Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nerds: High school robotics competition

I was never much of a Science Fair type.

It's not like I wasn't a nerd. Come on, I was in the Latin Club. We competed in Latin Festivals, where I wore a nun-designed toga that looked more like a nun's habit than a toga . I recited Virgil and entered sight-translation contests. I took the annual Auxilium Latinum test.

I was also in the Literary Society. Hey, kids, let's have some real fun this Saturday and drive to the Old Manse to see where Ralph Waldo Emerson lived!

 Not to mention the Glee Club, which is why I know the second-soprano parts to every Christmas carol ever written.

But, science nerd I was not.

Still, what is not to love about the story of kids from high schools all over New England competing in the Boston For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Regional Robotics Competition. (And how is that name for a nerdly mouthful?)

Here's a bit from an article by Brian Ballou of The Boston Globe on the event:

There was the roar of a Super Bowl crowd, the frenzy of a NASCAR pit stop, and the costumes of a Mardi Gras celebration on Bourbon Street. The stage looked like an Ultimate Fighting Championship ring.

But instead of fist-flinging action, the competition in Boston University's Agganis Arena yesterday featured teams of high school students from throughout New England in a battle royale of remote-controlled robots they had designed and built from scratch.

According to the article, 50 high school teams participated in this event, which was attended by about 5,000 folks.

The event is sponsored by FIRST - as in For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - a group founded by Dean Kamen of Segway fame and, how about a wild guess here, nerd extraordinaire -  which has as its vision: 

To create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.

And what is not to love about this group, that has the notion of something called Gracious Professionalism at its core:

With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.

In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.

In a world where we hear all too much about high school suicides and Columbine massacres, cheerleader mom murders and unadulterated jock worship, "hooking up" and binge drinking, what a delight to read about a bunch of kids interested in science and technology, learning things, having fun -  and having 5,000 people in the audience cheering them on.

Fans stood on their feet, waving pom-poms, yelling challenges to fans of other teams, and pounding noisemakers to the beat of rock music.

The finals are coming up in April in Atlanta. The New England squad is made up of students from Boston Latin, Brookline High School, Quincy High School, and Clinton High School. (Brookline and Quincy are Boston suburbs, but Clinton is a small used-to-be-milltown out in the far reaches of Worcester County.)

Innovation. Technology. Science.

These are the kids who are going to keep our economy flying in the years to come.

They're going to be the real home-town heroes.

Go, New England Robot Nerds! Yay, team!

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