Judging by the crowd size and excitement level, you would think March Madness had descended upon Kansas City’s Hale Arena. Actually, it had – in the form of the second Greater Kansas City Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.
For three days, March 6-8, more than 50 teams of area high school students and professional engineer mentors put their METS knowledge to the metal in head-to-head, 'bot-to-'bot competition to determine the regional supremacy and earn a coveted berth in the April 17-19 National Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The Kauffman Foundation, as the founding sponsor of FIRST in Kansas City, made a three-year, $2 million grant, to help fund 53 FIRST Robotics teams in Missouri and Kansas this year, and also served as the event's title sponsor.
Among the Kauffman-sponsored teams who punched their ticket to Atlanta were Smithville High School, the Barstow School, Piper High School and Shawnee Mission East High School, who along with Texas' Galena Park High School and Oklahoma's Ponca City High School took top honors in the region.
A number of other Kauffman-sponsored teams took home regional honors:
- Van Horn, Bishop Miege and Blue Valley high schools were awarded for making it all the way to the competition’s championship round.
- Olathe Northwest landed awards for the team's Web site, multimedia creativity and spirit. Lee's Summit was recognized for elegant technology.
- First-year teams Lee’s Summit West and Blue Valley took top honors for automation innovation and visual aesthetics, respectively.
- The veteran team from Newton, Kan., received the industrial design award.
- The Judges Awards went to Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and DeLaSalle Education Center.
- National qualifier Smithville High was also recognized for team's gracious professionalism.
Every team came away with a winning experience, because the event brought together diverse groups of students who had to rely their own resourcefulness and inventiveness to meet tight project deadlines and complete their robots in six weeks. In the process, participants increased their knowledge in math, engineering, technology and science, not to mention the boost in self-confidence and life skills. Because of the overwhelming success of the program, Kauffman Foundation has agreed to extend its funding to support Kansas City regional competitions in 2009 and 2010.