First Robotics Engages Kids In Science And Technology

A Chemical Processing reader submitted this Letter to the Editor to ensure that our audience knows there are modern-day inventors who are working hard to make science and technology fun.

Here is the letter reprinted by permission:

In your editor's column for February 2010 ("We need another A.C. Gilbert"), you ended with "wouldn't it be great if some inventor today came up with a new generation of entertaining and educational toys that engaged children with science and technology . . ."

Someone has. Check out First Robotics, created by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway people mover. Under the First program, teams of high school students build lawnmower-sized electric robots to compete in regional and then national competitions. The robots are radio controlled but have on-board computers and sensors that can be programmed to run automatic processes. First teaches teamwork, mechanical skills and engineering. Courteous professionalism is the motto. And they make it fun.

The skills are those needed to succeed in a career in the modern world. Plus participants learn about engineering and some are motivated to pursue careers in technology. The program especially seeks to recruit under-represented groups–women and minorities–to careers in engineering.

First runs with the assistance of many volunteers. Mentors for teams are always needed, and numerous additional volunteers help at the regionals. Those willing to help are urged to sign-up.

Regional competitions are scheduled throughout the US in March. The National competitions will be April 17, 2010, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

First also has programs for younger children, First Lego League and First Tech Challenge. For more, see the First Robotics website:

Paul E. Eckler – seven-year volunteer for First Regionals

Editor's Note: We would love to learn about other such programs.