Robotics students at international competition learn about AFSC opportunities

  • Published
  • By Grady Epperly
  • Air Force Sustainment Center

The Air Force Sustainment Center’s STEM Outreach Program Managers helped share the message about STEM-related careers in AFSC with student competitors at the annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, Championship, April 17-20 in Houston. The program managers worked to expand the STEM ecosystem for both the Department of Defense and the Air Force by collaborating with other agencies across the DOD and engaging with thousands of students.

The FIRST Championship is a culminating, international annual event for the youth robotics competition season, which promotes science, technology, engineering, and math and prepares young people for a future in STEM-related career fields.

“During the event we had the opportunity to either work in the DOD STEM booth or volunteer during the competitions,” said Mark Erickson, STEM Outreach Program Manager at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“We were able to talk to the students and parents about STEM careers and educational opportunities with regards to installations close to where they live or within the DOD as a whole.”

“The students that we interacted with on the individual teams will remember that someone from an Air Force Base was right there in the pits talking to me about STEM,” said Clif Harden, STEM Outreach Program Manager at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

“That could be a major point later down the line when these students start thinking about where they want to work and the kinds of people they want to work with,” he added.

Over 600 robotics teams from countries such as Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Czech Republic participated in the competition.

“Even kindergartners have the opportunity to engage in these events, immersing themselves in science and robotics alongside a team, experimenting with motorized Lego models,” said Charles Goolsby, STEM Outreach Program Manager at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

“Honestly it’s inspiring to see these kids and their parents so interested in STEM,” added Goolsby. “It’s obvious that they’re thinking about their future but having a lot of fun at the same time.”

The FIRST Tech Challenge asks students, usually between 7th and 12th grade, to think like engineers by building and programming robots to compete in an alliance format against others using Java-based programming.

“At the end of the day we were there to amplify public awareness of DOD STEM education and career opportunities, but getting to participate in such a unique and fun event is definitely a perk,” said Harden.