This week's moving front page story about an Imlay City graduate's double lung transplant highlights the "miracles" of science and technology. Today, area students have a chance to continue to be part of such amazing stories through participation in FIRST Robotics teams. Ask any FIRST Robotics student, mentor or team leader and they'll tell you that testing their science, technology, engineering and math skills is not only fun, it's creative and rewarding too. Students get to perform hands-on tasks and gain valuable experience in STEM fields; learn how to organize the task at hand; exercise creativity and 'out of the box' thinking to meet challenges, problem-solve, and work as a team. They give and take direction, build communication and leadership skills and bolster their confidence when it comes to working under pressure to reach a goal. They are getting an early introduction into career fields that helped propel our country to the forefront and that are required to keep the national competitive and economically strong for generations to come. And maybe even get to save lives.
It's exciting to see participants get excited about competing against other FIRST teams—and anyone who has ever been to a competition knows that the enthusiasm and team spirit displayed by school groups from across the state rivals that of any sporting event. It's as exciting as it gets—and it's driven by STEM.
The area's first FIRST Robotics team formed in Capac, and has experienced much success in competition over the years. Last weekend the team— 'Metal and Soul'— earned the prestigious 'Chairman's Award' at district competition, given to teams that offer a model for other schools to emulate. FIRST teams now exist in Almont and Imlay City, with some Dryden students taking part on Imlay's team.
The volunteer mentors and team leaders spend multiple hours after school, on weekends and in the evenings helping students with the benefit of their professional experience and knowledge; they also help raise much needed funds for equipment and supplies, and to cover costs of competition. All of this culminates in the competitions themselves, with team members also showing their creative sides through team logos, t-shirts, posters and work areas. If you didn't know otherwise you'd think you were at a championship sporting event from the level of passion and excitement.
Area school districts participation in the US FIRST Robotics program and the teachers, mentors and parents who volunteer are offering students a priceless opportunity to spread their wings, test their skills and find and hone their competitive edge in STEM fields. Regardless of the outcome at competitions on all levels, it is a win-win situation for all. Congratulations to all those who participate in extra-curricular robotics teams!