Dean Kamen's First Events.
The First (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) events are a series of competitions proposed initially in 1989 by Dean Kamen. He felt that students could benefit from experiential challenges that were largely missing from present educational experiences.
Interviews that covers his reasons for starting the First events are available here and here. He believes Engineering & Science should be fun, click here (you will have to listen carefully, as the sound quality is not very good); and comments here that volunteering is important. When presenting the 2009 First Tech Challenge "Inspire" award to all-girl team Einstein's Daughters, he comments here that Engineers won't be needed when energy is free, no-one is sick or needs prosthetics, water is clean and air is breathable - until then it is Engineers that are needed to help solve these problems.
Dean Kamen's organisation currently organises four First events, the Junior First LEGO League, the First LEGO League, the First Tech Challenge and the First Robotics Challenge. All events involve researching around a topic, plus constructing some apparatus, usually robotic, that assists in tackling that tropic. The topic is only revealed at the last moment before the start of the events, and changes from year to year. The participants have the opportunity to present the results of their research at events organised by local, national and international committees. Mentor notes, and other assistance including scholarships is offered by the First organisation. The events are usually characterised by intense enthusiasm...
The Junior First LEGO League involves teams of 2 to 6 children aged 6 to 9 years of age in a programme running 6 to 8 weeks, 2 hours a week. This programme is not currently prominent in Australia. More about this event can be found at First's International Web site by clicking here.
The First LEGO League involves teams of 3 to 10 children aged 9 to an upper age of 14 years in the USA, or 16 years outside the USA, in a programme running 6 to 8 weeks. This is the only one of these four programmes that is currently operating in Australia. It involves research around a topic, and a technical (usually robotic) component using a kit of mainly LEGO components. This competition has developed a large following, with an estimated 40,000 plus students in to USA enjoying the First LEGO League competition. For the impressions of an initially reluctant mentor plus a video of "his" team, (he rated the experience of being a mentor for one of these teams as "one of the top 100 things to do before you die"!) click here. More about this event can be found at First's International Web site by clicking here. The Australian First LEGO League web site can be visited by clicking here.
The First Tech Challenge involves teams of 4 to 10 students of Secondary School age. There is no upper age limit, but students who have graduated from Secondary School are not eligible. The students research around a topic, construct a robotic solution to a set task, and present their solution at an event. Purchase of a Robotics Kit consisting of a LEGO NXT kit plus some metal TETRIX components is necessary. To my knowledge, this competition is not currently (2010) operating in Australia. More about this event can be found at First's International Web site by clicking here.
The First Robotics Competition is a high-end competition involves teams of up to 25 young people guided by adults producing a robotic solution to a set problem using an advanced kit of parts. An article about participation can be found by clicking here. The kit is approved by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, is advanced by Secondary School standards, and is relatively expensive by Australian School standards. To my knowledge this advanced event is not currently (2010) operating in Australia. More about this event can be found at First's International Web site by clicking here.
www.DrGraeme.net - First Events Competition in Australia - background information.