Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), is shown on the left, watching as students participate in a FIRST robotics event. (Courtesy photo)
By DAVID CARKHUFF, THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
WOLFEBORO — For the first time, middle and high school robotics teams will compete at state championships in New Hampshire, when students gather Saturday at Kingswood Regional High School for the inaugural New Hampshire FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a robotics challenge conceived by inventor Dean Kamen. Tailored to high school competition, FIRST also branched out to involve younger students.
Tech Challenge is a global program "created to get students excited about science and technology, by offering a unique varsity sport for the mind," according to organizers.
"FIRST has a number of programs for students of different ages, starting from early elementary all the way through high school. This one covers both middle school and high school students," said Frank Grossman, affiliate partner for New Hampshire. Grossman is in charge of coordinating the FIRST Tech Challenge state championships.
In the past, the Tech Challenge students went to Massachusetts, but New Hampshire now has enough teams to host its own championship event, Grossman said.
Twenty robotics teams from middle schools and high schools across New Hampshire will gather at Kingswood Regional High with autonomous and remote-controlled robots that they designed, built and programmed.
In the high school version of FIRST Robotics, three-team alliances compete with 120-pound robots. In the Tech Challenge version, two-team alliances bring robots no larger than 18 inches cubed.
Roughly 50 volunteers joined to oversee the championship.
"Taking this on was basically taking a risk that we could run this whole program and find enough volunteers to pull this off," Grossman said.
Like its high school counterpart, the Tech Challenge emphasizes teamwork and sportsmanship.
"A big, big part of FIRST is a thing called 'gracious professionalism.' You're always competing hard but you want to compete at your best so you're willing to help others," Grossman said.
One of the founders of FIRST, Woodie Flowers, co-chair of the FIRST Executive Advisory Board, will attend the event and speak, according to the schedule. Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST, also is scheduled to give remarks during opening ceremony, which begins at 10:15 a.m. The official rounds of competition will kick off at 11 a.m.
The Annubles team from Tilton and two teams from Wolfeboro are scheduled to compete.
"It's going to be an amazing event. It's free and open to anyone," Grossman said, encouraging the public to attend.