via flickr/Greg Gorman
A competitor adjusts a robot during the 2014 FIRST Championship, which was also held in St. Louis. Photo via
Students from around the world have been competing since March for a spot at the international FIRST Championship, hosted in St. Louis. Events will be held at Union Station, the dome, and America's Center. There will also be a FIRST Innovation Faire at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.
Among the few local teams advancing to the championships is Eureka High School's Bosons, a group of middle- and high-school students that placed second in the design category during a competition held at Missouri S&T in March.
An after-school robotics program for kids from kindergarten through high school, FIRST gets kids excited about science and technology by turning robotics into a team sport, complete with cheering fans, silly hats, and team shirts.
All of the teams start with the same kit for their age group, then have six weeks to design, build, and program a robot. Younger teams use LEGO-based robots, while the older students work with standard robotics kits. There are four programs within FIRST, including the Robotics Competition (grades 9–12), Tech Challenge (grades 7–12), LEGO League (grades 4–8), and LEGO League Jr. (grades K–3).
The theme for this year's two LEGO leagues is "Waste Wise and Trash Trek." Participants try to solve the world's growing trash problems by reducing, reusing, and recycling. During the World Festival EXPO, held at Union Station, younger LEGO League Jr. teams will show off models built using LEGO bricks and motorized parts. At America's Center, older LEGO League teams will compete with bots made from LEGO Mindstorm kits.
This year's Tech Challenge, called RES-Q, will be hosted at Union Station. The competition is modeled after rescue situations faced by mountain explorers. Two robotics teams will form an alliance for this challenge and score points by resetting beacons, climbing a mountain, and rescuing stranded "climbers."
Robotics Competition teams will play a game called Stronghold, in which teams form alliances with three bots, then attempt to breach their opponents’ fortifications, weaken their tower with boulders, and capture the opposing tower. (Watch a video from FIRST that explains the game here.)
FIRST is more than just a fun way to learn about robots, though. Competitors have access to millions of dollars in college scholarships. Colleges and sponsors will be on hand at the Innovation Faire to visit with high schoolers in the FIRST program.
Championship events, as well as hands-on exhibits and technology demonstrations at the FIRST Innovation Faire, are open to the public. FIRST Championships events run from Wednesday to Saturday. For a detailed schedule and map, visit FIRSTinspires.org. Can't make it to the competition? Watch online here.