Robots aren’t exactly roaming the halls of Cook County High School these days, but the CCHS Robotics Club is in high gear, preparing for a three-day competition at the University of Minnesota later this week. A soup feed fundraiser last Thursday night attracted more than 50 people and raised $675 to help pay for the students trip to the FIRST Robotics North Star Regional Competition, April 1-3.
FIRST is an acronym, meaning “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” This Manchester, New Hampshire-based non-profit was founded in 1989 with the goal of inspiring young people's interest in science, technology, and engineering. Eli Hill is Technology Education Instructor at Cook County High School:
“The idea is that there isn’t enough kids going into science and technology related fields. We’re running short on engineers and the ones that are around have been outsourced,” said Hill.
Hill and two mentors from the community have been working after school and evenings along with high school students to build the robot. "We’d show up at 3:30 and be here ‘til 8 or 9 at night,” said Hill, “and the kids really enjoy it. It’s been great.”
But at $5,000, entering the competition doesn’t come cheap.
“We probably started fundraising in November-December. The kids went around town, knocked on some doors,” said Hill. “We got an awesome grant from Arrowhead Electric; they gave us $3,000, which is huge. The kids went to a board meeting and showed them last year’s robot. It was well received, and I heard good reports that they acted professionally, which is what we’re looking for.”
FIRST programs and competitions are designed engage youngsters in exciting, mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.
“The theme of it is 'Gracious Professionalism',” said Hill, “so it’s not so much about winning, it’s more the journey to get there. Building the robot, and just building teamwork with these kids. And so, although the competition’s fierce, it’s friendly at the same time.”
Hundreds of companies, universities, and governmental organizations support FIRST programs, providing financial assistance, equipment, and expertise. This year’s robotics competitions across the U.S. will involve more than 45,000 high school students from 12 countries. Minnesota has one of the biggest regional competitions in the country and will attract more than 110 teams, filling both Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota for three days, April 1 through the 3rd.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a major sponsor of the robotics competitions, and you can watch a live webstream of the North Star Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, April 1
thru the 3rd
, on the NASA website at www.nasa.gov.