Students Battle For Tech Prowess In Robotics Competitions

More than 60 teams of New Jersey high school students will compete in a competition where they build robots from do-it-yourself kits. Instructions not included.

K.C. Jones, Contributor

January 13, 2006

1 Min Read

New Jersey students are gearing up for a statewide robotics competition.

More than 60 teams of high school students will compete in the Garden State's 10th annual competition For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition. This week, students received do-it-yourself kits with equipment they'll need to build robots for FIRST in March. Instructions are not included.

The number of participants has nearly doubled since the first competition drew 37 teams in 1997, before Wi-Fi, cell phones and other mobile technology became popular. Students involved in the contest were about seven times as likely become engineering majors as the average student entering college in the United States overall, according to results of a retrospective study announced by New York City/New Jersey First in 2005. The program is based at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

It is hosting the event, which is one of 33 regional robotics competitions among students in this country, Canada and Israel this year. More than 1,100 teams are vying for spots at a final competition at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in April. In 1992, 28 teams, mostly from New England, competed in a high school gym in New Hampshire.

Now the competitions are elaborate productions, with blaring music, play-by-play announcements, pep squads and team colors.

"Prowess on the athletic playing field is great, but these high school competitors will be playing a sport of the mind," Randy Schaeffer, regional director of New York City/New Jersey First, said in a prepared statement. "They will use a wide range of skills, including communication, teamwork, leadership and problem solving that will give them a glimpse of what it takes to compete in a technologically-driven global economy."

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