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Robots Spark Dreams and Future Careers

Designing and building a robot, programming it to roll and making basketballs fly! What a fantastic way to teach young people how big ideas become reality and prepare them for the 21st century workforce. Join me as we get to know the members of FIRST Robotics Team Sparky 384 and share in their excitement for science and technology.

In this two-part series, discover how high school students are embracing challenges and tackling problems head-on as they learn to collaboratively design, program, and build a robot. Find out how committed volunteer mentors and coaches teach young people essential life and 21st century work skills.

Watch the video to follow FIRST Team Sparky 384 as they prepare for “Rebound Rumble,” the VirginiaFIRST Regional Robotics Competition at VCU on March 16 and 17.

The members of Sparky 384 are Tucker High School students who are committed to spending hundreds of hours over a 6 week period to work together to envision, design, prototype and test a robot until it will successfully shoot basketballs through hoops at various distances. “I spend more time here than home or school - about 6 hours every day on robotics,” shares Mounika, a sophomore on the team. Mounika explains that it takes a village to be on a team, “because there is so much to do. You have to program, build, raise money and take care of the business side, do community outreach, build websites – there is just so much more involved than just building the robot.” 

Coach Carol Edelman echoes this sentiment when she describes how these students build a robot and compete in a competition,

It’s not all about the robot. The robot is a vehicle to get students where we all want them to be – to obtain 21st century work skills and gain experience solving real life problems. Robotics helps students be better prepared to attend college and compete in the global workplace.” 

It is amazing to hear of all of the things students learn working with volunteer mentors like the engineers from Flexicell, Inc – a local robotics company that has been involved with FIRST Robotics since it came to Virginia twelve years ago. 

“Our company is involved with the program because we believe it is a good breeding ground to get high school students very interested in robotics, electronics and engineering. It is important for us to support efforts to bring science and technology to high school, elementary and middle school students because it really is about our future. We are trying to encourage the youth of our nation to get the training in robotics, engineering and technology they need so they can go into these fields and be successful.” Thomas Halish, Flexicell engineer.

How is this experience changing the way students approach their future career choices?
Shelby, Head Programmer for the team shares how seeing her first programming efforts come to life – changed how she was approaching her future. “When I was a freshman, we had to build and program a robot to kick soccer balls. Our robot kicked the ball across the field and scored almost every time. That was the first time I saw my programming come alive with robots.” Since this experience, Shelby has decided to pursue a career in Biomedical Engineering because, “I like to see my programming come alive with robots.”

If you want to share in the excitement and see the dreams of thousands of teenagers come alive be sure to join us at the VirginiaFIRST Regional Robotics Competition on March 16 and 17 at VCU’s Siegel Center. Also check back here for part two to see how Sparky’s robot let the basketballs fly!

For more information contact Virginia FIRST.

Click here to see a video explaining the “Rebound Rumble” competition.

Article by Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager

Listen to a report by WCVE Public Radio’s John Ogle:
“Robotics Competition Returns to Siegel Center”