I’m getting really excited about the upcoming NC FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition, April 7-9 at Dorton Arena in Raleigh! The 36 teams from across the state are gearing up to participate in this fantastic event, inspiring each other to be stewards of excellence and gaining the confidence they need to move forward with their education and careers.
FIRST is a unique varsity sport of the mind in which teams of high school students along with their mentors solve a common problem in a 6-week timeframe using a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules. Teams are rewarded for excellence in design; demonstration of team spirit, gracious professionalism, and maturity; and the ability to overcome obstacles. Building partnerships is placed higher in importance than scoring the most points. As a result, the students build lasting connections alongside their super cool robots.
It’s such an honor for Fuentek to participate in this competition. (Last year I was a judge and Danielle McCulloch was an inspector.) It gives the students so many valuable skills and inspires them in ways that have a true, measurable impact. In fact, FIRST alumni are significantly more likely to attend college and twice as likely to get a degree in science and engineering (compared to non-alumni with similar backgrounds in math and science). They also are 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job during their first year of college, and more than twice as likely to expect to pursue a science- or tech-related career once they graduate.
And the students who participate in FIRST say that the competition makes a big impact in other ways as well by:
- Allowing them to experience the world of science and technology in a way that expands their interest in the field
- Helping them learn critical life and work-related skills
- Enabling them to build the confidence and relationships they need to move forward with college studies and career aspirations
The FIRST competition also reaches a large number of at-risk students, increasing their high school graduation rates and giving underserved populations critical training in these areas. This year, 17 of the 36 NC teams are rookie teams from rural counties, reaching economically challenged communities and families. And 30% of the team members in NC this year are female—that’s 23% higher than the national average. Also, two of the teams are 95% Hispanic, four teams are 95% African American, and 40% of all team members in NC are from non-Caucasian backgrounds.
Given these stats, NC FIRST is looking for volunteers who are minorities and women. These individuals can be key role models for this diverse group of students. Are you interested in helping out and perhaps re-invigorating your own interest in mentorship? I can promise you an inspiring (and amazingly fun!) experience. It’s easy to become a volunteer.
If you have any questions, please e-mail NC FIRST. I hope to meet you at Dorton Arena, cheering on the NC teams!
–By Laura A. Schoppe