Youth robotics teams deserve our support

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

This weekend, thousands of high school students across the state — and the country — will gather around computer screens to watch the FIRST Robotics Competition unveil its new game for the 2016 season.

For those who don’t know, FIRST Robotics Competitions are described as the “ultimate sport for the mind,” combining the excitement of sport with the rigors of science to inspire and educate young inventors.

The competition’s game changes from year to year, requiring high school students to readjust their strategy and build robots specifically designed to accomplish the tasks for the given game.

Students have six weeks to build, program and test their robots using “kickoff kits” they receive from FIRST Robotics. Nearly all of the schools in Leader Publications’ readership area have teams that compete in FIRST Robotics Competitions, meaning there is a good chance you know someone who will be watching the kickoff event, which is scheduled for Saturday.

In addition to building a robot, student teams also have to raise funds, design a team “brand,” and work together in order to successfully compete against like-minded student teams from other schools.

Studies have found that students who participate in FIRST Robotics become more interested in doing well in school and going to college. Studies have also found that participants make gains in 21st Century work-life skills, including problem solving, time management and conflict resolution.

FIRST Robotics truly is a great program that can benefit anyone — not just students interested in academics.

These kids often put just as much time, energy and effort into their craft as the kids who are competing in basketball, football or baseball.

They deserve the same kind of recognition too.

We encourage everyone to support local FIRST Robotics programs.

Anyone interested in learning more should visit

Those wanting to see the students in action can plan to attend the FIRST Robotics district competition at St. Joseph High School in St. Joseph, Michigan, March 10-12.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.