Mentoring our Future Engineers
FIRST aims to inspire interest and participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related activities.
On March 3rd and 4th, Southfield High School will host their 4th annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition. The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) pairs high school students with adult mentors to design and build robots to compete against one another. Being a FIRST mentor has shown me that it’s more than just building robots: the program inspires innovation, problem solving, and invention.
I’ve been a mentor for seven years now and Vectorform has been nothing but supportive in my choice to volunteer for FIRST. When I started mentoring, I wasn’t sure what to expect and felt overwhelmed by the experience. However, with time, I’ve found introducing students to electronics and software development to be a fun and rewarding experience. I also learned more than I expected during the process, both about mentoring and robotics technology.
“Being a FIRST mentor has shown me that it’s more than just building robots: the program inspires innovation, problem solving, and invention.”
FIRST aims to inspire interest and participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related activities. Reaching over 460,000 students in 2016-2017, nearly 90% of students involved in FIRST are more interested in doing well in school and attending university, and are twice as likely to major in science or engineering.1 The engineering teacher and team coach, Joseph Minnick, not only volunteers his time to enable the students to gain valuable experience and insight into STEM related careers, but encourages students to do much of the work themselves. This hands-on approach provides a unique experience helpful for students determining their interests and potential career path.
Every FIRST Robotics match has two competing alliances from three schools. A match begins with fifteen seconds of fully autonomous robot operation, where the robots attempt to complete tasks without any human interaction. Points are awarded to alliances for tasks completed during this time. The remainder of the match consists of remote control of the robots by student drivers. During this time, the robots must attempt to complete more tasks to gain points for their alliance, often involving cooperation between robots.
“Reaching over 460,000 students in 2016-2017, nearly 90% of students involved in FIRST are more interested in doing well in school and attending university, and are twice as likely to major in science or engineering.”
This year’s FRC challenge is “FIRST STEAMWORKS”, and tasks “two adventurers’ clubs, in an era where steam power reigns, to prepare their airships for a long-distance race.” In each match, each alliance must prepare for launch by performing three tasks:
- Build Steam Pressure – Robots collect fuel (balls) and build ‘steam pressure’ by scoring them in their goals
- Start Rotors – Robots collect and deliver gears to human pilots aboard their airship to provide power to the rotors
- Prepare for Flight – Robots ascend ropes attached to the airship at the end of the match
Hosting FIRST competitions is beneficial for both the local community and the school. The events act as an introduction for visitors to a fun and intellectual competition as well as an example of the opportunities provided to students by Southfield High School. Hosting a FIRST event also brings students and families from outside the area to the city of Southfield, stimulating local business and creating friendships that might not occur otherwise.
Here are a few photos from the day of the event!
Interested in learning more? Let’s start a conversation.