This year, 36 teams of high school students from the Capital Region, New York state, South Carolina, Canada, India, and Turkey—along with hundreds of teachers, industry mentors, parents, and 3,000 pounds of metal, gears, and electronics—tested their skills in a unique competition where math, science, and engineering excellence are celebrated during the New York Tech Valley Regional competition, held at the East Campus Athletic Village last week.

In its fourth year, the New York Tech Valley Regional FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology. Working with adult mentors, students had six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. By combining the excitement of sport and beauty of art with the rigors of science and technology, teams of high school students are challenged to design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform tasks against a field of competitors, according to the organization.

The 2017 competition, FIRST STEAMworks, invites adventure clubs from an era in which technology relied on steam power to prepare their airships for the ultimate long-distance race. Each three-team alliance scores points and prepares to take flight by building steam pressure, gathering materials to start the rotors, and boarding robots onto their airships. The adventurer club with the highest score at the end of the match is the best prepared for the race and wins.

This year, participating teams have an opportunity to earn a spot at the FIRST® Championship to be held April 19-22 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, or April 26-29 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The FIRST Robotics Competition anticipates that 3,336 teams in the U.S. and 24 countries worldwide will be competing in 55 regional events and 80 district events.

“The FIRST Robotics Competition isn’t just about the robots,” said Paul Schoch, associate professor in the Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering department, and director of the university’s Center for Initiatives in PreCollege Education (CIPCE), who is serving as a co-chair along with Mary Burke.

The FIRST Robotics Competition New York Tech Valley Regional sponsors and volunteers come from some of the most highly regarded organizations, including Bechtel, GE, National Grid, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, GlobalFoundries, ASML, KLA-Tencor, M+W Group, Mattson Technology Inc., Turner Construction Company, AMAT, Lam Research, SCREEN Semiconductor Solutions, Wonik IPS, Edwards Vacuum, Applied Materials, nfrastructure, and PDF Solutions. Sponsors provide resources including time and talent from professional mentors, services, equipment, financial contributions, and volunteers.