Path Home Shows 2010 Show Archive March 2010 Show 1011 First Robotics

First Robotics

It's called STEM. A simple acronym for subjects that could determine our nation's future. Which is why almost 2 decades ago an IT entrepreneur decided to attract young people to these critical fields through a program called FIRST Robotics.
First Robotics


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Oklahoma FIRST Robotics
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Show Dates

Show 1011: First Robotics

Air date: March 14, 2010



Rob:  It’s called STEM; a simple acronym for subjects that could determine our nation’s future.  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are all fields that currently do not produce enough graduates to fill current job demand.  A demand that goes beyond just the needs of industry; it encompasses our way of life, even our national security.  Which is why almost two decades ago an IT entrepreneur decided to attract young people to these critical fields through a program called First Robotics.

Voice:  Every year thousands of young minds compete at the First Championship; the largest and most prestigious competition of its kind.  FIRST, for inspiration and recognition of science and technology, was founded by inventor Dean Kaman to inspire young people’s interests and participation in science and technology.

Dean Kaman:  The problem is that so many kids grow up in an environment where by the time their ten and twelve years old, they think their options in the world are being in the NBA or being in Hollywood.  That’s their perspective of the world.  It seemed to me that what we needed to do to get FIRST going was to break the stereotypical mindset given to kids about what’s important in their culture.

Voice:  FIRST challenges young people to think, create, and inspire.  Working with professional engineers and other mentors, students design, build, and program robots for competition.  It’s transforming the way they think about science and engineering.

Dean:  Let these kids that have never met a scientist or professional engineer, see what these people do.  Put those people and ideas in front of these kids, you’ll change where they put their time and attention and you’ll change the outcome, you’ll change what they’ll be when their seventeen.  A few of these CEO’s said Dean, what are you going to do that’ll make kids more passionate about science or engineering?  I said, “Let’s steal from the play book of sports.  Let’s create a sporting event.”

Voice:  In 1992, twenty-eight teams competed in a small New Hampshire gymnasium.  Today, the championship is known as the Super-Bowl of Smarts; a culmination of the FIRST Robotics competition for high school students, the FIRST Lego League for middle school students, and the FIRST Tech Challenge.

Dean:  We put into it a few things that I think sports they learn from, gracious professionalism, they work together to help your opponents, you want to win but you want to win a close match.  We have a culture here that causes people to work together.

Voice:  More than twenty-five hundred sponsors support FIRST and over nine point five billion dollars in scholarship opportunities are available.  Over seventy thousand volunteers donate time and talent.  FIRST Advisor and MIT Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Woody Flowers, knows FIRST is all about conquering a challenge.

Woody Flowers:  I think it turns out that humans like a really tough challenge and I think FIRST has proven unambiguously that if you create an environment in which the right stuff is celebrated, people will do that.  So these people get to work really hard, compete like crazy, but treat each other well in the process.  It’s a good thing.