As strategic alliance partners of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), ISA and the Automation Federation (AF) took part in late April's FIRST Championship, an annual international celebration of young people's interest and aptitude in science and technology.
The event, culminating months of regional qualifying competitions involving K-12 students, took place in Houston, Texas (18-21 April) and in Detroit, Michigan (25-28 April) and featured three separate robotics competition championships-the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship (grades 9-12); the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship (grades 7-12); and the FIRST LEGO League World Festival (grades 4-8)-as well as the FIRST LEGO League Jr. World Festival Expo (grades K-3). More than 30,000 students from 74 countries competed at both event locations.
Many of the competitors earned honors for design excellence, competitive play, research, business plans, website design, and teamwork. A not-for-profit organization that seeks to inspire innovation and leadership in young people, FIRST provides approximately $25 million annually in college scholarships.
Kim Belinsky, Manager of ISA Divisions & Events, and a group of ISA members volunteering on behalf of ISA's Houston Section attended the FIRST Championship Innovation Faire in Houston to meet with FIRST competitors and their family members, and to answer questions about career opportunities in automation and engineering.
ISA Houston Section member Mary Cannon explains the value of automation and automation careers to a group of FIRST Championship competitors at the ISA/AF exhibit.
"The FIRST Championship is a great opportunity to talk directly with students to explain what automation professionals actually do and the many rewards-both personal and professional-of pursuing and achieving a career in automation," Belinsky said. "It's also a way to introduce young people to ISA and explain how the Society can help guide and support them through ISA student section membership, networking and mentorship."
Assisting Belinsky at the FIRST Championship were ISA Houston Section members Mary Cannon, Cheri Haarmeyer, Amanda Hardy, Andrik Najera, Madilyn Blakely and Steve Mustard.
ISA Houston Section member Cheri Haarmeyer, modeling a pair of blinking blue ears, gets ready to greet FIRST participants before the exhibition opens. The flashing ears as well as containers of glacier-blue slime (assembled in a pyramid on the table behind her) were "cool" giveaways courtesy of ISA and the Automation Federation.
As Brian Curtis, ISA's 2018 President, emphasized in his April column in ISA Insights, ISA members who participate in and support any type of STEM event can "reconnect to the excitement that ignited their own drive to pursue an automation career and, at the same time, inspire others to follow their path toward success in the profession."
A centerpiece of the FIRST Championship is the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), which combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of designing and building robots. The competition provides high school students with the opportunity to use sophisticated software and hardware, learn from professional engineers, collaborate, earn recognition, and qualify for college scholarships.
Each year, a significant number of ISA members get involved in FRC teams by serving as coaches and mentors in their local communities. The FRC's positive impact on its student participants is impressive and well documented. Through their involvement, more than 88 percent demonstrate greater interest in education, and 92 percent are more interested in attending college.
For more information on FIRST and how you can get involved in FIRST events, click here.