FARMINGTON — Two local robotics teams took their robots to the State House in Augusta recently.

Eight middle and high school teams from across the state assembled at the Capitol building to receive praise from their community leaders. The students were congratulated for

The FIRST LEGO League Team from Smart Fun Learning Adventures, a private school in Farmington which represented Maine at the World Competition in Detroit, Michigan, was at the State House in Augusta recently. Several middle and high school teams shared information about their robots promote FIRST and the importance of STEAM engagement. Submitted photo

their exceptional performances at FIRST competitions across the state and nation. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization that allows students to compete in science, technology, and engineering-based challenges.

The high school teams at the Capitol competed in FIRST Robotics Competitions in Maine.

These precocious high schoolers were asked to design robots that could compete in a game requiring multiple complicated maneuvers. Robots were piloted blind for several minutes at the beginning of each competition.

Each team chose a different way to overcome this challenge, many opting for robot-mounted cameras. Next, each team had to pickup and carefully drop large dodge balls in holes cut into a model rocket and space station, for points. In the course of the competition robots had to move up and down over physical obstacles, and place Velcro covers over the holes.

Blue Crew, a FIRST Robotics Competition team from Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, brought their robot and mascot, R2D2 to the State House recently. Submitted photo

Students were excited to share their experiences at the FIRST meets. Tasked with building and programming the robots, the students learned valuable skills like digital modeling, 3D printing, coding, wiring, and engineering. Because they were asked to design the robots themselves, students also worked on interpersonal, leadership, and problem solving skills.

FIRST strives to promote STEAM engagement among young students as well, inspiring growth of the field for the future.

They include Robotics Competitions such as the ones in which these students competed, as well as a separate LEGO League for ages 9 to 14, from which some students were also in attendance. The organization prioritizes the involvement of underrepresented, underserved, and vulnerable youths.

Of all students involved in FIRST, 43% are female, 72% are from economically disadvantaged families and over half of all students are from ethnic minorities. 87% of participants in the program go on to take more advanced math and science courses. Students who competed are also more than twice as likely as others to show increased interest in pursuing STEAM fields.

Students shared overwhelmingly positive remarks about their experiences, and showed great passion for their robots and the competitions. All expressed that they intend to continue participating in competitions and to pursue STEAM fields in their future.

FIRST competitions provide a great opportunity to middle and high school students who are looking to get hands–on experience with a wide array of skills before they graduate. Interested readers can visit www.firstinspires.org to get involved and learn how to help aspiring scientists and engineers pursue their passions and invest in the future.