By Marie Laplante, SWE Fellow
Did you know that SWE and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition for Science and Technology) have enjoyed working together to support STEM for nearly twenty years? FIRST Robotics is for high school students who design and build a robot to compete in a new unique game every year. Dean Kamen and Dr. Woodie Flowers started the competition back in 1992 at a New Hampshire high school gymnasium and have grown it into a worldwide program that involves nearly 80 countries and more than 450,000 students.
FIRST and SWE both support STEM and want to increase participation of underrepresented groups. Last year, SWE supplied 406 volunteers. FIRST has nearly 30% female participation and you can help this grow!
This year’s new season kicked off on January 6 with a new game as you can see in the video below. Since then, the student teams have been working on their robots and getting ready for regional competitions.
The best way for you to check out this really cool program is to visit a local competition or championship near you! That is how I got involved over 15 years ago. Dean came to SWE's Board of Directors and invited us to be judges and role models. If you are just a little or very curious, I encourage you to click here and pick the closest or most convenient location and go see one. Competitions are free and open to the public, and the season continues through April 28. You can sit in the bleachers and watch the teams compete and/or walk around the pit area and interact with the team members working on their robots. After I saw my first competition, I volunteered the next year and since then have been to many competitions throughout the US. If you want to volunteer, you can help at the competitions in many ways (judge, referee, and other event helpers) and you can also mentor and/or coach a team all year!
FIRST is not only contagious, but it is also hugely successful in getting girls into the pipeline. The high school program is fed by FIRST Lego League and Tech Challenge programs for children as young as kindergarten and then there are over $50 million scholarships awarded annually for those attending college! I’m proud to say that our Houston Area section has been providing an annual scholarship to a girl involved in FIRST since 2003.
Check out our blog posts by SWE-Sponsored FIRST teams