Robotics has a cult like following with teams staying up late into the night for weeks on end to create the best robot while learning skills and gaining knowledge usually withheld until university and beyond. Students have just a few short weeks to create robots capable moving across a field and accurately launching basketballs into a hoop, a feat overwhelming even without time, money, and engineering constraints.
For over 20 years, robotics has made a positive and powerful impact on students and the engineering community, but the wrong lesson to take from this is that we should have robotics teams in every school and require engineering for everyone. Sure, I would love to see a team in every school so the opportunity is open to people who want it, but top down standardization would kill the spirit and fun. Robotics' appeal comes from its grassroots underground and playful nature.
I claim 2012 to be the year "minds change" because I believe the momentum has come to a head with all of the opportunities for students to learn and society's perception of their potential. Those who watched the kickoff event saw engineers, CEOs, celebrities, presidents and more come out to support the students. What the world is realizing is, students are capable of doing anything with the right resources and motivation. Educators are determined to give their students more than a lecture and a worksheet. Robots are a great example of this, but students are having an impact in every aspect of society.
Go to a robotics competition and be inspired and hooked. Mentor a robotics team or any program that fits your passions. There is nothing like an after school program to change a student's life.
To all of the teams out there competiting: good luck, have fun, and remember the learning is the prize!
To the mentors: may your coffee cups be full, your pizza be plentiful, and your joy abundant!
To everyone else, go find a team and check out the amazing work being done at schools all over the world!
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