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Rose-Hulman Gives Teens a Chance to Explore Engineering Skills at FIRST Robotics Regional;

September 24, 2012

Premier International Youth Robotics Competition to Bring More Than 4,000 to Campus in April

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology will provide opportunities for thousands of high-school students to showcase their design and engineering skills through the internationally known FIRST robotics competition's new Crossroads Regional, being conducted April 4-6, 2013, in the college's Sports and Recreation Center.

             Robotics with kids
  Youth Robotics Movement: The FIRST Robotics program captivates youths of all ages toward careers in science, engineering and math.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) brings the excitement of a sporting event to science and technology through a robotics competition. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, 50 teams of 25 students or more build and program robots from a common kit of parts to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. Teams measure the effectiveness of their robots and test the power of collaboration during the regional round of the competition.

Last year's challenge, "Rebound Rumble," had teams creating robots that worked autonomously and through wireless controls to place miniature basketballs in hoops scattered through a playing field. Balls placed in higher hoops scored more points. Cooperation is encouraged as alliances formed among teams improve scoring opportunities, while increasing the fun. An exciting, new game will be revealed early in 2013, and teams will have six weeks to work with professional engineers to use computer programming, mathematics, and problem-solving skills to come up with a winning strategy.

"This is as close to 'real-world engineering' as a young student can get," said Crossroads Regional Chair Carlotta Berry, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rose-Hulman. "I have been a FIRST judge since 2007, and the excitement that this event generates in young people about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is unlike anything I have ever seen before."

Witnessing all of this fun at Rose-Hulman will be more than 4,000 youths, parents and family members, educators, engineers, media, competition officials, and people interested in robotics. All events during the three-day competition are free and open to the public.

"FIRST Robotics is the premier, international high school robotics competition," said Rose-Hulman President Robert A. Coons. "We're looking forward to bringing hundreds of the top high school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students from throughout the world to Rose-Hulman and Terre Haute next year."

Recent alumnus Andy Milluzzi, a FIRST volunteer, added, "FIRST changes lives and inspires kids. Every year I learn about students who have been changed by the FIRST experience. They learn that have talents and can go onto college. Rose-Hulman's mission to become the best engineering institution in the world could not be more in line with FIRST Robotics' mission. We want to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. This new relationship with FIRST Robotics will allow Rose-Hulman to continue attracting the best and brightest students, and then allow them to develop their passion for science, engineering, and math."

Special Times For Robotics: Members of Rose-Hulman's Robotics Team listen as President Robert Coons marks the 2012-13 school year as the "Year of Robotics" on campus.

Now in its 22nd year, FIRST has coveted Rose-Hulman as a regional site, hoping to increase the number of Indiana and Midwest teams in the competition. The 2013 competition is expected to involve approximately 2,700 teams and 54,000 students from 49 states and as far away as Australia, Israel, Turkey, and Brazil. Top regional teams will advance to the international championships on April 24-27 at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen founded FIRST to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders through exciting innovation mentor-based programs. He is familiar with Rose-Hulman after being the college's 2013 commencement speaker and being awarded an honorary degree of engineering from Rose-Hulman.

"We're hoping to create a generation of passionate, smart, well-educated, and informed kids willing to take educated risks as they try new things," said Kamen. "If FIRST succeeds, we'll have a rebirth of a society that believes in a future that can and has to be better than the past."

FIRST is supported by three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and offers more than $14 million in college scholarships annually. An independent study by Brandeis University revealed that FIRST alumni are more than twice as likely to have a science- or technology-related career after college and over three times as likely to pursue a career in engineering. 

"At Rose-Hulman, we appreciate the role hands-on activities, like building robotic projects, play in captivating young minds toward science, engineering, and math careers," said Coons, who added the 2012-13 school year will be known as the "Year of Robotics" at Rose-Hulman. "A large number of our students have been introduced to the power of science, engineering, and mathematics through the FIRST program. Also, several of our alumni have helped FIRST grow by serving as FIRST mentors, and we're hoping they will help us host the Crossroads Regional next April."

Find out more about FIRST at