Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) competitions have been around for decades. I help run the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair at Rider University, which is into its 67th year of competition. Our grand-prize winner goes on to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair.
There are a host of robotics competitions as well, including FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) that was started by Dean Kamen. Trinity College holds an annual Fire Fighting Robot competition in Hartford, Conn. I’ve covered many of these competitions, including this one.
It’s helpful to know about these competitions if your children or grandchildren are interested in STEM, but for our audience, there’s an equally important aspect—support. These competitions require support staff, judges, and mentors. The last two require expertise that engineers, programmers, developers, and scientists can pass on to budding engineers, programmers, developers, and scientists.
One of the hardest things about these competitions is getting students involved and getting adults to support them. So, get involved. It’s actually a lot of fun and very rewarding. Here are some starting points.
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair hosted 1,800-plus students in Phoenix, Ariz. for the top high-school science and engineering competition. The competition is held each May, where students from around the world meet to compete in the premier STEM competition.
Take a cue from the Girl Scouts: Provide them with more challenges…and more danger. The girls loved the activities, and what constructive criticism they had to offer was unified by a single clear thread: we want more challenges. My personal favorite response came from a girl who wanted, and I quote, “more dangerous things.” As if blowtorches and buzz saws weren’t dangerous enough already!
NXP Semiconductors is sponsoring the HoverGames competition, and there’s a kit with an open-source flight-management system to make things easier. This type of competition raises the bar in terms of complexity and experience required to compete effectively.
The competition has been expanded and now includes a robot waiter contest. There’s a basic and an advanced version, but the idea is the same for both. The robot goes to a location, picks up a plate, and delivers it to the table. Like the firefighting contest, it’s a lot harder than it looks.
The field included MIT and other seasoned specialists in engineering and marine technology. Yet Carl Hayden High School, a rookie team from the deserts of Phoenix, Ariz., grabbed first place in the Explorer class of the Third Annual ROV Design and...
Technology Editor Don Tuite talks about ham radios and the FIRST Robotics competition. FIRST includes many different competition levels and includes the FIRST Robotics Lego League.