Students of the FIRST Robotics programs had their own section of booths at the Salmon Days Festival.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics is an international robotics program geared toward students from elementary to high school. Robotics clubs participate in a series of technical and design challenges by building a robot and having it compete in local FIRST competitions.
Students from several schools attended Salmon Days to show off their creations to the public and encourage other students to join.
“A lot of what FIRST is about is giving students the opportunity to experience engineering and anything in that field,” Tahoma High School student Ashley Faucher said. “It’s a lot about gaining kids’ interest so your team continues to grow and provide kids with opportunities.”
Issaquah High School student Mike Violette said no previous knowledge of fields like design, engineering, or programming are required to join. FIRST teaches skills to the students and focuses on teamwork to get things done.
In January, the FIRST Robotics Competition for the high school level begins with the announcement of the rules for that year’s competition. Teams then have six weeks to design, program and build a robot to meet all the specifications in order to compete. Teams then participate in a series of qualifying rounds against other schools for a ranking.
Violette said that one of his biggest skills he has gained is teamwork. Not only do you gain fundamental STEM knowledge, he said, but you also learn how to work with people.
Faucher, who joined the FIRST program when she was in middle school, said participating helped her find a field she enjoys. She went in thinking she would be a programmer but found herself passionate about the fabrication element of the team. That passion kept her involved in the program and she has now received a job offer at a fabrication shop.
Elementary and Middle School students from the local FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team were also at Salmon Days showing off some of their creations.
FLL team coach Dan Rosenstein, who has volunteered with FIRST and is now a board member, said one of the most impactful elements of the program isn’t the technology, but the growth of the students.
“What is most amazing isn’t the robots. It’s the kids and the soft skills they learn,” Rosenstein said. “It’s this concept of ‘gracious professionalism’. Seeing a kindergartner use LEGO bricks to express how they are feeling… Experiencing the transformation of a 9th grader who was too shy to speak at her first meeting to standing on a chair and taking charge of the whole club her sophomore year.”
Liam Goldring, a sixth-grade member of the TribeBots team, said FIRST encourages core values of perseverance, fun, teamwork and innovation.
The FLL teams work on designing, programming, and building their robots to solve themed challenges set by FIRST.
“It takes a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding,” Goldring said. “I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in programming, building stuff, robotics, and in general having fun because a lot of my team has become my friends.”
More information on FIRST can be found at www.firstinspires.org.