FIRST Robotics contest kick-off

By Alyssa Donovan

January 5, 2013 Updated Jan 7, 2013 at 2:50 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill.--More than 300 area high school students came together Saturday to kick-off a unique competition season.

Thirteen teams filled Bradley University's Renaissance Coliseum for a robotics competition called FIRST Robotics.

Saturday, teams learned this year's engineering challenge and received a kit of parts.

Each team will have six weeks to build a robot that will compete.

Caterpillar is sponsoring four of the teams this year, with a goal to possibly hire new employees.

FIRST Program Coordinator Debbie Lewellyn said, "We're starting to hire engineers that have been involved with FIRST robotics. And in turn what's really nice is they are then giving back to the community and they are on the teams as mentors for the new generation of kids."

Team Mentor Rob Scherbinski said, "You start working on the robot and there are plenty of opportunities to start talking about your day to day job and kind of explain a little bit about what you are doing. And once they understand what you're doing, the kind of problems that you're solving, you see the light bulb go on in them and say 'hey you know this is something I could see myself doing or I think I could enjoy.'"

More than 30 robotics teams are competing globally, with the hopes of qualifying for the Championship in April.

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