sees informed thinking, creative analysis, and Gracious Professionalism™ as the keys to changing society.
In the FRC “BREAKAWAY” robotics game, two alliances of three teams will compete on a 27-by-54-foot field with bumps, attempting to earn points by collecting soccer balls in goals. Additional bonus points will be earned for each robot suspended in air and not touching the field at the end of the match.
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Sponsored by NASA, Needham, Mass.-based PTC, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the FRC Kickoff event is an opportunity for teams competing in the season to see the new game challenge and rules first-hand. Teams across the nation and in Canada and Israel watched the proceedings via NASA-TV broadcast or Web cast from 57 local Kickoff sites, many of which also offered workshops and a chance to meet other teams.
Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST national advisor and Pappalardo professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, advised students on how to succeed in the 21st century noting, “This thing we’re launching today is not about building a robot, it’s about changing society. Remember Gracious Professionalism™, remember informed thinking, and remember critical analysis – all three, all the time. If you do that, you will soon have real comparative advantage.”
The “BREAKAWAY” Kickoff included presentations by FIRST founder Dean Kamen; PTC president and chief operating officer James E. Heppelmann; NASA program executive Dave Lavery; FIRST chairman John Abele; FIRST national advisor Dr. Woodie Flowers; and FIRST president Paul R. Gudonis. The program also featured remarks by Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire; Gov. Linda Lingle of Hawaii; and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. The program also recognized this year’s Safety Animation Award winner, the Burning Magnetos (Team #342) of North Charleston, S.C., and the 2010 FIRST Safety Video presented by Underwriters Laboratories.
“Today is really about your future,” said FIRST president Paul R. Gudonis, addressing the thousands of young people attending the Kickoff. Adding, “And to the thousands more who mentor FIRST participants within the programs, this is about our future – both immediate and long-term. We are excited to see what you will accomplish with the opportunities that come from being part of FIRST.”
During the event, Gudonis also announced the introduction of FIRST®Green, a series of eco-friendly programs designed to assist teams in raising funds to defray their costs. FIRSTGreen will include programs that promote electronics-recycling and energy audits, among others.
“As you set out on this exciting journey, know that you have the support of your incredible mentors, parents, teachers,” said James E. Heppelmann, PTC president and chief operating officer. “Support each other and grow together as a team. You are our future! Stay involved with FIRST, go to college, strengthen your skills, and develop great products that will change the world! And this world will become a better place for it.”
At today’s FRC Kickoff, FIRST teams were shown the “BREAKAWAY” playing field and received a Kit of Parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC, and a mix of automation components – but no instructions. Working with mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. Once these young inventors create a robot, their teams participate in competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.
The FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual competition that helps students discover excitement of science, engineering, and technology and the rewards a career in STEM can bring. More than 45,000 high-school students on over 1,800 teams from the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Herzegovina, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the U.K. will participate in this year’s competition.
In 1992, the FIRST Robotics Competition began with 28 teams and a single 14-by-14-foot playing field in a New Hampshire high school gym. This season more than 1,800 teams – including 278 rookie teams – will participate. Forty-three regional competitions in the U.S., Canada, and Israel, plus seven district competitions and one state championship in Michigan, will lead up to the 2010 FIRST Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, April 15-17.
FIRST programs are spearheaded by more than 90,000 dedicated volunteers worldwide, most of them professional engineers and scientists who mentor the next generation of innovators.
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering.
With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $12 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) and FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) for 9 to 14-year-olds, (9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S. and Canada) and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL) for 6 to 9-year-olds. Gracious Professionalism™ is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.
To find FIRST Robotics Competition events and teams in your area, visit www.usfirst.org, and click on the map in the top right corner or visit ConnectAMillionMinds.com and enter your zip code.