Five-foot tall, 130-pound radio-controlled robots will begin to come to life at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Saturday, when hundreds of high school students will be given robotic kits from which they must build and design the robots.
The robotics contest, sponsored by NJ FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), begins by revealing a well-kept secret: on Saturday morning the 900 high school students will gather at the NJIT Campus Center and watch a video screen connected by satellite to the FIRST headquarters. The students will be told what kind of robot they must build and what tasks the robot must perform during the competition.
FIRST's regional office for New York City and New Jersey is based at NJIT, and the university offers scholarships to local high school students who participate in the FIRST competition. NJIT students, moreover, act as mentors to many of the high school students. The Center for Pre-College Programs at NJIT also offers workshops for coaches of the high school teams. NJIT will also award up to five merit scholarships to selected Newark high school seniors who belong to FIRST teams. NJIT also hosts a separate robotics competition for Newark middle school students.
On Saturday the high school students will receive the robotic kits and given workshops in how to assemble and program the robots. The students will have six weeks to prepare for the regional competition, held March 3-4, 2006 at the Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton. More than 24,000 students, divided into some 1,200 teams, have signed up for the contest, and 63 teams have registered to compete in Trenton. The six teams that win the regional competition will be invited to the FIRST International championship held April 27-29, 2006 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
"This kick-off event sets the clock ticking and the teams will run back to their schools to start figuring out ways to have their robots win this year's game," said Randy Schaeffer, FIRST regional director for New York City and New Jersey, which is based at NJIT. "The next six weeks will be an intense exposure to a problem-solving process in which they will apply math, science and technology to their tasks."
The event begins at 8:30 a.m. with registration and networking. The downlink of the game unveiling is at 10 a.m. and workshops for students begin at 1:30 p.m. The event concludes with distribution of the robot kits and a presentation of the goal for the 2006 game. The kits will be used by the teams of high school students, partnered with corporate engineers, who will construct the robots over the six weeks prior to the regional competition.
FIRST is a nonprofit group dedicated to introducing young people to the excitement of science, math, engineering and technology.