FIRST Wisconsin: New nonprofit will focus on science, technology and building robots

MILWAUKEE – Inspiring young Wisconsinites to learn about and possibly pursue careers in science and technology, including robotics, is the goal of a new nonprofit formed by a diverse group of leaders from industry and academia.

Wisconsin FIRST Robotics, Inc. will organize after school sessions and competitions for students 4-18 throughout Wisconsin. Wisconsin FIRST Robotics, Inc. is affiliated with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a global nonprofit organization created to inspire young people to be the science and technology leaders of the future.

Wisconsin FIRST Robotics, Inc. will offer mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.

“The goal is to inspire innovation, and foster well-rounded capacities in young people, including self-confidence, communication and leadership,” said Jeff Fenstermaker, chairman of Wisconsin FIRST Robotics, Inc. “FIRST has a strong record on STEM learning and skill-building and we are excited to bring those opportunities to Wisconsin.”

Fenstermaker said that FIRST has a global support system of mentors, coaches, volunteers, alumni and sponsors that include over 200 Fortune 500 companies. He said young people will work in teams to conduct research, fundraise, design and build robots and then compete and celebrate at local, regional and international events.

The sequence of FIRST programs begins with FIRST® LEGO® League and includes Discover (ages 4-6), Explore (ages 6-10) and Challenge (ages 9-14), followed by the FIRST® Tech Challenge serving grades 7-12, and FIRST® Robotics Competition, serving high school-aged youth (grades 9- 12). FIRST estimates in 2019-2020, the programs reached over 679,000 young people worldwide.

The goal of Wisconsin FIRST Robotics, Inc. is to grow the presence of FIRST so that every student in the state is provided an opportunity to participate in a FIRST program through their schools, clubs, or youth organizations.

Populations underrepresented in STEM fields are a particular area of focus.