FIRST Robotics and Southern Company Are Helping Create the STEM Workers of Tomorrow
How you do get girls and boys of all backgrounds interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at a young age, while the window of opportunity is still open? Make it familiar, make it fun, and remove the fear factor.
The FIRST Robotics program aims to do just that. Starting with the FIRST Lego League Jr. program, for ages 6 to 10, and culminating in the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition, for grades 7 through 12, it gets children of all ages exposed to — and excited about — STEM.
At the FIRST Tech Challenge's South Super-Regional Championship in March, presented by Southern Company, teams from Texas to Virginia competed for coveted spots in the national championship. Each team designed a robot, using a parts kit provided, that they hoped would outperform other teams' robots at the assigned challenge — in this year's case, moving balls onto targets.
Employees from Southern Company and Georgia Power (a subsidiary of Southern Company) offered tools — in fact, an entire machine shop — and technical assistance onsite for when parts broke or the robots malfunctioned. The company got to help the kids, and in turn, the kids got to see firsthand the kinds of employees who work there.
The FIRST program encourages teamwork, ingenuity and creative problem solving. Most important, said South Super-Regional event director Steven Hovey, it gives youngsters an opportunity to become something they probably would never have become without it, such as an engineer or scientist. "They're going to do some great things," said Hovey.
Watch the video to see the students and their robots in action and catch the excitement about the competition from employees at Georgia Power and FIRST Robotics.