School Students Compete in New York Tech Valley FIRST® Robotics Competition Hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

It’s all about robots, 3,000 pounds of metal, gears and electronics, and recycling. Get ready to see the ultimate display of science, mathematics, and technology in action as 36 teams of high school students put their robots to the test and compete in the New York Tech Valley FIRST®(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from March 19 to 21.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will host the New York Tech Valley FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics from March 19-21. Pictured above: a series of images from last year's event. Rensselaer/Ray Felix

This year, 1,800 students representing teams from the Capital Region, as well as teams from New York state, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and an international team from Canada will participate in the regional event. Students will be supported by hundreds of teachers, industry and college mentors, and parents who will converge on the East Campus Athletic Village at Rensselaer for two days of matches.

“FIRST Robotics Competitions really bring the excitement of a sporting event to science and technology via robotics,” said Paul Schoch, associate professor in the Rensselaer Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering Department and director of the university’s Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE).

“The competition is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get,” Schoch said. “Students are engaged, inspired, and excited to participate in science and technology – a mindset that will last long after the competition and put them on a path to a successful career and bright future.” Schoch received the 2014 Woodie Flowers Award, which celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. It was founded in 1996 to recognize mentors who lead, inspire, and empower using excellent communication skills.

Schoch and Mary Burke, manager of special projects at New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), are co-chairs of the 2015 New York Tech Valley competition.

Overall, 75,000 high school students from the United States and around the globe will compete in this year’s competition. This year’s FIRST game, titled RECYCLE RUSHSM, is a recycling-themed game played by two alliances of three robots each. Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recyclable by teams in their home locations or by FIRST® at the end of the season.

Prior to the competition, during a six-week time frame, students worked with professional engineering mentors to design a robot that solved a problem using a standard kit of parts and set of rules. Once the young inventors created the robot, their teams participated in competitions that measured the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

“As New York continues to grow its clean-tech economy under Governor Cuomo, building STEM skills in our future workforce is both important and necessary to ensure that businesses continue to have access to skilled employees,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO, NYSERDA. “This instructive and entertaining event is one way that New York's students can enhance their hard-science skills while having fun and preparing for the next generation of highly-technical jobs.”

Support for the FIRST Robotics competition is provided by several area and national organizations. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the regional lead sponsor. Co-sponsors include General Electric, GlobalFoundries, National Grid, Rensselaer, M+W Group, and Time Warner Cable. Sponsors provide resources including time and talent from professional mentors, services, equipment, financial contributions, and volunteers.

This season, participating FIRST students are also eligible to apply for more than $20 million in scholarships from 150 scholarship providers.

The New York Tech Valley Regional competition is one of four FIRST regional competitions in New York state and one of 100 regional events taking place across the country this month. Winners for design excellence, sportsmanship, teamwork, and more will advance to the FIRST championship competition in St. Louis, Missouri, in April.

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