Nederland HS Pirates team competing in Colorado Regional Robotics Competition

FIRST – For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology

By Michele Martin

Nederland MSHS has four high schoolers that make up the team this year. Middle schoolers can help, they just can’t compete. The schedule and location of the event can be found on the links below.

The Nederland team (Team 1584 Pirates) has gone to nationals before, and has been offering this for a good 15 years. There hasn’t been much exposure for them, with sports being a main priority in previous administrations, but we have a new principal now so hopefully more emphasis will be put on it. I was quite impressed because I had never been involved with anything like this before. It started with a livestream feed of what the teams’ robots are supposed to do for this year’s build. Then they were given schematics and guidelines, and along with help from mentors (who don’t even have kids in school anymore), they have seven weeks to build a robot. Crazy! My son and the others doing it for the first time, have never experienced any welding, soldering, wood shop, programming, electrical, mechanical, etc. ever – so this was really a great experience. Hopefully they do well in the competition.

Lisa Culver, co-owner of ACE Hardware in Nederland, is the main contact and can provide more information for the Pirates team. ACE has LED bulbs on sale as a fundraiser for the team. The four high schoolers are William Culver, Captain of the team, Cody Martin, Oliver Vernon, and Hakan Chunton. I’m not sure who all the middle schoolers are.

What is FIRST Robotics Competition?

  Combining the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. We call FIRST Robotics Competition the ultimate Sport for the Mind. High-school student participants call it “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.” Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. Each season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship.

The positive impact on FIRST Robotics Competition participants is gratifying and well documented.

Over 88% have more interest in doing well in school and 92% are more interested in attending college.

FIRST Robotics Competition teams get to:

  • Learn from professional engineers
  • Master STEM skills
  • Learn and use sophisticated software, hardware, and power tools
  • Build and compete with a robot of their own design
  • Improve teamwork, interpersonal, and communication skills
  • Compete and cooperate in alliances and tournaments
  • Understand and practice Gracious Professionalism™
  • Earn a place at the FIRST Championship
  • Qualify for millions of dollars in college scholarships

When does FIRST Robotics Competition happen?

In general, FIRST Robotics Competition operates during the school year. Teams form and register in the fall. However, the “official season” begins early in January when the season’s Challenge is announced at a Kickoff ceremony. Teams are then given six weeks to create their robot. District and Regional competition events start in late February and continue through April. Teams that qualify are invited to FIRST Championship at the end of April. There are also many off-season events in which teams can participate, strategize, hone their skills, learn new technology, meet other teams, and have fun!

What is the time commitment?

Mentors or adult Volunteer meet with their team at least several times per week during the build and competition season (January – April). Many mature teams also meet throughout the school year, and some compete in off-season events during the summer. You, your family, and your available free time can decide together how much time you can devote to the program.

As a team member, the same applies. Be prepared to meet at least several times per week from January through April. Like any sport or other after-school activity, the more time you invest, the better you will become at your task(s). During build season, the pressure is on, so be prepared to also spend some nights and weekends helping your team.

Any special skills required?

The really cool thing about FIRST Robotics Competition is…all skill levels are welcomed and needed, technical or non-technicalTeams need all kinds of skills to succeed, so what are you good at? We have a job for you. And we’ll probably teach you a few new ones while you’re with us.

Student team members are encouraged to bring any skills they already have, like programming, electronics, metalworking, graphic design, web creation, public speaking, videography, and many more. FIRST Robotics Competition welcomes every student, with or without special skills. Like our Mentors say, “This is the only sport where if you show up, you can play.”

What does it cost to participate? 

  There are costs involved with forming a FIRST Robotics Competition team and they can vary from team to team and region to region depending on what level of participation the team chooses.

Here are some basic cost parameters:

  • There are never any “per student” fees; all costs for individual team members are assumed by the team as a group.
  • The annual fees for team registration, a robot kit of parts, and event participation are $5,000 – $6,000. Additional costs for travel, food, team shirts and other optional items will vary.
  • FIRST offers many fundraising opportunities and teams are encouraged to create their own. Grants are also available, as well as sponsorships provided locally, regionally and nationally by many corporations.
  • FIRST believes that no team that wants to participate should have to bow out due to lack of resources. We will do everything possible to make funds available to all teams who need extra help.

Links for the Colorado Regional FIRST Robotics Competition info. & schedule:

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