Nine high-school teams from Newark, all coached by students and technicians from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), will compete in the New Jersey FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Regional Robotics Competition.
The contest will be held in the Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, March 18, from 9 a.m-4 p.m., and March 19, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The contest will feature five-foot tall, 100-pound robots lifting and stacking pyramid-shaped blocks of pipe and wood within a two-minute deadline.
Technology High School, one of the Newark teams coached by NJIT, won the Chairman’s Award during last year’s contest - the highest award given to a team. And this year all nine of the Newark teams - a total of 120 students - are poised to win both an award and to cultivate a love of science and engineering.
Joel Bloom, PhD, vice president for academic and student services at NJIT, said, “NJIT is strongly committed to the FIRST Robotics Competition, which is why our partnership with the Newark School District is proving so rewarding. FIRST is an ideal vehicle for integrating pre-engineering curriculum into the high-school experience. The robots really make the learning come alive for students, while at the same time cultivating their teamwork, planning and communication skills.”
Editor’s Note: Reporters who would like to cover the contest, please call Robert Florida at (973) 596-5203. The nine Newark high schools competing are Arts High; Barringer High; Central High; M.X. Shabazz High: Science High; Technology High; University High; Weequahic High; and West Side High.
Winning a FIRST competition demands teamwork, good strategy and a well-designed robot. Awards are given to teams for excellence in design, sportsmanship, and creativity. The Chairman's Award recognizes the team that embodies the spirit of FIRST, which is to respect and honor science and technology and to compete in a spirit of gracious professionalism. The teams who win awards will compete in the national championships in Atlanta held in late April.
Randy Schaeffer, FIRST regional director for New York City and New Jersey, said NJIT’s level of support for the Newark schools has been unprecedented. “No other college in the nation,” Schaeffer said, “has helped a school district the way NJIT has helped Newark. Some of the Newark students wind up attending NJIIT, while others learn to love science, technology and engineering. It’s a win-win for all involved.”
NJIT has provided shop and engineering facilities and labs as well as extensive technical support to the nine Newark teams. NJIT students have been enthusiastic mentors, many having participated in FIRST when they were in high school. NJIT has given scholarships to members of the Newark teams, and through its Center for Pre- College Programs, has taught Newark high school teachers about engineering, design and computer programming.
Bahig Michaels, district robotic coordinator for the Newark School District, said that “with the technical help the Newark teams have gotten from NJIT, we can not only compete with affluent suburban schools, but we can beat them. NJIT has been a role model for universities across the country in terms of how to help a school district.”
A total of 53 teams from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Brazil, and Puerto Rico have entered the contest. To prepare, each team worked closely with professional mentors to design and build the sophisticated, autonomously and remote-controlled robots. Because the game and design specifications change each year, student teams and their mentors face new challenges with each competition. The competition looks and sounds more like a Big Ten championship game than a science and engineering competition.
FIRST is a nonprofit organization dedicated to introducing young people to the excitement of science, math, engineering and technology.