Make science and technology cool

FIRST (for inspiration and recognition of science and technology, www.usfirst.org) has come a long, long way since its inception way back in 1992, when it hosted its inaugural FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) with 28 teams in a high school gymnasium in New Hampshire. Twenty years later, 2075 teams from 11 countries participated in the FRC.

FIRST’s mission essentially is to make science and technology cool, no small task in a society where sports and the music industry dominate children’s worlds. But not everyone can be an NBA all-star or a Grammy Award winner. Anyone, however, can be an engineer or a scientist. In fact, we need more of them.

FIRST has gone the extra mile to validate the importance of STEM education by making celebrities such as the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, actor Morgan Freeman and President Barack Obama’s chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra, part of its annual championship weekend, held this year in St. Louis. Along with the marquee-name involvement, FIRST has received the support of technology vendors too numerous to list. Suffice it to say, if a vendor isn’t donating time or materials to a FIRST team, then it’s in the minority and needs to get involved.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the winners at the FIRST Championship gathering.

The  Founder’s Award was presented by FIRST founder Dean Kamen to Boeing for exceptional service in advancing the ideals and mission of FIRST.

John Larock, staffing manager for engineering and operations at DuPont and mentor of Team 365, MOE, from Wilmington, Delaware, was recognized for demonstrating teaching excellence in science, math and creative design with the Woodie Flowers Award.

In the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship, the winning alliance comprised Team 254, The Cheesy Poofs, San Jose, California; Team 111, WildStang, Schaumburg, Illinois; and Team 973, Greybots, Atascadero, California. The alliance competed on a field with poles, attempting to earn points by hanging as many triangle, circle and square logo pieces as possible.

Team 359, Hawaiian Kids, of Waialua, Hawaii, won the Chairman’s Award, the highest honor given at the FRC Championship, recognizing the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST.