Science, technology & robotics can be fun for children and teens to learn.
This is about an educational opportunity program called FIRST, that teaches children (as young as 6 or 7 years old) up to 18 years old, about robotics, technology and science. These educational programs are available in many parts of the United States, and if one doesn’t exist in your area, has beginning tips on how to form one. At the younger end of the spectrum are Lego leagues, that prepare children for the more advanced robotics for middle and high school ages.
Learning can be a very fun process, children and teens learn better in an environment that is safe, fun and energetic with practical application. We describe the robot battle competition events, the games, and contains video links. Great for parents to help guide children to this amazing program that shows the benefits for children and teens yet is little known about.
The FIRST Educational Opportunity Program
The FIRST program’s acronym means, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. It was founded in 1992 in New Hampshire originally, and is a non-profit organization. It is supported by over 3,500 corporations and businesses and more than 90,000 volunteers.
Their vision statement reads, “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 mission statement is, “Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”
They have many educational programs available which we’ll outline later (including a robotics event competition), but a child as young as 6 years old, up to high school graduation can participate. FIRST is available in much of the United States and Canada, but in areas that they don’t exist, new chapters can be started up.
Different Options Offered by FIRST Education Program
Lego Leagues for Younger Children
· FIRST Junior Lego league are for kids ages 6-9 to design and build homemade robots out of Lego parts. They begin to develop math and science problem solving and life skills, and participate in robot events and other team activities.
· FIRST Lego League for ages 9-14 in the United States and Canada. At this program level students design, build, strategize and test a robot using Lego MINDSTORMS technology. They continue to build upon the knowledge they learned in the junior Lego league and expand more with time management skills, cooperation, working as a team member, math and science concepts. At this level, they may choose to participate in robotic tournaments and some may qualify for an invitation to the world festival.
· FIRST Tech Challenge is for High School aged students. Teams of up to 10 students compete using a build your own robot sports model. As a team, they design, build and program a homemade robot to compete with an alliance of two other teams against another alliance of 3 teams. Teens learn advanced skills in real-world type situations, and have the chance to win awards, scholarships and a place in the world robotics championship competition.
· FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is also for high school students. This program is commonly nicknamed a “varsity sport for the mind.” With a set of strict criteria, students work in teams of 25 or more to raise funds, develop a ‘brand’, build and design a robot to compete against other robots on a field game. This level is known to be as close to real life engineering that the educational program offers. Professional mentors and other volunteers help students. The high school students learn advanced and sophisticated hardware and software skills in technology, science, robotics, and other critical skills for future careers. Students of this educational opportunity program can also earn scholarships and a place in the world robotics championship.
The robot competition game is called Logomotion. It’s played on an indoor 27X54 foot indoor field. 3 teams of students form an alliance, and one alliance plays against another alliance. There are 4 scoring pegs inside the middle of the field.
Inflated tubes called ‘uber tubes’ come in triangle, square and circle shapes in red, white and blue. Each alliance enters 3 robots on to the field, and the students control the robots through remote control, to get the uber tubes onto scoring racks to create the FIRST logo.
Smaller bots are used on the field as well to release mini-bots which climbs to the top of a scoring peg inside the field. The first team to get their mini-bot to the top gets 30 bonus points. The second team gets 20 bonus points, 3rd team gets 15, and the 4th team gets 10 points.
How Can I Start A FIRST Program in My Area?
Some areas do not have a FIRST program going. Go to the national FIRST website to see if you can find an existing educational program in your area. Some 4-H clubs are incorporating with FIRST programs as well. If none exist, and you either want to get your child involved, or want to be a volunteer to help teens and kids in this capacity, you may need to start a chapter in your area.
Do a search in your state for the FRC website. Contact them and let them know you would like to start a chapter. Let them serve as a guide to get you connected with others in your state, and walk you through the start up process.
There are scholarships available as
well to help FIRST students. See the national website for details.
Brandeis University recently did a study of the impact that the FIRST program had on students’ lives that participated in the robot event competition levels. It compared to students who did not participate in this educational program, yet had similar academic experiences and backgrounds. These were the results:
· More than 3 times as likely to major in engineering as a career.
· About 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
· Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
· More than twice as likely to pursue a career in science or technology fields.
· More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.
Watch this video clip of younger elementary aged students participating in a Lego league. Contact your local chapter if you would like to volunteer or get your kids involved. What a fun, and inspiring way to learn about science, technology and robotics!
Lego League in Action
This is a lego league in action, part of the younger program on FIRST.
As you can see, there is alot to offer student in the realm of teaching in a fun, engaging way, science, technology and robotics.