All around the world, students need to experience the power and accessibility of STEM, a tool they can use to create their own careers and positive environments to improve their standard of living and quality of life. In 2017 six continents and 157 countries sent representative teams to the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge — an “Olympics”-style robotics event themed around one of the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering. Youth from around the world come together to not only compete, but to also learn the value of working together.
“What we’re doing here is not using kids to build robots. We’re using robots to build kids who have self-confidence, imagination, courage, vision, and skills to do important things.” —Dean Kamen, FIRST Global Founder
The students of Team Liberia had no experience with robots, no electricity, and often no consistent ability to meet to work on their robot. Despite these challenges, they continued to persevere. They were partnered with dedicated volunteers from our Global STEM Corps who provided mentorship and guidance as the team built their robot, especially as the team travelled to the United States without their mentor, who was denied a US visa. They overcame a lack of experience and resources to eventually place 12th out of 163 teams at the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge. Upon returning to Liberia, these students became STEM volunteers in their own community, continuing to spread the skills that have so greatly impacted their lives.
Spreading access to STEM education and opportunities, especially empowering underserved groups, is central to what we do. In 2017, an all-girls team from Afghanistan signed on to represent their country. Although their robot kit was shipped in late March, it took over two months before it could be cleared through customs. Twice, the team had to undertake a long and dangerous journey from Herat to the US Embassy in Kabul, and both times they were denied visas. Despite all of these challenges and disappointments, the girls didn’t give up. The team was granted entry into the United States and were able to participate in the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge, where they held their own during the competition. They were awarded the silver medal for the Rajaa Cherkaoui El Moursli Award for Courageous Achievement.
Seven students from the rural village of Camasca in Intibucá in Honduras, who must climb a mountain each day just to get to school, represented their nation at the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge despite having no prior experience with robotics. For these kids, participation in the event was life-changing. The experience presented an opportunity to give back to their families, communities and their nation. Team Honduras, like other teams, recognizes STEM is the future and the skills and relationships developed as a result of FIRST Global will be instrumental to solving the greatest challenges facing the world. As one female student from the team said, “Competitions like that of FIRST Global are important for us as students because they give us encouragement to allow our brains to think and develop the capacities and capabilities that we didn’t know we had.”
We have 130 teams and counting planning to attend our 2018 FIRST Global Challenge in Mexico City this August, but they need your help! A scholarship fund has been established to bring every nation around the world to the FIRST Global Challenge, and to provide them with unique experiences and abilities that they will then take back and spread in their countries. From a Native American team representing North America, to a team of Syrian Refugees in Turkey, to Team Oceania comprised of Aboriginal Australians, your support will have a meaningful, lasting impact on youth all over the globe. Help us inspire students like those from Afghanistan, Honduras, and Liberia, as well as many more, by donating to our FIRST Global Scholarship Campaign.
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Make the check out to “International FIRST Committee Association” and mail it to the following address:
International FIRST Committee Association
325 Commerce St.,
Alexandria, VA 22314
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See what countries and continental teams have committed to sending their robotics representatives, as well as those who are working to find potential participants for this global event, on this page. To forward a contact in a nation that has yet to register, please contact the FIRST Global Director of Team Relations (firstname.lastname@example.org) to pursue event registration.