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FIRST Tech Challenge
||The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is a mid-level robotics competition for high-school students. FTC grew out of the existing FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), and was developed to provide an affordable way for teams of high school students to create a robotics program.
||In FTC, teams of ten or fewer students (14-18 years old) have the task of designing and constructing a robot, as a team, using the VEX Robotics platform (http://www.vexlabs.com/) that will out play teams from around the region in the 2007 challenge game that is released in September. The tournament at the end of the season is a high-energy, sports-like event where students can show off what they learned throughout the season. FTC is a fantastic program for an after-school math or science oriented program and may be started by schools, parents, or other informal education programs. The VEX robotics kit is accessible to students at any level of robotics experience and is fun for students to learn and work with. The registration fee to participate in FTC for this year is $275, and a VEX Robotics kit may be purchased for ~$350.
FTC motivates students just becoming familiar with basic concepts in science, math, and technology. The program effectively engages students from various backgrounds, instilling new ideas and concepts in more experienced students, while helping to inspire, motivate, and encourage learning basic principles and skills among students with less experience. Through their FTC involvement, students also learn about important, life-long team skills such as planning, research, collaboration, mentorship, and teamwork.
As with all FIRST programs, the idea of Gracious Professionalism is not only encouraged, but is an important criterion upon which teams are judged. With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.
In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.
A team of researchers at the Center for Youth Development at Brandeis University conducted an evaluation of the 2006 pilot season that included observation of the events and interviews with teams and their coaches/mentors. Both team leaders and team members assessed the program positively:
- 90% or more reported that the program had increased participants understanding of basic science principles, how technology could be used to solve real-world problems, and team members' understanding of the engineering design process.
- 93% of participants reported wanting to learn more about science and technology.
- 80% or more of participants reported increased interest in science and technology careers and doing well in school.
- 74% of team leaders participated as a way to get young people involved in science and technology.
The Hardest Fun Ever.