Robotics competition is like “sports for geeks”

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Irving -- It's not exactly a "Rise of the Machines"...more like a rise of really smart kids who can build machines.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in Texas Robotics Competition is holding a Dallas regional at the Irving Convention Center this weekend, drawing 60 teams to show off their engineering skills in an attempt to qualify for the FIRST national tournament, the UIL state tournament for local teams, or both.

"Yes, it's nice to win, but we compete for the fun of it," says Alex Flores, a member of the Titan Robotics 5431 team from Plano.  "It's a friendly competition to help encourage people to learn about things like engineering and coding and design."

The teams consist of at least 10 members and are led by volunteer mentors who are professional engineers of some sort.  After learning what the competition will consist of--in this case it was moving blocks onto scales with points awarded for the amount of time a scale was tipped toward one team or the other--they get six weeks to design and build a robot.  And in addition to victory and scholarship money being on the line, college recruiters and corporate sponsors are also keeping an eye out for future talent.

"They're the ones who are going to be creating the next generation of electronics," says Texas Instruments Director of STEM Outreach Patty Arellano.  "Stuff we've never even imagined."

For more information, check out FIRST's website and the UIL's robotics page.

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