Cambridgeshire’s innovators of tomorrow get robot ready

Students from schools across Cambridgeshire are gearing up to compete in the inaugural FIRST® Tech Challenge UK Championships, taking place in Peterborough on Wednesday 13th March. One winning team from the event will progress to represent the UK in the global championships in the USA in April.

FIRST® Tech Challenge UK is an inclusive robotics programme for ages 12-18, which brings young people together with mentors from industry, in teams up to 15, to design and build a robot to compete in a series of challenges. Collaboration is key and everyone has a part to play throughout the six-month programme – roles are linked to real-world careers and are intended to help young people discover the practical and life skills needed for their future.

An extra-curricular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) enrichment activity, the FIRST® Tech Challenge UK programme is backed by leading industries keen to address the emerging STEM skills crisis. FIRST® UK’s employees and industry partners meet regularly with teams, acting as coaches and career role models, whilst easing the load for educators and forging important relationships between schools and industry. In addition to mentors, local employers also provide staff volunteers to support with on-the-day stewarding, judging and refereeing.

Whilst the programme attracts 500,000+ participants annually in the USA, this is the first time the initiative has run in the UK. 100 teams, equating to approximately 1500 students, are participating in the inaugural championship events (Peterborough, March 13th and Manchester, March 15th). The winning team from each regional final will be fully funded to attend the global championships in the USA, where they will go head-to-head with teams from all over world.

This year, participating teams were provided with charity bursaries to cover the cost of the robotics kits, phones, and resources, as well as travel awards to take part in the competition. The robotics kits are reusable from year to year providing schools with a sustainable platform for robotics-based education.

Ed Cervantes-Watson, CEO, FIRST® UK, comments: “We’re counting down to one of the biggest student robotics competitions in the UK and we cannot wait to see what the teams have got to bring to the game field. Young people entering education today will be pursuing jobs which don’t yet exist. We need to equip tomorrow’s workforce with the technical know-how and core life skills they need to transform their futures – FIRST® Tech Challenge is more than just robots – it’s a platform for young people to become the innovators of tomorrow and ensure no-one is left behind.”

Arm is the headline sponsor of the Southern championships – Anna Malan, from Arm’s Diversity and Inclusion team, comments: “We need young people to be prepared for their futures, not just with the STEM skills and academic qualifications that employers such as Arm rely on – but critically the softer skills which make them great team players, who can positively contribute to all areas of our business, local community and society.”

The Southern Regional Championship will take place on Wednesday 13th March at the KingsGate Conference Centre in Peterborough and 50 teams will be participating, from schools including: Comberton Village College, Linton Village College, Witchford Village College, Chesterton Community College and Trumpington Community College, to name a few.

FIRST® UK is currently recruiting local science and technology enthusiasts to volunteer at the Peterborough Championships on 13th May – for more information on volunteering opportunities, and to register your interest, please visit: www.ftc-uk.org/gamechanger/

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