Episode 1: Qualcomm and FIRST encourage students of all ages to embrace STEM [podcast]

Apr 25, 2017

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Competitive, collaborative, educational, tough, and thrilling, FIRST is a robotics program that draws hundreds of thousands of students from around the world to battle their bots.

What started with a single event in 1992 has grown so much that, this year, there are two championships: the first wrapped up a few days ago in Houston, Texas and the second begins tomorrow in St. Louis, Missouri and runs through the weekend. In total, nearly 1,400 teams from more than 39 countries will compete.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization that was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to foster interest in science and technology among young people. The nonprofit organization’s goal is to motivate the student community to pursue careers in STEM while providing them with valuable life lessons.

When developing FIRST and trying to garner excitement for its programs, Kamen looked to sporting events for inspiration. He understood that what often makes the event so appealing is the competition itself. He applied that thinking to STEM and created robotics competitions that promote teamwork and STEM education in a high-stakes environment.

Qualcomm has supported FIRST since 2006, and was named a FIRST Strategic Partner in 2014. Over the years, we’ve proudly supported FIRST’s mission to expand access to STEM programs around the world. We’ve provided a wide variety of resources to help FIRST’s young inventors succeed, racking up thousands of volunteer hours from our very own employees as well as supplying cutting-edge technology for competition. (Two years ago, the FIRST Tech Challenge program began using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 based devices as the control system for the robots). New this year, we signed on as the Season Presenting Sponsor of FIRST Tech Challenge Velocity Vortex, and returned as the Presenting Sponsor of both FIRST Championships for the fourth year in a row.

In addition to providing hands-on experience with our technology to more than 41,000 students, Qualcomm proudly supports FIRST teams and events in five countries (U.S., China, Korea, Israel, and Canada). We provide funding to thousands of teams and tens of thousands of students across all of FIRST’s programs annually, and more than 20 of our sponsored teams advanced to the FIRST Championship in Houston.

Skills that last a lifetime

Though the competition ends come high-school graduation, the hope is that the lessons students learn throughout their participation carry on into their futures. A 2005 research study conducted by Brandeis University showed that students who participate in FIRST are twice as likely to major in science or engineering. And a 2015 survey conducted by FIRST revealed that more than 75 percent of FIRST alumni are in a STEM field as students or professionals.

An integral part of Team 968, Kiet was involved in the programming, electrical design, and mechanical design of his team’s robot. After a VP at Qualcomm saw Chau’s robotics scouting application at the San Diego regional competition, he was offered an internship at Qualcomm.

As an intern, Chau paid it forward and mentored his high school’s FIRST team. After accepting a job offer at Qualcomm, he moved to San Diego and continued to be involved in FIRST. He’s mentored teams for almost nine years, providing valuable advice on robotics and careers in STEM.

“Now that I’m here at Qualcomm, I get to design cool things, and leverage those skills I learned at FIRST in the workplace,” Chau said. “I feel like I need to go back and mentor students, so they’ll be prepped and ready to move onto college; and not only move onto college, but ready to join the workforce later.”

Aside from tech savviness, FIRST participants gain valuable work and life skills, such as teamwork, collaboration, and creative and critical thinking. Studies have shown that 98 percent of participants reported an improvement in problem solving skills, 95 percent reported an increase in time management skills, and 93 percent reported an increase in conflict resolution skills.

FIRST does more than host robotics competitions. It prepares students for life.

The St. Louis FIRST Robotics Championship will be held April 26–29.

Podcast Extra

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Just like pro athletes, FIRST competitors have their own pre-game rituals. FIRST competitors (l-r) Nikki, Team 2102: Team Paradox; Ashik, Team 6695: The Alpha Knights; and Xavier, Team 5627: The Pi-RTZ recently joined us at our podcast studio to chat about their pre-game rituals.

Newsflash and shout out: Xavier won Dean’s List in Houston! Congrats, Xavier!

Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.


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Garrett Ponder