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Students Battle It Out In Fort Lauderdale Robotics Competition

Lisann Ramos

Florida has been putting an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math education. And with STEM, comes tests -- and competitions.

The South Florida Regional FIRST Robotics Competition is happening through Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. FIRST is an acronym -- For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. 

The convention center is filled with working stations, each with a team of high schoolers prepping their robots for the competition. Most of the 47 teams competing  are from Florida. There are six from other states and four from Mexico. 

The competitions are modeled after varsity sports. The teams don’t find out what the challenge is until 6 weeks before the competition. Then they’re hard at work until the big day.

"This year’s is somewhat modeled off of volleyball. We throw large yoga balls over a 6-foot truss and then from there we’ll throw them into an 81/2 foot high goal," said Emma Harland, a member of team 180 Spam from Stuart FL. 

Credit Lisann Ramos
The arena at the Fort Lauderdale convention center where the competition will take place.

Jaire McNichols attends Terra Environmental Research Institute in Miami. The school is five years old and so is its robotics team. 

"As I was growing up I always really like building Legos, I always thought that was really cool. And when I was picking out high schools, I found this school and I saw that it had its own dedicated robotics academy, and I was like, 'oh wow, I can really get into that,'" said McNichols, who's now the vice president of his team. 

Kim Wrenne from Volusia County is on team 2152 Smash and is taking advantage of some of the perks that FIRST offers.

"FIRST has I think 18 million dollars worth of scholarships that I can apply for so I’m working on that. Embry-Riddle has offered me a couple of scholarships already and I haven't applied yet so I know I'm doing something right," said Wrenne.

Although it is a competition, there's a large sense of community within FIRST. A lot of the teams have the same mentors. They also have a growing Twitter presence using hash tag #OMGRobots.

The competition continues until Saturday April 5.