Cheering, chanting, and costumes. It’s all for FIRST Robotics, a competition designed to inspire young students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM-based careers.
With the help of team mentors, students from around the world are given six weeks to design and build a robot. This year’s challenge is Aerial Assist where teams of three robots on each side of the playing field work together to get rubber balls into goals.
Since 2008, Boeing mentors, judges and volunteers have supported almost 850 teams and inspired more than 10,000 students. Joseph Sides, a Lutheran High School senior and FIRST competitor from St. Charles, MO said his mentor, and FIRST, inspired him to pursue a career in engineering.
“The mentors dedicate their time to teach us what they love and they’re passionate about doing, so we can become passionate about it also,” said Sides. “I’ve become passionate about engineering and I’m excited about the future of engineering.” Ryan Dognaux, a Boeing engineer, understands FIRST’s mission. Taking part in FIRST during high school, Dognaux was inspired to go into engineering. He now volunteers his time to mentor teams for FIRST.
“I didn’t really grasp what STEM was all about, and I really think FIRST helped me grow that passion. It definitely drove me down the road of being in the field that I am,” said Dognaux.
While the focus of FIRST is on STEM, Dognaux says getting the students to at least appreciate what STEM is while having fun, is the ultimate reward.
“My goal is to pass on that knowledge to them, or at least excite them about STEM. Seeing the look on these kid’s faces at the end of the day, that’s all the gratification you need. And, it’s just a great time,” said Dognaux.