Editorial in AZ Republic

This is from today’s Arizona Republic:

Great day to be a geek
Robotic competition celebrates ingenuity, technology

Mar. 15, 2005 12:00 AM

For a nation vexed by the rapid advances of other countries in the sciences and technology, the United States has hope for the future.

In the technology race, we may no longer hold first place in everything. But we do have FIRST.

Across the nation last weekend, thousands of young and enthusiastic technophiles gathered to compete in one of 30 regional playoffs for the FIRST Robotics Competition, one of America’s most successful science events for high school students.

One of those regionals was held in Phoenix at the Arizona Memorial Coliseum. There, 28 teams vied for a chance to compete with their remote-controlled robots in the FIRST Finals, to be held in Atlanta in April.

As in past years, the results were an inspiring mix of techobrilliance on the part of hundreds of young women and men and their devoted mentors and joyously knuckleheaded playfulness. On Saturday at the Coliseum, it was great to be geek.

Founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) involved more than 900 teams nationally and 36,000 young people this year.

In fact, the thrilling, game-show-style events, which encourage the scientific imperatives of cooperation and collegiality, are going international. Teams from Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Israel, Mexico and the United Kingdom competed in regionals this year.

For the second year running, the team from Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix was honored for providing mentoring assistance to a team from Mexico. For their efforts, the “Falcon Robotics” team from Carl Hayden received the Chairman’s Award, the regional event’s highest individual award.

The overall winners of the competitive events were a partnership of three teams, which included students from two Phoenix-area schools, two schools from Sedona and another from Montclair, N.J.

The local winners included a team made up of students from Xavier College Prep and Phoenix Country Day School. The other local squad, from northern Arizona, included students from American Heritage Academy High School & Career and Technology District and Mingus Union High School.

All those teams, as well as several other award winners from the Arizona regional, will be invited to compete in the FIRST Finals in Atlanta.

For the students, much of the thrill comes from collaborating with other students in designing, building and operating a complicated machine over a period of six weeks. The students, in fact, must take charge of all aspects of the process, including seeking out sponsors.

As Kamen himself told the competitors at the Arizona regional on Saturday, the FIRST events are dedicated every bit as much to collaboration and cooperation as they are to competition.

A nation that turns out a fraction of the number of engineers that China and India produce each year, he said, can ill afford to leave behind a single inquisitive, young mind.

The Arizona regional - loud, boisterous and giddy in its enthusiasm for science - left no mind behind on Saturday.

Wow, fantastic editorial!