Four Shawnee robotics teams qualified for FIRST Robotics international competition in Houston recently. More than 15,000 students ages 6-18 from 40 countries competed with team-built robots.

Representing Shawnee and the STEM Region Alliance led by Gordon Cooper Technology Center were: FIRST Lego League Junior team Techno-Bots from Pleasant Grove School; The Nerds FIRST Lego League team from Grove School; the Atomic Gears FIRST Tech Challenge team and the Sprockets 2341 FIRST Robotics team from the Gordon Cooper Technology Center Pre-Engineering Academy and Precision Machining Program.

The mission of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science) is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

The Atomic Gears team was one of the top four teams in the running for the Inspire Award at Houston. Finalists for this award are strong ambassadors for FIRST programs and a role model FIRST team.

Two students from the GCTC Pre-Engineering Academy, Laura Farris (Sprocket team member) and Shelby Jones (Atomic Gears team member), were among the six Oklahoma students selected as Dean’s List finalists. The Dean’s List, named for FIRST founder Dean Kamen, recognizes outstanding robotics students. Sprockets team member Christina Albrecht received a Safety Star of the Day Award. Mirieh Tinsley of Prague served as a student ambassador and tour guide for the event.

Nerds FLL team mentor Lori Farris of Grove School received an Outstanding Mentor award. The Pleasant Grove FLL Junior team won an Innovation Award.

Over the past 13 years in this area, Gordon Cooper Technology Center has started or mentored or assisted with 42 FIRST Robotics teams, 14 FIRST Tech Challenge teams, 48 FIRST Lego League teams, and 41 FIRST Lego League Junior teams, GCTC Director of Instruction Roger Farris said.

“The purpose of all of this work is equip young people in our area with the skills needed to succeed in a competitive world. Studies show clearly that students who participate in robotics make significant academic gains in science and math and they are significantly more likely to make the preparations necessary to prepare for and land good jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” Farris said.