More than 11,000 students from 29 countries are competing in a robotics championship this week in St. Louis that combines the excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology.
The international competition, being held at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, is sponsored by a non-profit organization called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). Under strict rules and limited time and resources, teams build and program robots to perform tasks against competitors in a series of robotic games.
The Chargers Robotics Team 537 consisting of students from Hamilton High School, took part in the first round of qualifying matches Thursday. It is one of 352 teams competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). The FRC teams represent 8,800 students from five countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Mexico and the United States.
Meghan Speckin, a junior at Hamilton High School, has been on the Charger Robotics Team for two years. Speckin said her sister was on the team originally and had invited her to a couple meetings.
“I just fell in love with the concept,” she said at Thursday’s competition. “I was a geeky kid and used to build rockets – this makes me feel like a kid again. It’s crazy insane, but extremely rewarding.”
The competition has four divisions – Archimedes, Curie, Galileo and Newton – all named in honor of history’s greatest scientists and mathematicians. Teams in each division compete against each other in several qualifying matches.
The winning teams then proceed to the final division called Einstein, which is the championship game. Qualifying matches for all teams will continue through Saturday morning. The championship matches begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
In addition to the robotics competition, the FIRST Championship event also includes the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) for high school students, which features smaller robots. The other two groups in the championship include the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for elementary and middle-school students and the Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) for 6- to 9-year-olds.
FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. The group designs programs to encourage students to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.
More than $15 million will be awarded to winners in this year’s championship. For more information on FIRST, visit www.usfirst.org.