Otis is proud to sponsor nine student teams competing this year in FIRST Robotics and LEGO League competitions held throughout the United States and Canada. Several Otis employees serve as team mentors and coaches to encourage young people to learn how to compete, innovate, and build confidence. Kids who participate in FIRST activities are twice as likely to major in science or engineering, according to FIRST statistics on participants’ long-term academic interests.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology through active engagement in robotic competitions. While robotics was the initial inspiration, today FIRST combines the thrill of team-based challenges with the discipline and academic rigor of science and technology with several different programs targeting children ranging from elementary to high school age.
“I want to compete for the hearts and minds of kids with the excitement of the Super Bowl,” Kamen says on the FIRST website. “We are the only sport that every kid in school can participate in and then turn pro.”
Cassie Scully Sabens, a mechanical engineer with Otis in Florence, South Carolina, coaches the “Delmae Robo Dawgs,” a FIRST LEGO League team that recently qualified to go on to the state competition in Myrtle Beach.
“This year we had seven students on the team and despite logistics challenges due to Hurricane Matthew, the team won the regional competition,” said Sabens. “These students were the youngest at the competition and ended up winning!”
Sabens is working with another Otis engineer to start a second team at an area school, so she anticipates even greater involvement with FIRST in the Florence area next year.
Lee Ann Atkinson, JDE Finance Business Analyst with Otis, mentors the “Shark Attack” team from Westminster Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In March, her team faced a difficult day of practice rounds in Orlando, but they ended two days of qualification matches in second place, winning seven out of eight matches, earning their way to the Smoky Mountain Regional. During that event, they formed an alliance with two other teams, and won again. Their next stop is Houston for the World Championship event later this month.
“It’s great to see the positive impact that FIRST activities have on the students on my team,” said Atkinson. “There’s so much excitement and energy, and at the end of the day first-hand experience and lessons that show how science, technology, engineering and math are extraordinary.”