Watching the youth participants at a recent FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) event, I cannot help but feel inspired. The girls and boys, ranging in age from 6-18, are all smiles, whether they are listening intently to Qualcomm volunteer mentors or skillfully maneuvering robots of all sizes inside their respective arenas.
These young tinkerers are the next generation of inventors and doers, and I'm so proud that for the last decade Qualcomm has worked closely with FIRST to encourage K-12 students worldwide to explore and embrace STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). When we began our collaboration with FIRST 10 years ago, there were 11,000 teams. Today, ahead of the 2016/2017 season, there are more than 44,000. It’s so exciting to see interest grow like that. It’s our hope that FIRST participants’ passion for STEM extends beyond their school years and into their professional lives. After all, building a diverse workforce with a strong STEM background is not only important for the future of Qualcomm, but for the future of the world, and we see our work with FIRST playing a critical role in offering students exposure to tech careers.
A new level of support and a new game for the 2016/2017 FIRST Tech Challenge season
Since Qualcomm began working with FIRST as a strategic partner, hundreds of employees, including Chairman Paul Jacobs and Chief Technology Officer Matt Grob, have dedicated thousands of volunteer hours in support of FIRST programs. Our sponsorship and support has grown from a handful of local teams to events and thousands of teams across five countries.
This year, Qualcomm is again increasing our support of FIRST — stepping up as the Presenting Sponsor of the 2016/2017 season of FIRST Tech Challenge, one of four programs under the FIRST banner. In FIRST Tech Challenge, participants are tasked with designing, building, programing, and operating robots to play a floor game in an alliance format.
So what’s the game? Even though we are Presenting Sponsor, we were just as eager as the contestants to learn what the 2016/2017 FIRST Tech Challenge game would be. This past Saturday, our curiosity was satisfied, when FIRST announced the new game – VELOCITY VORTEX presented by Qualcomm – via YouTube video. Check out the game reveal video for more info about the competition and the rules:
Qualcomm Snapdragon – still at the heart of FIRST Tech Challenge robots
Beyond sponsorship and volunteer-hours, Qualcomm also supports FIRST with our innovative technology. In 2015, FIRST announced its new control system, used in the FIRST Tech Challenge, featuring robot and driver-station controls using devices powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.
This Java-based Android platform is revolutionary to the FIRST program, and not only gives these young inventors a taste of Qualcomm technology, but also allows them to learn to program with Java and experiment with sensors built into Snapdragon-powered devices.
“We’ve seen so many positives as a result of collaborating with FIRST on this solution,” said Jacobs, “Thousands of kids who participate in FIRST Tech Challenge are now exposed to the power of Snapdragon as they program and control their robots using smartphones.”
Through our continued sponsorship of FIRST programs, countless volunteer hours and our technology integration in the platform, we hope to accelerate interest and enthusiasm for STEM – from budding inventors and their parents to innovators everywhere. Seeing the passion for technology being passed from mentors to FIRST participants as well of the growth of the program, I’m feeling that we’re off to a great start!