OPINION: Robotics team inspires others in STEM


It’s the Super Bowl for robotics geeks.

More than 20,000 students and 600 robotics teams from the United States and 42 countries, including Canada, Mexico, Czech Republic, China, Australia and Brazil traveled to St. Louis, Mo., for the four-day FIRST world robotics championship event April 30-May 1.

When the Fernbank LINKS (Linking Ideas and Networking Kids with Science) robotics team, a powerhouse in Georgia, participated in the competition this year for its second consecutive time, my wife Deanna and I traveled with the team. Our daughter Adrianna is a member of the team.

This year LINKS made it to the quarterfinals where the team ended its run in the first round of the international competition sponsored by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1989 to inspire students’ interest and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

FIRST founder Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and the AutoSyringe insulin pump and owner of more than 400 patents, enjoys rock star status among the participants, mentors and volunteers of the FIRST program.

In a statement, Kamen urged students to use their imagination to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges: “We believe that if you can show kids that the tools of mathematics and engineering empower them to do some really cool, really fun things, they’ll get passionate about it.”

LINKS’ presence on the world stage of youth robotics competition shows that the DeKalb County team is serious about its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) mission, which is to inspire a passion for STEM in its community, focusing on “introducing children and young adults to the possibilities and rewards of the STEM fields.”

LINKS does this by reaching more than 5,000 students annually through various outreach programs, including its Science Night Out, First LEGO League (FLL) workshops and scrimmages, FLL regional competitions for middle and elementary, career days and STEM Days at local schools, as well as public events, such as the Atlanta Maker Faire and the Atlanta Science Festival. Additionally the team hosts the Georgia BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) robotics program.

LINKS has worked hard during the 2015-2016 academic year and can be proud of its accomplishments in spreading STEM in the community. And here’s to a top-three finish in 2017!


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