Story By Trisha Radulovich

There was a dancing pig, a wizard, and a cadre of colorful characters cheering their team robots on in a competition like no other—with pit crews, alliances, and $80 million in scholarships on the line. The excitement was contagious as groups of high schoolers converged on the Al Lawson center at Florida A&M University to compete in the FIRST® Tallahassee Regional this past weekend.

Aspiring young engineers from the Southeast and around the world converged in Florida’s capital city to participate in the international event. Part of the world-renowned robotics program, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, known as FIRST®, the weekend serves as a step to the FIRST® World Championship in Houston next month. Teams from as far away as Australia and Pakistan competed alongside teens from Alabama, Florida and other U.S. locations.

This is the second year the competition was jointly hosted by FAMU and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering to help develop the next generation of innovators, tech leaders and engineers. The event made history last year as it was the first time the FIRST® Tallahassee Regional was at a historically Black college/university. 

 “We are very excited to be back here. One of our initiatives at FIRST® is equity, diversity and inclusion and we wanted our students of color, our women and community groups to have the opportunity to go to a regional at a place where they could feel at home,” Wendy Austin, FIRST® Regional Director said. “The City of Tallahassee has welcomed us with open arms.”

Austin has been part of FIRST® for 17 years and said she saw firsthand how the organization impacts students’ lives and their growth as people, innovators and citizens.