Six Teams Take Part in FIRST® Competitions, With More on the Way
Students celebrate the performance of their robot during a FIRST® competition in Canada.
Robotics provides students with a diverse learning experience, and a team of Dow volunteers is helping students in Canada learn all about it.
Dow sponsored six teams in the most recent competitions put on by the international nonprofit organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®). In addition, Dow employees volunteered as mentors for the teams.
FIRST runs robotics competitions on several levels:
- FIRST Robotics Competition for Grades 9-12
- FIRST Tech Challenge for Grades 7-12
- FIRST LEGO League for Grades 4-8
- Junior FIRST LEGO League for Grades K-3
- FIRST Place for ages 6 to adult
At each level, students join local teams to design and build robots that compete against other teams locally, regionally and – if they are very successful – internationally. More than 300,000 students from more than 70 countries took part in the most recent season.
In 2014, Dow began sponsoring FIRST teams near its Prentiss Site and around the Lacombe, Alberta area. This season, Dow sponsored two FIRST Tech teams and four FIRST LEGO teams. The Company also was a sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Canadian national championship at Waterloo University in Ontario.
“FIRST is a wonderful organization, and a great way for Dow to help bring the excitement of STEM into the classroom,” said Steve Schultz, a science teacher in Lacombe and a member of Dow’s Community Advisory Panel, which brings together selected community leaders for open and ongoing communication regarding the Company’s operations and many other topics of interest to the community. “With the strengths they build as FIRST teammates, students get a push start in the journey to becoming life-long learners and leaders.”
Students involved in FIRST gain technology and engineering skills, but it goes well beyond that. Teams have organization, communication, marketing, budgeting, logistics and other needs they must fill. Team members divide the responsibilities as their abilities and interests dictate, giving anyone the opportunity to contribute to a productive team.
Adult mentors are a crucial part of the experience. Mentors provide guidance and support to FIRST teams, as well as ensuring safety. Technical knowledge is helpful, but not necessary, for a mentor. Dow employees volunteered as mentors on all six company-sponsored teams this season.
“It’s rewarding to be in the middle of it all as the students work together to make progress,” said Dustin Hall, a Process Automation Engineer at Dow’s Prentiss site who mentors a Company-sponsored FIRST team. “By offering my experience and insight, I’m able to make a difference in building the workforce of the future, which benefits everyone.”
Dow is a strong supporter of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education because of the Company’s fundamental understanding of the current and growing need for people with 21st Century skills. As part of its STEM strategy, Dow recently agreed to become a FIRST Strategic Partner, committing to a high level of support for the organization both financially and through the involvement of employees.
The relationship between Dow and FIRST in Canada has been so successful that the Company plans to expand its support around its Fort Saskatchewan site, intending to add at least six new teams in the area.
For more information about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.