By: Tara DeGeorges at 06:16 pm
“All of this excitement was not for the Super Bowl or the NCAA Final Four or Olympic trials or even the Little League World Series. It was for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, a high school robotics competition…Bright lights and an ear-splitting mix of cheers and dance music welcomed the players as they walked into the Georgia Dome… They — and the thousands of fans who cheered them — were celebrating invention and intelligence.”
- Neal Bascomb, “The New Cool”
Yesterday Time Warner Cable convened a group of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education experts, after-school program advocates and cable industry representatives for a luncheon with author Neal Bascomb at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association in Washington D.C. We came together to hear Neal speak about his recently-released book “The New Cool”, which follows the journey of teacher Amir Abo-Shaeer and his eclectic, determined group of robotics students as they compete their way to the “ultimate battle of smarts,” the 2009 FIRST Robotics Championship.
If you’re familiar with our Connect a Million Minds community initiative to connect kids to STEM opportunities and careers, you may have noticed that we talk about robots a lot. While many of us TWC employees are fans of Batteries Not Included, Daft Punk music and making R2-D2 noises, there’s a strategic reason behind the robot references.
When we launched Connect a Million Minds as our signature philanthropy program in 2009, we chose FIRST Robotics as one of our national partners. Through hands-on, mentor-based robotics programs FIRST equips kids with the STEM skills they need to become the next generation of innovators. We recognized that FIRST was a best-in-class example of a program that works, that gets kids as excited about science and technology as they would be for the Super Bowl or a Justin Bieber concert. Through our strategic partnership, we’re helping communicate what FIRST is doing to a larger audience, and making its programs accessible to even more communities across the country:
“Time Warner Cable is a Strategic Partner of FIRST for helping advance our organization’s awareness and mission to expand robotics as ‘a Sport for the Mind™’ for all students in their 28-state territory,” said Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST. “They’ve produced PSAs, given grants and provided volunteers in much needed areas to assist us as we provide all students with an experience that inspires innovation and cultivates a passion for science and engineering.”
When we learned about “The New Cool” book release, we were excited that there were other folks who championed FIRST as much as we did, and that Bascomb had a platform for driving awareness of the program. In an interview between Neal and Amir Abo-Shaeer, Shaeer says that programs like FIRST are great for kids that are already intrigued by science and technology, but that the real key to “changing culture” is attracting the kids that would have never considered pursuing programs like these in the first place.
How can you help convert the unconverted? Start by reading Neal’s book. Then, invite your kids or students to check out a FIRST competition near you. When we spoke with Neal yesterday, he emphasized that nothing is more powerful than seeing the excitement of a FIRST competition in person — walking around the pits where teams work on their robots, trying to crack the complexities of the challenge, or sitting in the stands among throngs of team mascots and student supporters. After one competition you’ll get a taste of “a new kind of culture, the new cool” that can inspire a young mind in your life.
FIRST Robotics is currently in season, holding regional competitions throughout the country that are free and available to the public. Visit usfirst.org to find a regional competition near you. To search for additional robotics opportunities, visit The Connectory on connectamillionminds.com, a free, zip code-searchable database home to thousands of informal STEM opportunities across the country.