FIRST Things First: Robots, big and small

One of the things that has captured my interest for the past few years is robotics, and specifically FIRST Robotic Competitions.

For those who don’t know, FIRST is an acronym meaning For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, and was created by Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway, iBot Personal Transporter, compact kidney dialysis machines, etc.) and Dr. Woodie Flowers (Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, former host of the PBS program Scientific American Frontiers, etc.). FIRST seeks to get young people as excited about technology as they are about sports or entertainment, and accomplishes this with annual robotic competitions. Each year in early January teams of students are presented with the "game", a challenge that changes every year, and the game involves robots that the students have to build.

Anyway, FIRST has been around for about 14 years, and I recall seeing something about it on TV around 10 years ago and thinking, "Man, why couldn’t they have had that when I was in high school???" But I was a software engineer for a PC manufacturer, well out of college, married with three kids of my own, so I guess some dreams were never meant to be.

Then I got laid off from that job. (Actually, that was the greatest thing that could hav happened to me, but that’s a tale for another entry.) I found myself working for a company near (about 4-1/2 miles) to my home. I was there for about 2 years when I found out that the company was sponsoring a FIRST team for the local high school. "Wow," I thought, "I could really get into this!", but personal committments kept me from getting involved for a few weeks, at which point, lo and behold, the year’s activities were done. No problem, I could always try again next year.

Or not: Just a few months later I left THAT job to become a high school computer science teacher. (No, not at that local school, at a much better one! 8^) And, as luck would have it, or as Murphy would declare, there was no FIRST at BG. Rats!

At the start of the next school year, my boss (fellow theSpoke blogger AlfredTwo) announced that we were starting a FIRST team, and the rest, as they say, is history.



@ Tuesday, November 16, 2004 4:25 PM

I gotta show you how to add links in your blog. 🙂 FIRST’s web site is http://www/ for those interested.


@ Tuesday, November 16, 2004 7:19 PM

Yeah, well I WAS going to do that when I started that entry, but obviously forgot by the time I was done (a few classes later!)


@ Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:02 PM

FIRST is awesome. I’d love to see either FIRST or Battlebots for HS take on more of an automated and AI component so that s/w can get emphasis in robotics as well.


@ Thursday, November 18, 2004 7:24 PM

Hey, has anyone seen the Java Robotics products at Let me know if they are any good! Maybe I’m getting the bug Tom has!


@ Friday, December 03, 2004 5:02 AM

its great to see FIRST coming onto the spoke as well =) im from team 188 based in toronto, good to see you!




About Mr. I

After 17 years as a PC Software Engineer I gave it all up in 2000 to become a High School Computer Teacher
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