At the FIRST Robotics Competition, teens learn about technology trade-offs, strategy and teamwork. NASA and major tech firms say the contest shapes tomorrow's tech leaders.
Thirteen years ago, Dan Richardson joined a FIRST high school robotics team not because he was a classic science and technology nerd but because he was tall. As a member of the basketball team at Westminster Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, he was recruited as a "human player" because the robotics enthusiasts needed someone tall enough to reach over a high barrier and drop balls onto the playing field as part of that year's robotics challenge.
"They told me it would mean I could miss school for two days and go to Disney," he recalled. He readily agreed, and found himself at a "technology rock concert" that changed his life, partly because the contest appealed to the same competitive instinct that made him enjoy sports. When he got more involved with the team as a junior, it was because "I was inspired to build better robots than anyone else," he said. "If it hadn't been for the competitive aspect, I don't think I would have been hooked."
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