Eleven high school teams sponsored by Bechtel are competing in the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) World Championship in St. Louis, April 27-30. They are among more than 550 teams from around the world that qualified to compete in this event, considered the preeminent celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
The FRC is a high-tech sporting event that features industrial-sized robots designed and built by student teams under a six-week deadline. The robots are programmed and steered by the students to score points in championship field games, but teams also earn points and awards for community service and applying business skills to their team strategy.
“FIRST is a program that defines hands-on STEM education,” said Hardin Valley Academy teacher and FIRST mentor Beth Love. "Kids can apply what they learn in the classroom to every aspect of this team, from physics and math to writing and marketing, but the greatest skills these kids develop are self-confidence and leadership.”
“The STEM job market is absolutely booming,” said Olivia Bagby, FIRST® Robotics coach and Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy teacher. “Programs like FIRST that get students of all demographics involved and inspired at an early age can only benefit these kids. We know we are doing something right as educators when students are this excited about STEM.”
Throughout March and April, teams participated in regional competitions to win a spot in the world championship. Bechtel employees and community partners mentored student teams and provided technical guidance as they prepared for and participated in competitions.
“Mentoring my FIRST Robotics team is incredibly rewarding. These kids quickly develop problem solving skills and are fast to think of ideas and solutions,” said Lori Wilson, Bechtel employee and mentor for Hardin Valley Academy team. “Our students don't just focus on the competition; they mentor elementary school kids and work with the local business community. They also built a robot that shoots t-shirts at football games—it’s inspiring to see academics celebrated at athletics events.”
Bechtel supports FIRST programs in nine countries: Australia, Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and 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 $750,000 to underwrite the nonprofit’s programs worldwide.
“As a global engineering company that places a high value on community stewardship, FIRST is a natural fit and allows us 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. “Investing in programs like FIRST is an imperative for our company and our industry; it ensures a strong and diverse number of students enter the STEM pipeline and has an immediate impact on the students’ lives.”
Of the 59 FIRST teams sponsored by Bechtel, the teams that earned spots at the World Championships are from:
- Cactus High School, Glendale, Arizona
- Lowell High School, San Francisco, California
- Rockledge High School, Rockledge, Florida
- One team with joint participation from Walkersville High School, Walkersville, Maryland; Linganore High School, Frederick, Maryland; Urbana High School, Ijamsville, Maryland; Oakdale High School, Ijamsville, Maryland
- Ballston Spa High School, Ballston Spa, New York
- Schuylerville High School, Schuylerville, New York
- Shenendahowa High School, Shenendahowa, New York
- Sarah Heinz House Boys & Girls Club, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Hardin Valley Academy, Knoxville, Tennessee
- Oakton High School, Vienna, Virginia
Learn more about Bechtel’s commitment to STEM