A group of parents and students participate in the the FTC's first meet up (photo by Kaitlyn Johnson)
Students listen at an informational meeting. The First Tech Challenge  kicked off Saturday, Sept. 6.  (Photo by Kaitlyn Johnson)

It’s not everyday that someone gets to build a robot, but for the kids involved with the First Tech Challenge (FTC) program, it is going to be a huge part of their lives for the next six months.

The FTC is an international competition for building robots and Weber State University is at the forefront of the Utah teams.

Only students within grades seven to 12 are allowed to participate. For some of the participants, it is their first year, but others have been are coming back for their second experience.

Kevin Bongiovanni has been working with the FTC program and thinks it is great to get students involved with engineering and problem-solving at a very early age.

“Life is more than the X-box. It’s great to excite the minds of these kids so they can make robots rather than play video games,” Bongiovanni said.

Bongiovanni told the participants about the great opportunities arising in engineering.

“We talk about how in our country unemployment is high. However, on the engineering level, we do not have enough engineers,” he said.

Bongiovanni thinks that this is the start of discovery for what these kids want to be when they grow up.

They learn about principles in math and engineering in real life situations, starting out at a young age and building the foundation for their high school and college education.

“For Weber State, this is a perfect opportunity to show what we have to offer in their curriculum,” Bongiovanni said.

During the course of this robotic journey, the kids involved in this competition will learn much more about problem solving and finding new solutions.

Dana Dellinger, the FTC affiliate partner in Utah explained how much development can happen within this competition.

“They learn that they are capable of accomplishing challenging things,  and they learn how to problem-solve even when they fail over and over again,” said Dellinger, speaking about the outcomes that will take place during this competition.

Utah kicks off the robotic season with an informational meeting. Chau talks with students 7th to 12th grade about what they will be doing. (Kaitlyn Johnson/ The Signpost)
Utah kicks off the robotic season with an informational meeting. For the next six months students involved with the First Tech Challenge will spend their free time building robots. (Photo by Kaitlyn Johnson)

Dellinger is also very grateful for the support that Weber State University has been providing as they start their third year of being involved with this event.

Alex Rasmussen, Dellinger’s assistant and Weber State student, is excited to see the competition begin. “I just want to see kids run robots,” Rasmussen said.

Jacob Neumann from Sandy, Utah is going into the competition for his second time. He said he loves the building process: seeing if it works, trying and trying again.

“I expect it to be pretty challenging, but I also know a lot more now so I can solve problems easier because I’ve done it before,” said Neumann, hopeful for his chances in his second round of this Robot challenge.

The adults involved in this program have been very surprised and impressed by the bright minds of the students involved, and have enjoyed seeing them offer new solutions to problems that come up in their building processes.

Weber State University students can be involved in the FTC program through the volunteer program. The competition will finish in February 2015.



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