Last month, nearly 300 high school students from area schools attended the New York Tech Valley FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) kickoff event that was held on the Rensselaer campus on Jan. 9. The program served as the official launch of the 2016 season of the FIRST® Robotics Competition, with a worldwide kickoff event originating from Manchester, N.H. The event was one of 114 total kickoff events held worldwide.

The program featured remarks from members of the Rensselaer campus community that included Paul Schoch and Shekhar Garde, dean of the School of Engineering. Additional speakers included Joe Czechowski, GE Global Research, and John Pellerin, vice president for technology development and yield engineering at GLOBALFOUNDRIES.

In addition, a video broadcast from Manchester, N.H., featured remarks from Dean Kamen, president, DEKA Research & Development and founder, FIRST; Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST Distinguished Advisor, co-chair of the FIRST Executive Advisory Board, and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Donald E. Bossi, president, FIRST.

During the broadcast, the FIRST STRONGHOLDSM game field and challenge details were unveiled for the first time. Attending teams also received a Kit of Parts made up of motors, batteries, control system components, construction materials, and a mix of additional automation components—with limited instructions.

To facilitate the ultimate display of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in action, Rensselaer will again host the New York Tech Valley FIRST® Robotics Competition from March 17-19.

FIRST“FIRST Robotics Competitions really bring the excitement of a sporting event to science and technology via robotics. Students are engaged, inspired, and excited to participate in science and technology—a mindset that will last long after the competition and put them on a path to a successful career and bright future,” said Paul Schoch, associate professor in the Rensselaer Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering and director of the university’s Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE). Schoch and Mary Burke, manager of special projects at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, are co-chairs of the New York Tech Valley competition.

The 2016 season will include more than 3,000 teams. To date 75,000 high school students in grades 9-12 will participate in 118 regional and district events. Teams will have six weeks to design and build a robot to meet this year’s engineering challenge.

During the competition that will be held in March on the Rensselaer campus, 34 teams of students from the Capital Region, as well as other teams from New York state, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Washington, along with three international teams from Canada, China, and the Netherlands, will put their robots to the test and compete.

More information about the New York Tech Valley FIRST® Robotics Competition.