January 06, 2012      

The 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition kicked off today at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire. NASA, the competition?s largest sponsor, aired the kickoff live this morning on NASA Television.

The FIRST Robotics Competition gives students the opportunity to design, build and test a robot that can perform specific functions. Mentored by NASA professionals who help the students explore potential solutions to robotics problems and understand the real-world challenges faced by engineers and researchers, teams will compete in regional competitions across the country, as well as four additional international competitions in March and April. The FIRST Championship competition will be held April 25-28 in St. Louis, MO.

FIRST, founded in 1989 by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, is focused on inspiring curiosity and creating interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among high school students, and it seems to be accomplishing its mission.

According to the FIRST Competition website, Brandeis University?s Center for Youth and Communities recently conducted an independent, retrospective survey of FIRST Robotics Competition participants and compared results to a group of non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences, including math and science. The study results found that FIRST students are:

  • More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
  • Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
  • Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
  • More than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology.
  • Nearly 4 times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.
  • More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.

For more information about the FIRST Robotics Competition and a listing of competing teams, visit: http://www.usfirst.org.
For NASA TV streaming video and downlink information, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
For additional information about NASA’s education programs, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/education