Robotics competition encourages students to pursue STEM fields

More than 3,500 students filled the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center last week for the Alamo-FIRST Regional Robotics Competition as San Antonio hosted one of the largest K-12 robotics competitions in the world.

Student teams from across the United States, Canada and Mexico brought robots they had painstakingly built for the three day competition. Some robots went head-to-head in a ball toss competition, while other robots were judged on their ability to collect blocks, deposit them into a basket, raise a flag and hang from a metal pole.

Sounds simple, but a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the production of these robots.

CPS Energy co-sponsored the competition, mentoring local students and volunteering for the competition. Employees served as judges at the regional event and helped parents navigate through the different social media channels students used, clueing them in to Twitter hashtags like #omgrobots.

Check out these sights and sounds from the competition:

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Along with CPS Energy, other major companies like Toyota, Boeing and Lockheed Martin participate — keenly aware that the program is a great way to start filling the shortage of skilled STEM workers.

“Our business is getting more technical every day, and we need these kids to be part of it,” said Lisa Lewis, vice president of communications for CPS Energy, at last year’s event.

“But FIRST isn’t only about engineering. It teaches programming, project planning and communication skills,” she continued. “As an advisory board member, I’ve had the privilege of talking to dozens of FIRST kids. They have more poise and confidence than your average high school student—even more than some college graduates I’ve interviewed for jobs.”

The Alamo-FIRST robotics competition, held last week in San Antonio, offers a funa and exciting way for kids to learn about STEM fields.

Consider these statistics:

  • The U.S. is ranked 27th (out of 29) for the rate of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) bachelor’s degrees awarded in developed countries
  • 6% of U.S. undergraduates major in engineering, compared with 12% in Europe, 20% in Singapore, and 40% in China
  • Less than half of undergraduates that declare an intent to major in a STEM field complete a degree in one of those subjects — the lowest retention rate among all academic disciplines

And yet:

  • STEM jobs are projected to grow twice as quickly as jobs in other fields. While all jobs are expected to grow by 10.4%, STEM jobs are expected to increase by 21.4%. Similarly, 80% of jobs in the next decade will require technical skills
  • Out of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected to 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation

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