U to Host and Compete in FIRST Robotics Competition

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By Sidney Marchant

This year the U will sponsor the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition from March 18 to 19.

The contest will consist of more than 40 high school teams from 12 states and Canada. Each year, teams are given a game for which they must build a robot. This year’s is called FIRST Stronghold. The prompt for the challenge was given in early January, and students have had about two months to design and create a robot that fits FIRST standards. The challenge this year is very similar to the game “capture the flag.”

The U’s involvement started when “engineering faculty at the U were developing a National Science Foundation grant to develop the Robotics Track,” said FIRST executive advisory board representative Marlo Oaks. The Department of Mechanical Engineering chose FIRST as an outreach activity because “they were so well structured and matched to the goals of the university.”

Mark Minor, associate professor of mechanical engineering, decided to host a regional event in Utah for FIRST after attending the Las Vegas competition.

“We have now united all of the FIRST programs in Utah under one umbrella through the guidance of Marlo Oaks, who is helping us realize the dream of amazing STEM career opportunities for all of the youth in the Mountain West,” Minor said.

The competition will be held at the Maverik Center. This is the U’s seventh year being involved with the robotics organization, which saw nearly 7,000 attendees last year.

Oaks said the university does not have any scholarships for FIRST members despite their involvement. However, Oaks said he “expects this will change as we work with the universities throughout Utah to provide such scholarships.”

FIRST is always seeking support and volunteers.

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@sidneymarchant