SJC Hosts Texas High School Students For Robotics Contest


Dennis Wise/University of Washington/TNS

With a starter kit of parts and help from knowledgeable mentors, thirty-six teams will compete to build fully-functioning robots at the FIRST Robotics Competition on the Central Campus.

Thirty-Six teams made up of high school students from around the state will come to San Jacinto College Central Campus March 28-30 to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition where they must build a robot capable of completing a task.

Students have help from knowledgeable mentors and a starter kit of parts, but they must build their robot within a set of guidelines. The winners of regional competitions as well as the top teams from each district advance to the FIRST Championship taking place in April.

According to its website, FIRST is a non-profit organization “designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields.”

Willis High School science teacher and robotics coach Nicki Ehlert said the program opens multiple doors for participating students.

“The students are considered FIRST alumni which offers them scholarships, and it also looks good on college transcripts,” she said.

Besides, Ehlert noted, FIRST participants learn essential college and life skills including problem-solving, critical thinking, personal relations, and teamwork; essential skills necessary for a bright future.

Although the competition is heated, participants display a certain level of comradery. “If you’re needing a part or if something goes wrong,” she said, “the other teams, as well as our team, is ready to help out.”

To most, the word robotics sounds very technical, but Ehlert said each team is made up of a diverse group of students playing a variety of roles including that of writers, photographers, programmers and more.

“The writer helps keep up with trial and error and what we should do or have already tried,” she added. “Even a journalist can be a part of the team.”

The FIRST Robotics Competition takes place March 28 at 7 a.m. until March 30 at 7 p.m. in Anders Gymnasium (C18) on the Central Campus. The public is free to attend.