I spent last Thursday through Saturday at the FIRST Robotics Championship in Atlanta GA. It was a very exciting time. I am totally convinced that some of the smartest most creative kids in the world are involved in FIRST. I manned a booth for the first two days and talked to several hundred students, parents, teachers and others about:

And of course I talked about just about anything else people wanted to ask me about. The people in the next booth were amazed at the questions I got. They asked me how high school kids were learning so much that they could ask the deep technical questions I was getting. I think people under estimate high school kids. They are interested in technology and they will go far beyond what is taught in school if they are interested.

The FIRST Robotics program continues to impress me. I know that the knock on it is that it is expensive but I doubt it is really more expensive per student involved than many sports teams. And to me the academic value is worth it. One of the things I came across this week was a link to some research done by Brandeis University on the effectiveness of the FIRST program.  You can see the results of the study here. A highlight summary is below.

When compared with the comparison group, FIRST students are:

  • More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
  • Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
  • Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
  • More than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology.
  • Nearly 4 times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.

As I understand it Microsoft will be the prime sponsor of the Pacific Northwest Regional FIRST event next year. Microsoft is just one of a number of large companies who are supporting FIRST in various ways. Along with hundreds of smaller companies and untold thousands of adult mentors who help teams around the world. Does your local high school have a FIRST Robotics or FIRST VEX team? How about FIRST Lego in your middle school?

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