Waco: Students' robots battle at tech competition

(Photo by: Erin Zeller)
(Photo by: Erin Zeller)(KWTX)
Published: Apr. 2, 2017 at 9:52 PM CDT
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Hundreds of students from several states competed in Waco this weekend in a robotics competition.

For Inspiration Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, hosted their first robotics competition in Waco in collaboration with the Waco Sports Commission.

Teams of students from Kindergarten through 12th grade spend countless hours planning and constructing their robots in the weeks leading up to the battle.

"We only have about 6 weeks to put together our robot, and then we can’t touch it until competition day," Rapoport Academy’s Robotics team captain Alicia Martinez said.

Students from all over Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, and Illinois came to Central Texas for the battle. They cheered on their teams as the unique robots competed in several different games.

Martinez said, "The atmosphere here is really exciting because you have a bunch of people surrounding you, rallying around STEM."

FIRST Regional Director Patrick Felter said, "They're throwing balls, hanging gears, robots are climbing up the airship they're actually climbing ropes."

Felter said the goal for the organization is to mentor students, teach them about problem solving, and shape them for a future career in the tech industry.

"Our mission is to inspire young people to become scientific and engineering leaders in the future,” he said. "These are those soft skills, the project management skills, conflict resolution, ability to focus and produce something in a short amount of time.”

Martinez agreed and said participating on the robotics team has not only taught her about engineering, but taught her other useful skills. "We're also learning marketing, social, public relations, things like that, talking to sponsors, a lot of communication in addition to STEM," she said.

Felter said the FIRST organization has 500,000 kids participating worldwide, and over 26,000 in Texas alone. The Brazos Valley Regional competition was the first robotics meet of its size to come to Waco.

“STEM is important to the Texas economy. There are high tech manufacturing jobs available and these kids are ripe for that,” he said.