FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition is one of those events that is so amazing you just can’t describe.  If you ever have a chance to volunteer, mentor a team, or donate some cash to this organization don’t even think twice.  I volunteered at a regional event at NASA in Ohio and it’s truly life changing. 

Oprah recently talked to three all-female teams from this year’s FIRST competition and the winners from 2007.  Read more about their inspiring stories here.

What is FIRST?  The passion of Dean Kamen, an accomplished inventor, founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Vex Tech Challenge for high-school and middle-school students, the FIRST LEGO League for children 9-14 years old, and the Junior FIRST LEGO League for 6 to 9 year-olds. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.

FIRST won a Microsoft Unlimited Potential Grant this year.  I always think of this as Microsoft’s version of the Angel Outreach from Oprah.

Some other robotics competitions that inspire students all around us:

FIRST  - high school and middle school

BEST – based in Texas, this high school and middle school competition is an alternative to FIRST with a lower cost.  It used to be Texas-only but it looks like they are expanding

Imagine Cup Robotics – university student competition which is virtual for the beginning rounds

RoboChamps – students and professionals compete virtually in simulated robotics competition events like Robot Sumo wrestling

I’m sure there are others these are just the ones I know of off-hand, feel free to list them in the comments.