The “ultimate display of science, mathematics, and technology” was in action as 38 teams of high school students from the Capital Region, as well as other teams from New York state, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Indiana, and two international teams from Turkey and Canada, put their robots to the test and competed in the inaugural New York Tech Valley FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition March 13-15 at Rensselaer.

“FIRST brings a unique combination of science, technology, creative collaboration, and mentoring from professional engineers to students,” said Elliott Masie, FIRST Board of Directors and CEO of Saratoga Springs-based MASIE Center. “This inspires creativity and forges the skills, self-confidence and rounded life capabilities young people need to become our future leaders.”

Events like this at RPI help our future leaders hone their analytical, problem-solving, and team-building skills, while providing them with an overall preparedness for the workforce of tomorrow.”—U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20)

During a six-week time frame, students worked with professional engineering mentors to design a robot that solves a problem using a standard kit of parts and set of rules. Once these young inventors created the robot, their teams participated in competitions that measured the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

“At Rensselaer, our goal is to develop well-rounded, engaged, mature thinkers, and innovators who are intellectually agile, and who possess the multicultural sophistication to become transformative forces across the globe,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “We are pleased to host the Tech Valley FIRST Robotics Competition, which brings together high school students from around the world to test themselves and experience the excitement of discovery and innovation—preparing the leaders of tomorrow for the challenges ahead.”

The New York Tech Valley Regional was one of four FIRST regional competitions in New York state and one of 100 regional events taking place across the country this month. Winners for design excellence, sportsmanship, teamwork, and more will advance to the FIRST championship competition in St. Louis, Mo. in April.

“Robotics and engineering education benefits all students, even those who pursue a career in something other than engineering,” said U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20). “Events like this at RPI help our future leaders hone their analytical, problem-solving, and team-building skills, while providing them with an overall preparedness for the workforce of tomorrow.”

FIRST Robotics Competition sponsors and volunteers come from some of the most highly regarded organizations that share a concern for providing STEM opportunities for Tech Valley’s future workforce, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which is the regional lead sponsor, General Electric, National Grid, Rensselaer, Time Warner Cable, Integrated Liner Technology, Global Foundries, Hilton Garden Inn and Recovery Sports Grill. Sponsors provide resources including time and talent from professional mentors, services, equipment, financial contributions, and volunteers.

“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 Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering and director of the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education. Schoch and Mary Burke, manager of special projects at NYSERDA, are co-chairs of the New York Tech Valley competition.

More than 1,000 high school students, along with hundreds of teachers, industry and college mentors, parents, and 3,000 pounds of metal, gears, and electronics converged on the East Campus Athletic Village at Rensselaer for two days of matches.

“I was asked to find a place to hold a new competition where demand was greatest and enthusiasm was the best, and felt that the Capital Region is the place,” said Ana Martinez, FIRST regional director. “With the current cluster of FIRST teams in this area, the long list of sponsoring organizations, and the support of the business community and our many partners, I predict that this will be a very popular regional competition for years to come.”

Learn more about FIRST.