Sure, the chance to participate in FIRST can steer students down a promising new career path, earn them scholarship money and help them to develop priceless engineering, programming and teamwork skills. But it also gives bright young students a chance to let their geek flag fly with pride, as becomes most evident at the annual FIRST Robotics Championship.
At this massive event, teams from around the world don't just come to compete, they come to flaunt their love of science, sci-fi and all manner of silliness. If you're, say, Team 3128 The Aluminum Narwhals out of San Diego, Calif., then this means parading around in capes and unicorn helmets.
Youths and adults alike join in this celebration of nerdom and even kick off festivities with a robot parade. Live marching bands usher the prized bots through the competition grounds and brightly colored mascots follow in their wake. Wizards, aliens and cartoon characters accompany the teams as family members and volunteers cheer from the stands.
It all ties into Dean Kamen's original vision: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The massive, international organization aims not only to give young people the tools they need to be successful but also the courage to be themselves in a world that can seem far more focused on building up future star quarterbacks than future roboticists, engineers and ground-breaking scientists.
Explore the links on the next page to learn even more about robots.