Teens Exhibit Prowess for Designing and Building 130-Pound Robots to Compete at Long Island FIRST Robotics Regional Competition

The School-Business Partnerships of Long Island (SBPLI), sponsor of the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, announced that students from 40 high schools, including 34 local school districts, have been tasked with the challenge and excitement of designing and building an original robot culminating in the Long Island FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Regional Competition. The competition will be held March 30 and 31 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, at the Hofstra Arena from 9am to 5pm on March 30, and from 9am to 4pm on March 31. The students will compete for honors and recognition that reward design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship, and high-impact partnerships among schools, businesses, and communities.

FIRST was founded by inventor Dean Kamen, who first introduced the Segway™ Human Transporter (HT) four years ago. He created FIRST with a goal to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people, their schools, and communities.  Currently in its 19th year, the FIRST Robotics Competition in 2007 will reach more than 32,000 high-school-aged young people on about 1,300 teams in regional events representing every state in the United States and several other countries, including Israel and Brazil. More than 1,000 students will compete in the Long Island Regional to earn a spot at the Championship April 12-14 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.

“The FIRST Robotics Competition is not just about the design and building of sophisticated robots.  These students also develop maturity, professionalism, teamwork and mentoring skills that enrich their lives,” said Fred Breithut, president of School-Business Partnerships of Long Island (SBPLI), and sponsor of the Long Island FIRST Regional Robotics Competition.  “Many of our students develop an affinity for their science and math courses, go on to study engineering, technology or science in college, and also pursue employment opportunities with sponsoring companies.”

Over a six-week timeframe, students work with their professional mentors to design a robot that solves a problem using a “kit of parts” and a standard set of rules.  Once these young inventors create their 130-pound robots, their teams participate in regional competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration and the determination of students.  Students received their kit of parts on Jan. 6 and have until Feb. 22 to complete their robot.  This year’s competition is a game called “Rack n’ Roll.”

“Rack n’ Roll” is played by two alliances, each composed of three teams. The object of “Rack n’ Roll” is for individual robots to move plastic, doughnut-shaped game pieces around a field, ultimately placing them on a center rack in specific configurations in order to earn points. Points can also be earned by having the robot in the Home Zone at the end of the game.

Since its beginning, FIRST has had a positive impact on students and academic communities.  Surveys conducted by the Center for Essential Management Services found that participating students’ attitudes about science, math, teamwork and the working world significantly improved after participating.  The students’ self image also improved, particularly among minority groups.  Also, interest in internship and employment opportunities with sponsoring local companies increased.

This season, participating FIRST students are also eligible to apply for almost $8 million in scholarships from leading universities, colleges and companies that will be announced at the FIRST Championship in April. Through their participation in the 2006 competition, Long Island students walked away with more than $590,000 in college scholarships.  In 2006, Miller Place High School won the Chairman’s Award, which is the competition’s most prestigious award because it recognizes the team that embodies the goals and purpose of FIRST and best represents a model for other teams to emulate.

SBPLI was founded in 1984 by its Fred Breithut to develop partnerships between local high schools and businesses that would provide students with practical experience, while helping the business community develop its future workforce. More than 70 partnerships have been formed. In 1999, Long Island FIRST was formed for the purpose of developing a Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics competition. The Long Island Regional has since grown with 40 teams registered for the 2007 competition. The increase in participation among high school students and local business demonstrates the importance of supporting the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

The SBPLI ­ L.I. FIRST sponsors and volunteers come from some of the most highly regarded companies and organizations in the Long Island region. This year’s major sponsors are New York State Sen. Owen Johnson, FESTO, and SBPLI. Other sponsors include J.P. Morgan Chase, BAE Systems, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Northrop Grumman, DeVry University, and Stony Brook University.

FESTO, a local corporation and continual supporter provides mentors to a number of local teams.

“We have found that this competition truly works to inspire our young people to pursue careers in the engineering field,” said Hans Zobel, CEO of Festo. “The students of today are the workforce of tomorrow. We owe it to the communities we live in by helping with this event.”

Breithut of SBPLI ­ L.I. FIRST would like to ask local businesses to consider joining Mr. Zobel and other Long Island technology leaders in supporting this year’s competition. Companies interested in sponsoring the 2007 Long Island Regional Competition or those that would like more information about the Robotics competition can call (631) 297-8592, or contact Fred Breithut at (631) 692-2962.