FIRST: robots, real life and a whole lot of FUN

By Elissa Nesbitt

At center, Community Relations director Elissa Nesbitt was honored by FIRST and recognized as Volunteer of the Year for her contributions to championing FIRST Robotics in the Finger Lakes region. She is joined by chief technology officer Steve Hoover(left) and Rick Bryant, FIRST Finger Lakes Planning Committee Chairman and business process engineer for Conduent.

What’s more complicated?  The development and launch of the Xerox Brenva™ HD Production Inkjet Press?  Direct to Object Inkjet Printer? A robot to compete in FIRST  STEAMWORKS?

Well, it’s complicated.

FIRST is a program that brings together Xerox people and a team of students in grades 9-12 to design, build, program, and test a robot to meet an engineering challenge, Oh, and they have only six weeks to do it.  Once these young inventors build a robot, their teams will participate in one or more of the 145 Regional and District events that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.  They are mentored by Xerox employees throughout the process.

Last weekend we were at The Finger Lakes FIRST Robotics Competition at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in upstate New York where 19 of the more than 50 Xerox-sponsored FIRST Robotics teams competed against each other.

“We need people like you,” Xerox chief technology officer told high school students at the FIRST Finger Lakes Competition in the video above. “We need people who are creative, who are engaged, who make things — who solve problems and make the world better place.”

This year’s game, STEAMWORKS, replicates an era when technology relied on steam power to prepare airships for the ultimate long distance race. Teams score points and prepare to take flight by building steam pressure, gathering materials to start the rotors, and boarding robots onto their airships. The one with the highest score at the end of the match is the best prepared for the race and wins.

FIRST Finger Lakes Regional Competion
Members of the X-Cats of Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School; XQ Robotics of Franklin Educational Campus in Rochester, N.Y. and SparX from Webster Central Schools. All are sponsored by Xerox. The X-Cats and Xerox have been a part of FIRST competitions since the beginning in 1992.

But FIRST is more than building a robot.  It’s more than just the competition.  It’s similar to the R&D process for a new product where teams must identify a need or challenge, invent a solution and make a plan to develop it—with deadlines, budget constraints and course corrections.  And that is where the magic happens.  That’s where FIRST mimics real life, real jobs.  That is why companies like Xerox support FIRST.

“FiRST is one of those programs that just gets it,” said Steve Hoover, who was a judge at The Finger Lakes competition.  “These kids build their robots and compete against other teams within a very demanding environment, one that is very much like business today.  It develops the skills that companies like Xerox want to see in students entering the workforce.”

Two Xerox sponsored teams, Ranger Robotics, Team 3015 from Spencerport High School, Spencerport, N.Y. and The XCats, Team 191 from Wilson Magnet and Wilson Foundation Academy, of Rochester, N.Y. were part of the winning alliance at the Finger Lakes Regional and will advance to the national competition in St. Louis in April.

Xerox is a founding sponsor of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and for more than two decades, our people-from all aspects of our business-have participated as team mentors and competition judges.

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  1. C Yvonne Hickey March 22, 2017 - Reply

    As a FIRST Judge in the New England area… I am so proud of Xerox’s historic and active involvement in FIRST. Anyone that touches FIRST is drawn into this amazing program which promotes and develops qualities that serve these students for a lifetime. FIRST inspires!

  2. Elissa Nesbitt March 23, 2017 - Reply

    Thanks for volunteering, Yvonne. As you know, it is a wonderful program. Makes a difference in many students’ lives.

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