WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, a three-day robot competition, is underway at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
Students showcased robots they made themselves as they were put to the test through a series of trials.
"For this year's competition, it's all about scoring balls into the hub in the center. The second part of the game is the climbing which is similar to monkey bars but they're elevated," said Aiden Murray a pit crew member with Children of the Swamp from Riviera Beach.
The pandemic put the competition on hold for two years.
This year, FIRST is back in-person and this week 850 students ages 14-18 from as far as the Netherlands, Turkey and Colombia came to West Palm Beach to compete.
"We're the only Colombian team, we had to come internationally to compete," said Andrea Cardenas with Lightning Blue Lizards from Colombia. "We get to see so many teams and we get to meet so many cool people, and we learn so much."
There were five Palm Beach County teams, including:
- Amped Up: Comprised of students from Royal Palm Beach Community High School
- Bionic Broncos: Comprised of students from Palm Beach Central High School
- Forest Hill Falcons: Comprised of students from Forrest Hill Community High School
- MARS (Mega Awesome Robotic Systems): Comprised of students from Jupiter Community High School, Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, and William T. Dwyer High School
- The Dirty Mechanics: Comprised of students from Spanish River Community High School and Saint Andrew’s School
"Robotics is one of my most favorite things. It's what I want to go into in my career. (FIRST) is teaching me more hands-on than I've ever learned in school," said Murray.
The competition is sponsored by Florida Power & Light, providing mentorship as they scout out what could be their next intern or employee.
"These students are innovators. Our company is moving so fast, so forward with technology, we need students that think like this," said Maureen Wilt, the senior education program manager with FPL. "The students are learning skills that are so valuable in our industry; teamwork, technical skills, programming skills, gracious professionalism. The workplace needs these students, they are our future."
FPL also provides grants to teams throughout Florida to continue their commitment to STEM education and to help underserved areas.
"We've hired at least 8 employees out of this organization that have gone onto college that I'm aware of, and what's interesting is that they all stuck with us. So, young engineers that have found a home with FPL, they come with really good skills," said Wilt. "Yes, we're a power company but we're really a technology company."
The three-day qualifier wraps up Saturday.
Nationals is in Houston in April for the title of national champion.