When it comes to youth competitions, it seems that we typically hear of local sporting events, art shows, or dance competitions. While we love cheering for our local teams and supporting youth athletic and artistic endeavors, it’s also equally as exciting to see area students come together to compete in a different form of competition: the 2015 Robotic Challenge. We’ll get the opportunity to learn more about our local youth’s participation in the Robotic Challenge this Saturday, as NASA, the US Navy, and Eastern Shore Robotics hosts the 20th Annual FIRST Robotics Kick-Off event.

Slated from 9am until 2pm at the Visitors Center on Wallaps Island, the First Robotics Kick-Off event will provide participating students with the details of the 2015 Robotics Challenge. Locally, students participating will hail from Northampton, Accomack, Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico Counties. Each team will work together over a six-week time span to build robots based on the parameters set forth this Saturday. Once completed, teams will compete with other teams from around the world. Ultimately, major scholarship prize money is up for grabs, with up to $19 million in college scholarships available.

Many of the teams depend on the support of school sponsorships, while others are funded by community mentors, local businesses and non-profit organizations. Locally, NASA Wallops Flight Facility sponsors four teams, with individual teams representing Accomack, Northampton, Worcester and Wicomico Counties. Each of these teams will participate in the Kickoff Event, which will include speakers and demos as well.

We encourage everyone to show support for this weekend’s event, for the upcoming 2015 Robotic Challenge, and for all of our local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) events. Building a strong foundation in STEM programs goes a long way in not only fostering our youth, but also promoting a stronger industry locally. And of course, good luck to our local teams!