This past Saturday, I was in Manchester, New Hampshire, for the kickoff of the 2013 FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®), an annual competition that helps high school students across the world discover the excitement of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Many of the more than 50,000 students participating in this year’s competition will pursue course work and degrees in engineering, and become tomorrow’s automation and control professionals.
A wildly enthusiastic crowd of about 600 people attended the weekend kickoff event at Southern New Hampshire University, with thousands of high school students from 81 cities and 16 countries around the world tuned in through a live NASA-TV broadcast and webcast.
Each year, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which is based in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, launches a new robotics challenge for competing students. The 2013 game, ULTIMATE ASCENT, calls for more than 2,500 teams participating in 77 regional and district competitions to design, build, program, and test their robots. The top teams will attend the championship event, which will be held 24-27 April 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
Events like the FIRST Robotics Competition drive home to me just how exhilarating and exciting STEM and automation-related learning can be for young people. These kids were really pumped up. ISA and the Automation Federation have immense potential to capitalize on this fervor, and attract many more young people to our profession.
These events also serve as powerful confirmation that our work as automation and control professionals and the contributions we make through ISA are highly meaningful and relevant.
At its core, the FIRST robotics competition is about teams working together, harnessing their inspiration, and applying the right tools to create and innovate. All ISA members can learn something from these highly engaged young people. We can reconnect to the enthusiasm and exuberance that ignited our own drive to learn and career passions.
The unbridled excitement I witnessed this past weekend was incredibly motivating to me. It is a source of inspiration that I expect to channel during my year as ISA President.
I encourage all of you to tap into your own sources of inspiration. Rekindle those fires of curiosity and inventiveness in your field. Celebrate innovation. Collaborate and share your ideas and your successes.
Take a greater role in ISA division and section activities and leadership functions. Introduce ISA to schools and young people in your community. Mentor an engineering student. Establish a scholarship.
And, yes, participate in FIRST. Each year, nearly 120,000 volunteers contribute their time and expertise to FIRST programs and activities throughout the globe. There are so many ways to get involved.
In closing my first column in ISA Insights as 2013 ISA President, I want to emphasize how blessed I am to serve as your president, and I sincerely thank the Society and its members for this remarkable opportunity. I look forward to working with all of you in the months ahead, and sharing with you new evidence of our association’s success and progress.
Terrence G. Ives
2013 ISA President