So how does a non-profit company without a single robotic product or robot laboratory or ever having sold as much as a robot component come to find itself on the RBR50, nestled in and among the giants of the industry? Here?s some insight as to why:
Early age is a time for seeding lifelong passions and a time when youthful aspirations for future careers can take wing. With that in mind, where will our next generations of roboticists come from when the closest most kids get to robots is at the movies or with action figures based on those movies? Sure, Optimus Prime is a heroic and endearing intergalactic robot, but here on Earth, if we?re truly in need of future roboticists, young people need to breakout of passive observation mode and into being hands-on bot builders. Our newest RBR50 member, a small New Hampshire non-profit, has taken on that exact challenge and is garnering for itself an international reputation for forging a veritable build-a-bot revolution among young people.
The little company that could
The organization?s name is FIRST Robotics (FIRST: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). It was founded in 1989 by prolific inventor and founder of DEKA Research and Development?and college dropout?the inimitable Dean Kamen, who holds over 400 US and foreign patents, best known of which is his Segway two-wheel vehicle. As CBS News said of him, ?Lots of people talk and dream about changing the world. But inventor Dean Kamen is actually doing it.” If you call ?doing it? bringing together more than 32,000 high school students to compete on 1,300 robot-building teams across the United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands and England, then Kamen most definitely is a superhero at snapping young minds out of their doldrums. As Kamen puts it, ?You have teenagers thinking they’re going to make millions as NBA stars when that’s not realistic for even 1 percent of them. Becoming a scientist or engineer is.? And toward that effort, Kamen created FIRST Robotics
With a little help from some friends
The company?s annual FIRST Robotic Competitions (Grades 9-12; ages 14-18), not only excite the minds of thousands of young men and women to the call of building a robot but also attract admiration?as well as financial support!?from industry luminaries like founding sponsors Xerox, Motorola, General Motors, The Chrysler Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, Boston Scientific, NASA and hundreds more supporting kickoff events or regional competitions.
This year the Abbott Fund, the foundation of the global health care company, Abbott, sponsored the FIRST Future Innovator Award that offers the opportunity for FIRST teams to win recognition toward patenting a proposed invention.
In their own words
What better place to feel the impact of FIRST?s efforts than at the websites and blogs of those who are affected the most?the kids! Here?s Andrew.
?My name is Andrew, and I am 16 years old. I have designed this site to tell others about us, our robotics teams, FIRST, and to share some fun and useful resources.
?I still remember the first time I ever heard of FIRST robotics. Several years ago, it was fall of 2001, our family went to the Maryland State Fair. At the fair that year, several FIRST high school robotics teams were competing (see pictures). It held my attention for hours! Two years later, we were at the fair again, and so were the robots! This time they let my brother and me control them. They also told us about FIRST Lego League. We were still too young for it. But we didn’t forget… A few years later we learned of a FLL team in our area, and we joined in 2006. Our team, TechBrick, went to the competition at the University of Maryland in January 2007, winning the Team Spirit award. We had so much fun!?
As FIRST calls its competitions: ?The Hardest Fun You?ll Ever Have.? Then again, FIRST?s brand of ?hard fun? can qualify participants for nearly $15 million in college scholarships, which prompts parents to quickly pipe in with: ?Let the games begin.?Read More