Emerson Industrial Automation has received the Achieving Excellence Together Award from the Boone County Board of Education in recognition of the company’s efforts to establish the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program at Ryle High School in Union, Ky. Ed Massey, chairman of the Boone County School Board, presented the award at a recent Board meeting to Tony Pajk, president, Emerson Industrial Automation; Merle Heckman, manager of organizational development; and David Lindsay, global P/N data process manager. Emerson is the primary funder for the three-year-old program that has a mission “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” The company and school board plan to expand the program county-wide based on its success at Ryle.
The Achieving Excellence Together Award is given by the Boone County Board of Education to a company or individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and service to the district. At the award presentation Massey praised Pajk, Heckman and Lindsay for, “establishing a vision for developing a robotics program for our high schools, directing funds for the project and providing leadership and staff time to make it happen.”
FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, entrepreneur and inventor of the Segway, with the goal of inspiring students in engineering and technology fields. The organization is the foundation for the annual FIRST Robotics Competition that brings together teams from all over the world. Teams build robots designed to achieve specific tasks, such as climbing a ladder or throwing a Frisbee into a bin. The challenge changes each year and teams compete on the regional, district and state levels in an effort to qualify for the FIRST Championship. Team members are eligible for more than $16 million in college scholarships from more than 165 providers.
Pajk learned about the program after seeing Kamen speak at a conference in 2009, and immediately realized the value the program could bring to the community, as well as the potential future business benefit. “This is an opportunity for the math- and science-focused students to apply their talents and compete on the international level,” said Pajk. “This could be the spark that leads them into a career in engineering, so in a way, we’re developing local engineering talent just as coaches develop athletic talent.”
Pajk enlisted the help of Heckman and Lindsay to establish, promote and administrate the program locally and, after receiving enthusiastic support from principals and school board members, the Ryle program was started. Lindsay’s daughter is a student at Ryle and part of the school’s 10-member FIRST team. As the program expands to the county’s other three high schools, organizers are looking to hire a coach to provide guidance to the teams, and prepare them for the robotics competition.