Not all robotics competitions are big, government-funded, international meets where universities face off on automata for major world needs. There are also big, government-funded, international meets where secondary school students face off in a medieval theme, like the FIRST competition.
For more than a quarter of a century, FIRST has been preparing kids for study and careers in STEM fields. “The goal has never been to give kids a special ability to build a particular kind of robot,” the engineers explain. “The goal has been to ignite a passion.”
When kids see the thrill of science and technology, their math and science classes make sense. When they want to make things, they see the value of the lessons they’re learning.
That may do more to erase the skills gap than many programs currently do.
FIRST starts with six year olds using Legos. Rexroth recently renewed a grant which allowed a high school summer program to buy Legos robotics kits. Adding STEM to a program which had previously centered on writing and the arts has given the kids at that school an advantage when it comes to science and engineering careers, but the kits have been used in college programs as well, extending far beyond that single summer course.
It took many years, FIRST spokespeople say, to get industry on board to support their initiatives, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that industry, government, and education have to work together to keep the U.S. in the forefront of manufacturing and technology.
Rexroth has a long tradition of supporting STEM education, and we’re proud of that.