GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, has been building interest in STEM programs since 1989. On Saturday, the 2019 season of the FIRST Robotics Competition got underway, but this year, in a different location.
“We hosted an annual kick-off. Because of the government shutdown, it’s at Gulfport High School, and we have over 22 teams here today to showcase the challenge of the 2019 season,” said Team Fusion 364 member Abigail Long. “They’re also picking up their starter kits that are provided by FIRST.”
The partial government shutdown meant that the region’s usual starting location, Stennis Space Center, was unavailable.
“With the government shut down, normally we have this at NASA Stennis Space Center, which is one of our huge sponsors,” FIRST MS Senior Mentor Clinty Brawley said. “This year, because of the shutdown, Stennis is part of the 15 percent of the government that’s shutdown, so we had to move the entire kickoff from Stennis to here within the last week.”
Brawley was proud of the way his region handled the adjustment.
“It went really smooth for the most part,” Brawley said. “We did have one issue with some batteries that got mis-shipped. They’re still trying to be delivered to Stennis, but nobody’s there to receive them.”
He expects the battery mix-up to be resolved early next week. For the kids, getting the new kits led to many imagining what they could make this year.
“I guess the biggest thing is all the stuff on the field from being in FRC for four years, I kind of have already seen all of it,” said Slidell Team 1912 president John Yu. “The shooting part of it, lifting those little disc things, all of those they’ve kind of already been seen in previous years, so I guess my biggest clue is go back to previous year’s robots. See which ones worked well. See which ones worked horribly like ours two years ago and go from there.”
“Leaving here today, you are clueless,” Long said. “You’re trying to make, like, how many ideas you can provide with this challenge that you are given. You can trap so many ideas of a robot, so basically you just have to work with what you’ve got, the knowledge and the tools you’re provided with.”
While they may be competitors, they also had no problem bouncing ideas off of each other and helping where they could.
“Outreach is a big part of FIRST and a big part of FRC so actually going into the community, helping spread FIRST and helping to spread stem,” Yu said.
The teams will spend the next six weeks building their robots before competitions begin in March.