The Voices of FIRST® Robotics

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"Why didn't they have FIRST® Robotics Competitions when I was in high school?" That's a very common reaction from anyone no longer between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. A FIRST® Robotics match could be described as a "varsity sporting event for engineers and assorted other creative people". Teams receive robot kits and instructions early in the year. Rules are highly stringent. Working with mentors, from their schools or local engineering firms, each team builds a robot. (Think NASA/JPL, SpaceX and Raytheon, and you'll have an idea of some of the firms participating--and volunteering.) As everyone works, the clock is ticking. The goal: to complete a competitive robot in six weeks. Then, it's off to the ring, on the dates of the FIRST® Robotics Challenge, in cities in the teams' area. A refreshing difference Unlike other sporting events, though, FIRST® Robotics doesn't just cater to one select, highly-skilled group. This event is for everyone. And if you're a novice, expect to get welcomed. Have questions or make a mistake? That's OK. The theme on which FIRST® operates: gracious professionalism, with a healthy dose of kindness. Those qualities are, in fact, more important than "who wins", when the teams face off, robot-to-robot. During a FIRST® Robotics match, high-school students team up in Red and Blue Alliances. Three against three, the teams work together, to try to navigate a specific game course with the robots each team has built. Meanwhile, that game changes every year--with different challenges. This year, Over Coffee® again had the pleasure of attending the FIRST® Robotics Los Angeles Regional Competition. This seventeenth L.A. event happened in Long Beach, at CSULB's Walter Pyramid from Thursday, March 23rd through Sunday, March 26th. And the students with whom we spoke explained the game, discussed their experiences and told us how FIRST® Robotics was helping them discover their passion and chart a course for their future STEM careers. On this edition of Over Coffee®, you'll hear: How the FIRST® Robotics competition works; One of the central rules with which teams must comply; The theme and goals of the 2017 FIRST® Robotics competition; What the robots are built to do; How the teams customized their robots; The ways the teams carry through the FIRST® theme of "gracious professionalism"; Life skills team participants are gaining, beyond robotics;

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