Thursday, March 18, 2010

America's Top Robot

Well it may not be as flashy or trendy as models, but today marks the beginning of the mighty St. Louis FIRST robotics regional at Chafeitz Arena at St. Louis University. This is one of dozens of venues around the country (world actually) where High School teams build and compete with their robots over 3 days. There is a specific game, set of rules and objectives to conquer, that changes from year to year. However the REAL point is not the competition as much as it is the relationships between students, mentors, and the THINKING steps before their robot ever becomes a reality.

My wife got our whole family involved in this event around 8 years ago. Since then for a couple of months at the beginning of the year we meet after school and mentor kids on the design and implementation of the robot project. We have lots of help from engineer volunteers and both boys and girls on the team. The high school students receive a unique experience as adults act as peers as well as traditional teachers.

As we mentor students, we try to take advantage of their natural talents and teach them other skills in design, software, and engineering production. These skills taught in this way are not experiences that average teens get to perform in a normal theoretical math or science class. These students learn by doing, thinking, and RE-doing real-world problems until they discover a workable solution.

All of our students go on to college and many, including more girls than the general student population, enter engineering colleges. We were very proud this year that 3 out of the 4 (2 boys and 1 girl) regional scholarships to Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla went to our student team members.

Well wish us luck for our 2010 top Roboto. This FIRST website link will provide more details if you are interested in getting involved or seeing an event near you. Typically NASA TV broadcasts some of the competitions this time of year as well, so check your cable listings. This year I will be inspecting the robots for compliance so if they break … well you will understand why. I know I could do so many things better, if I could just get that “THINKING” step mastered!

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