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ISA, Automation Federation and FIRST Championships Inspire Kids to Be Interested in Automation Careers

May 15, 2012
ISA and the Automation Federation Join FIRST Championship to Talk About Careers in Automation. Meet the 2012 Team Winners

Recently, 30,000 participants, fans, families, educators and industry leaders celebrated students' engineering and robotics prowess at the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, held in St. Louis, MO, USA at the Edward Jones Dome.

The International Society of Automation (ISA) and the Automation Federation, Alliance Partners of FIRST, joined the event to talk with kids and parents about careers in automation. ISA's St. Louis section and the Automation Federation hosted a display in the partner area of the "pits," where students and mentors worked together on last-minute updates and maintenance for their robots.

"For three days, I was in the middle of the largest hero-fest I've ever seen, with kids from all over the world exhibiting leadership, teamwork, technical knowledge, the thrill of victory and the graciousness of defeat, and through it all, inquiring minds trying to piece together what the future holds for them," said Automation Federation Government Relations Committee Chair Steve Huffman, vice president of marketing and business development at Mead O'Brien, Inc. "The FIRST Championships gave me a new look at our future and the young men and women who will be in charge of it. So often, we hear about how behind we are with respect to our ability to keep up with the rest of the world in technology and how we don't have enough people entering technical careers to fill the jobs and challenges advanced manufacturing presents us. These statistics don't lie, but oh what a joy it is to witness the momentum, motivation, direction and sense of critical thinking FIRST gives these young people. I have seen the future and I love it!"

(Photo Courtesy of S.P.A.M. Robotics, FRC Team 180, Stuart, FL)

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) combines sports excitement with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams are challenged to fundraise, design a brand, exercise teamwork, build and program robots to perform tasks against competitors.

This year's FRC challenge was "Rebound RumbleSM," where matches are played between two alliances of three teams each. Each alliance competes by trying to score as many of the basketballs in the hoops as possible during the two-minute and 15-second match. Balls scored in higher hoops score teams more points. Team alliances are awarded bonus points if they are balanced on bridges at the end of the match.

Three teams from Stuart, FL, Mountain Home, AR and North Brunswick, NJ won the final showdown, earning the coveted FIRST Robotics Competition Championship Winning Alliance. Several other US and international FIRST student robotics teams earned honors for design excellence, competitive play, research, business plans, website design, teamwork and partnerships. A not-for-profit organization founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST strives to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology.

(Photo Courtesy of S.P.A.M. Robotics, FRC Team 180, Stuart, FL)

This year, will.i.am, pop superstar, was on hand to kick off the week-long event; he met teams, participated in a ceremony and took part in the new innovation competition, "Wouldn't It Be Cool If" sponsored by Time Warner Cable, a FIRST Strategic Sponsor. Major awards were presented by senior officials from the US Air Force, US Army, US Department of Energy, NASA, as well as executives from Autodesk, Boeing, General Motors, PTC, Microsoft, Google, Rockwell Automation and UL, among others.

More than 600 teams from 32 countries competed in the three levels of FIRST: FIRST LEGO League (FLL, grades 4 to 8, ages 9 to 14 in the US, Canada and Mexico; ages 9 to 16 outside the US, Canada and Mexico); FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC, grades 9 to 12, ages 14 to 18); and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC, grades 9 to 12, ages 14 to 18). In addition, 40 teams of 6 to 9-year-olds participated in the Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL, grades K to 3), showcasing their science and technology smarts in the Jr. FLL World Festival Expo.

For more information about getting involved with a FIRST team in your local area or to join ISA and the Automation Federation's workforce development efforts, contact Automation Federation Managing Director Mike Marlowe at [email protected] or +1 919-314-3937.