Reflecting its ongoing commitment to advancing STEM-related opportunities for students, Bechtel, a global leader in engineering, procurement, and construction, sponsored and mentored 17 high school teams to compete in the 2017 FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC) World Championships late last month. More than 800 teams from around the world qualified to compete in the championships, considered the preeminent celebration of STEM, with Bechtel-affiliated teams winning two distinguished awards.
This year’s FRC championships complements Bechtel’s sponsorship of Dream Big, an IMAX® film aimed at inspiring students, especially those from underserved backgrounds, to pursue STEM-related careers.
“Bechtel’s partnership with FIRST helps us demonstrate the importance that must be placed on community stewardship as the FRC represented a golden opportunity for Bechtel’s engineering colleagues to introduce the next-generation workforce to STEM in an exciting and inclusive way,” said Charlene Wheeless, principal vice president of Global Corporate Affairs at Bechtel. “We hope that the Bechtel-FIRST partnership will spur more students to ‘dream big’ about their future careers, learn STEM skills, and apply innovative thinking to solve big global challenges."
The FRC is an annual high-energy sporting event that features industrial-sized robots designed and built by student teams with the help of professional engineers and adult mentors, under a strict six-week deadline. The robots are programmed and steered by students to score points in championship field games, but teams also earn points and awards for community service, communications, leadership, gracious professionalism and for their overall business strategy.
“Before joining CRyptonite, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but after the many experiences FRC has given me, I can confidently say I want to pursue mechanical engineering,” said Libby Perego, student from one of the Bechtel sponsored teams- “CRyptonite.” “I want to change the world, and FIRST showed me that with a little bit of hard work, collaboration, and a lot of patience, I can do that.”
Throughout March and April, teams participated in regional competitions with only a select few then advancing to the world championships in Houston and St. Louis. Throughout the entire process, Bechtel colleagues worldwide and community partners mentored student teams and provided technical guidance in preparation for the competitions.
“I was introduced to FIRST Robotics when my son joined a team in high school, and it was amazing to see the commitment of the students in designing, building, and programing a new robot each build season,” said Doug Kunz, a Bechtel process analysis manager. “When the team needed a sponsor, I learned of Bechtel’s involvement in FIRST and was able to coordinate resources and provide the necessary assistance.”
Bechtel supports FIRST programs in Australia, Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. The sponsored teams come from communities near the company’s offices and projects, and employees provide thousands of hours of coaching to the students annually. In addition to this volunteerism, Bechtel Group Foundation provided $850,000 to underwrite the nonprofit’s programs worldwide.
During the Houston Championship, Zachary Rolfness from “Team Paradise” representing Phoenix, AZ, won the Dean’s List Award, while the “L&N STEMpunks” from Knoxville, TN, earned the Imagery Award. In addition, for the first time, Bechtel hosted a booth for thousands of students at the FIRST Innovation Faire, and promoted Dream Big along with innovative virtual reality technology being used in the construction, engineering, and project management industry.
Of the 79 FIRST teams sponsored by Bechtel, the teams that earned spots at the World Championships were from:
- Paradise Valley High School, Phoenix, Arizona (Houston)
- Cactus High School, Glendale, Arizona (Houston)
- Quartz High School, Lancaster, California
- Hardin Valley Academy, Knoxville, Tennessee (Houston)
- Knox County STEM Academy, Knoxville, Tennessee (Houston)
- Farragut High School, Knoxville, Tennessee (Houston)
- Oak Ridge High School, Oak Ridge, Tennessee (Houston)
- Lamar and Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston, Texas (Houston)
- Reagan High School, Houston, Texas (Houston)
- Cinco Ranch High School, Katy, Texas (Houston)
- Tuscarora High School, Frederick, Maryland (St. Louis)
- Ballston Spa High School, Ballston Spa, New York (St. Louis)
- Shenendahowa High School, Clifton Park, New York (St. Louis)
- Colonie Central High School, Colonie, New York (St. Louis)
- Schuylerville High School, Schuylerville, New York (St. Louis)
- Chartiers Valley High School, Bridgeville, Pennsylvania (St. Louis)
- Sarah Heinz House Boys & Girls Club, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (St. Louis)
Learn more about Bechtel’s commitment to STEM
- Bechtel’s Signature Programs
- FIRST Championship’s website
- Bechtel encourages students to Dream Big
- Bechtel’s award-winning film, “The Engineering Machine”