The teams spent sixty days building their robots according to designs whose only limitation was the imagination of their builders and the parameters of this year's game, or challenge, specified by the competition organizers, First Robotics. The idea is to give high school students interested in science and technology some hands-on experience in real life design and engineering applications and also make it fun. Costumed competitors danced and high-fived among each other between matches, while rolling their robots like charioted champions on and off the playing arena.
It was inspirational, and made me think that we need to incorporate this idea of real-life and fun, i.e. experiential learning, into the entire curriculum of schooling somehow. By challenging teens to look at themselves doing something life-changing and meaningful in a cooperative, humane, self-organizing setting, robotics is giving these kids a leg up on traditionally educated, classroom and lab bound high schoolers who find it hard to know why they are being led down one direction or another, especially when they know that the adult environment they will soon be let loose on is one of great change, voracious and soul-destroying competition, and existential uncertainty. We will need many more passionate students trained in innovation and collaboration to come out of programs like this.