Feature Story

FIRST Robotics continues to amaze and inspire young minds

The Westminster Cyborg Cats didn't make it to the FIRST Robotics Championships this year but they built on what they learned in 2012 when they were named Rookies of the Year and plan to come back strong in 2014.

The excitement and enthusiasm of the 2013 FIRST Robotics Championship is likely to live in the minds of many for a long time to come.

More than 10,000 students from around the world gathered at St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome anxious to have their robots outperform the rest. Challenges this year ranged from flinging Frisbees to climbing steel towers.

“It’s more than the competition itself – it’s how you compete,” Boeing Defense, Space & Security President & CEO Dennis Muilenburg, told the audience. “I want to complement you on the leadership, your gracious professionalism, the integrity and character you show; the way you work and the teamwork that you demonstrate. Those are really important life skills.” 

FIRST Robotics’ goals align closely with Boeing leaders’ objectives – as they strive to inspire young people to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based careers. With the help of mentors (including many from Boeing), student teams design, build, and test their robots before they are “bagged and tagged” for competition in just six weeks.

This year’s championship event saw more than 30 Boeing sponsored teams at the finals, and students taking part say just being at the competition was reason enough to celebrate.

The Cyborg Cats, a team from Westminster High School in St. Louis, prepare their robot for competition.

Boeing

The Cyborg Cats, a team from Westminster High School in St. Louis, prepare their robot for competition.

Others were not so lucky. Westminster Christian Academy’s Cyborg Cats, one of 2,600 teams vying for a spot at the championship event, initially competed at last year’s FIRST Robotics Championship after receiving a Boeing grant. The Cyborg Cats were named 2012’s “All-Star Rookie” – but didn’t fare nearly as well in 2013. 

Boeing engineer and FIRST mentor Tim Terlow says working with the students and answering questions about engineering is a rewarding experience. “The kids give you energy. I can be dead tired leaving work, but when I get here, the students are full of ideas and it just pumps you up.”

Westminster students say the competition taught them how to be professional and they are looking forward with renewed enthusiasm to competing again next year.

The school also added a STEM program to their curriculum following their involvement in FIRST, due to increased student interest – which they say will go a very long way toward preparing students for successful college and work careers.