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Forget AI robots, these are the friendly robot comps school students love

The FIRST Australia robot programs are a fun way for students from Grade 2 to Grade 12 to fall in love with tech, engineering and maths 

Whether LEGO is your thing, you love remote control cars, or you just want to hang out with other students and meet new people, the FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) Australia suite of programs has something for you.

And now’s the time to start thinking about getting involved for the 2023/24 season, with a bunch of events coming up later this year.

FIRST Australia entrants compete using the robots in a variety of challenges – not robot wars, more “sport” for robots!

As one robot builder says in the video below, a big part of it is about making new friends and being part of a team.

“I really love how at FIRST events you can go up to literally any team and have a conversation and they’re all so nice and they’re always so willing to help you with anything you need. And instead of being like a competition it’s just so supportive as well.”

WATCH: Kids talk about why they love being part of a robot-building team

FIRST volunteers say it’s hectic and fun, and there’s a lot more to it than building things. “We don’t build robots here, we build people,” says one volunteer.

WATCH: Volunteers, participants and parents talk about why they love being part of FIRST Robotics.

Every year the theme changes, and the robots can be epic! Up to 2 metres tall and weighing as much as 50kgs.

FIRST Robotics Competition teams (ages 14-18) start out in “regional” comps,  in order to qualify for the World Championship held in the USA.

Robot building for children of all ages

For younger fans of robots, the FIRST LEGO  League is just as fun. It’s for students in grades 4-8, who use research, problem-solving, coding and engineering to build and program a LEGO robot to navigate the missions of a robot game. 

Registration for this comp is open now and events will take place in October and November this year around Australia, with the national championships in December.

Also worth checking out is the FIRST® Tech Challenge, with the season kickoff in September, and the Australian National Championship in December.

For teachers and parents

If playing with robots doesn’t sound like a school subject, think again! FIRST has lots of resources to support teachers with students keen to get involved.

The FIRST LEGO League has even been mapped to the school curriculum. As a hands-on STEM program geared towards children ages 4 – 16, the FIRST LEGO League requires innovative problem solving, critical thinking, delivering creative presentations, and offers lots of ICT teaching opportunities.

And parents love the program – here’s one talking about what it means for her:

“What FIRST means to me is community, learning, experiences, I guess so many different skills that my kids and then my family have learnt through being part of FIRST that is more than just robots, it’s the whole package.”

This post was brought to you in partnership with Macquarie University. Find out more about Macquarie University’s support for FIRST Australia here.

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