Company TopicsNews

AutomationDirect Works with FIRST Robotics to Teach Students

Showcasing the excitement and wonder of science, technology, engineering, and math to students in Forsyth County is a key community initiative. Perhaps the most successful way AutomationDirect has done this is through its multi-year participation in Forsyth County Schools’ FIRST Robotics programs.

Founded in 1989, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a not-for-profit STEM engagement program for children worldwide. It aims to create a world where science and technology are celebrated and to inspire young people to become leaders in those fields. The organization hosts annual robotics competitions and tech challenges for students in 110 countries. FIRST Robotics proudly notes that its alumni are 2.6 times more likely to enroll in engineering as a college freshman and 75% more likely to become a STEM student or professional.

Robotics Competitions, Game Animation and Virtual Reality Simulation

Since 2006, AutomationDirect team members have worked with the Forsyth County Schools’ FIRST Robotics programs to help students create robots for the annual challenge and learn in a real-world setting. In addition, the company sponsors numerous local FIRST Robotics programs and the Gainesville, Georgia Qualifier competition. AutomationDirect also produces the game’s animation, a virtual reality simulation of the competition field, and a 3D printable 20:1 scale model of the field.

Each January, FIRST announces an eagerly anticipated robotics challenge which might be to have a robot shoot balls into a goal or overcome obstacles. Students have six weeks to create a 120-pound robot that can effectively complete that challenge. Then, they travel to local competitions in which six robots at a time compete on a playing field similar in size to a basketball court. Winning teams advance to the next round of competition.

County Robotics Programs Have Grown Exponentially

Forsyth County Schools’ initial goal was to have one FIRST robotics team in each school. The program now has a whopping 175 Robotics teams of six to 10 students throughout the school system.

One of the most successful teams is Team OTTO at Forsyth Central High School, the inaugural team that AutomationDirect sponsored. In 2016, the team competed in the FIRST World Competition, in which they took 24th place for the robot they designed and built – an amazing accomplishment.

The newest team sponsored by AutomationDirect is Avenger Robotics at Alliance Academy for Innovation. Founded in 2018, Avenger Robotics provides students with experience in industrial robotic technologies, leadership, and a competitive work environment. The team strives to make learning fun, develop superhero students, and learn professional skills like programming and public speaking. They are also involved in the community by giving robotics demonstrations and supporting middle school robotics programs.

Program Benefits Students and Team Members

Rick Folea, Senior Technical Marketer at AutomationDirect, has worked with Forsyth County Schools FIRST Robotics teams since their inception and understands the program’s positive impact on students and companies.

“AutomationDirect loves supporting FIRST because of the incredible impact it has in getting young minds engaged in learning skills they can use to build a bright future for themselves,” he said. “We’ve seen kids go through these programs, major in a technical field in college, and then come back to the community with stronger skills that employers need.”

Folea notes that students who participate in the robotics programs often move into engineering and science jobs. In fact, one of the original members of Team OTTO now works at AutomationDirect, while another is a middle school STEM teacher.

“It’s wonderful to see the program come full circle and show success.” Folea said. “Our team members love to help students get excited about learning. It’s a great way to give back to our community, have fun, and ignite interest in science and engineering careers all at the same time.”