By Joe Desposito, Editor-in-Chief, EEPN Magazine
I had the opportunity recently to hear Dean Kamen give an historical perspective of FIRST, a program he founded in 1989. If you’re not familiar with FIRST, it’s the organization that sponsors events such as the FIRST Robotics Competition for high-school students and FIRST LEGO League for children 9 to 14 years of age.
The thing that struck me is the phenomenal growth this organization has achieved. The robotics competitions have grown from 28 teams in 1992 to 1,125 teams today. In the meantime, according to Kamen, the championship round has outgrown a site specifically built for it at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and has moved on to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.
FIRST aspires to transform culture by making science, math, engineering and technology as cool for kids as, say, sports are today. And from the looks of the growth of this project, FIRST is succeeding in its mission. But Kamen needs more mentors, and he thinks the readers of EEPN and other industry publications are the right people for the job.
According to the FIRST web site, the key to its success is the work of over 25,000 volunteer mentors—professional engineers, teachers and other adults working with students across the country. FIRST programs engaged over 70,000 youngsters last year. As indicated, these programs are growing rapidly in the United States, but they’re also growing in many other countries as well.
Team mentors work side-by-side with students on FIRST teams to build self confidence, knowledge and skills, while motivating them to pursue opportunities in engineering, science and technology. If you would like to find out more about this mentoring program check out the FIRST web site at www.usfirst.org
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