Maintenance Technology April 2017 - 4

EDITORIAL

Varsity Sport for the Mind

L

Gary L. Parr
Editorial Director
Learn more
about FIRST
robotics from a
coach's perspective
in my podcast
interview with
Doug Williams at
maintenance
technology.com/
1704robotics.

ack of skilled workers is an urgent topic of
discussion these days. It came up more than
once in Detroit at the recent Manufacturing
in America 2017 conference, sponsored
by Siemens, Alpharetta, GA, and Electro-Matic
Products Inc., Farmington Hills, MI. Two issues are
at play. One is the short-term need for people who
don't exist. That's a tall hurdle to clear. The other is
long-term development. That solution involves a
shift in culture at our schools and time for students
to graduate and enter the workforce.
The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of
Science and Technology) Robotics Competition is
one program that is helping accomplish that culture
change and facilitating the needed education. The
robotics program celebrated its 25th year of existence in 2016 and is one of four programs offered
by the FIRST organization (firstinspires.org). If
you're connected in some way to those involved or
have school-aged children, you've likely heard of the
program or may have attended an event.
I encountered
the FIRST
program a few
months ago in a
passing conversation with my
friend Christine
Williams, who
mentors her
son's FIRST

Above. TigerTronics
Team 2053
co-president Julie
Williams is shown in
the competition arena
with the team's robot.
Right. Competitors
are focused on
the action in the
competition arena.

Lego League Gelinas team, based on Long Island.
Christine's brother Doug coaches the TigerTronics
Team 2053 group (team2053.org), made up of
students from Vestal and Endicott high schools,
also in New York.
While I found the program interesting because
it involves my friend, her son, education, and technology, I was intrigued because the competitions
are such a big deal. This year's global championships
will be held April 19 to 22 at Houston's George R.
Brown Convention Center and April 26 to 29 at the
Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
I didn't fully realize the power of this program
until I talked with the students who were exhibiting
at the Manufacturing in America conference.
Two teams had tabletop exhibits. The Robostangs,
Northville, MI (robostangs.com), sponsored
by several corporations, including Siemens and
Electro-Matic, and the ThunderChickens ("Engineering new ways to cross the road"), from Sterling
Heights, MI. Both teams have had notable competition success in recent years.
Talking to team members gave me a full
appreciation of this program and what it is doing
for students who normally wouldn't get recognized
because they aren't skilled at kicking or throwing a
ball. The students I met were excited and absolutely
energized about what they are doing, under the
pressure of competition, with their mechanical and
electronics knowledge. They're also learning realworld workplace skills such as fund raising, money
management, business/sponsor relationships,
logistics, purchasing and parts management, and,
of course, reliability and maintenance.
If you're not already involved, I encourage
you to find a way to support a FIRST program
through your local school/team. If one doesn't
exist, maybe start one? The students have to raise
money to buy all of the materials they use for
their robots. These things are not kits they buy
from Amazon. They also need spare parts and,
I'm sure, have travel expenses. Maybe you or your
company would be willing to sponsor a local
team?
Everyone is looking for skilled workers and
will be for the foreseeable future. You can play a
part by supporting FIRST and similar programs.
They're developing manufacturing skills that will
be in demand for years to come. MT

gparr@maintenancetechnology.com
4|

MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY

APRIL 2017


http://www.team2053.org http://www.robostangs.com http://www.maintenancetechnology.com/1704robotics http://www.rstinspires.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Maintenance Technology April 2017

Maintenance Technology April 2017 - 1
Maintenance Technology April 2017 - Cover1
Maintenance Technology April 2017 - Cover2
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