An organisation called "FIRST Australia", which has been running its "FIRST Robotics Competition" for the past 26 seasons, is holding its 27th season this year.
FIRST happens to stand for "For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology,' and founded in the US in 1989. It was brought to Australia in 2006 by Macquarie University, with the competition run by Macquarie with the support of Google Australia, Ford Australia, and other partners.
The competition sees seventy-three teams from across the Asia Pacific are taking part in the two 2018 Australian Regionals: Southern Cross Regional from 11-13 March and South Pacific Regional from 16-18 March 2018, and includes 51 Australian teams and teams from the United States, Taiwan, China, India, Singapore, Vietnam and Turkey.
Indeed, organisers estimate over 350 batteries will be used in the course of the competition!
Thus these students from around the world will be pitting their skills against each other to battle it out at the FIRST Robotics Competition Australian Regionals.
FIRST Australia director Luan Heimlich explained: "It’s a competition, but it also teaches students design and engineering skills when they’re building their robots.
“They benefit from learning how to work together in teams, and cooperate and solve problems with tangible outcomes.”
We're told that this year’s theme is "Power Up, which finds teams and their robots stuck inside an old-school video arcade game, where they have to use power cubes to defeat the boss.
"For the first 15 seconds of each match the robots operate autonomously, following pre-programmed instructions. Then human operators remotely control their robots for the remaining two minutes and fifteen seconds of each bout.
"After only a six week preseason in which to build their robots, three-team alliances face off against each other in the two-and-a-half minute matches."
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Executive Dean of Macquarie’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Barbara Messerle, said the event gives players a valuable insight into what a career in science, technology, engineering, or maths might look like.
“The best scientists and engineers have a passion for their field, and a desire to tackle the global challenges of our times,” said Messerle.
“We’re hoping that by taking part in FIRST, these students will not only have a lot of fun but realise the kinds of careers they now have the skills to pursue."
Google Australia’s Engineering Community and Outreach Manager, Sally-Ann Williams said: “Future innovations and inventions in Australia will come from students gaining skills in STEM and computer science today.
“We support FIRST in Australia to increase participation from students from rural, remote and other under-represented communities, and to help ensure that all students can develop the skills they need for the future.”
It’s a sentiment that we're told Asia Pacific STEAM Specialist at Ford Australia, Louise Nance, agrees with.
Nance stated: "FIRST allows students from diverse backgrounds to develop skills that will be critical in the workforce of the future.
“Ford strongly believes Australia’s future prosperity depends on having a skilled and motivated workforce able to compete and win in the new economy.”
More information at the FIRST Australia site here.
Here's FIRST Australia's official 2018 video: