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Robotics made Minnesota State High School League activity

The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors voted to partner with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in supporting robotics competitions.

Around the state, robotics competitions will now be treated more like football, basketball and hockey games.

Recognizing the importance of science and math extracurricular activities, the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors voted to partner with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in supporting robotics competitions.

MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead will make the announcement today, Friday, Aug. 25, at a news conference on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fair in conjunction with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Day at the Fair. U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota also made an appearance and offered remarks regarding the importance of science.

In conjunction with the announcement, robotics teams from District 833 schools Park and Math and Science Academy will be two of 34 FIRST Robotics Competition teams to test their current year's robot against unique, obstacle-course-like trials at the State Fair, inside the Education Building on Saturday, Aug. 28.

In addition to the competitions, schools, organizations and companies showed how to engage in STEM after school in Carousel Park outside of the Grandstand. Hands-on activities and interactive demonstrations entertained and educated Fair fans. Information about future employment trends and educational opportunities in STEM fields was available.

The new partnership will make the FIRST Robotics Competition, which has 131 teams throughout Minnesota, more mainstream in Minnesota's high schools by giving it the status and statewide cohesiveness of other popular extracurricular activities. In a broader sense, it will help FIRST to realize its vision of a world in which young people dream of becoming our future science and technology leaders.

Minnesota is well poised to make FIRST Robotics Competition a mainstream program because it has the fourth-largest state contingent of teams in the nation and hosts the largest of the more than 50 FIRST Robotics Competition regional events. This event consistently fills Williams and Mariucci Arenas on the University of Minnesota campus with a combined total of 123 teams.

In its partnership, the League will promote the FIRST Robotics Competition among Minnesota high schools, support a state championship for which teams qualify at FIRST Robotics Competition regional competitions in March, and provide teams the same prominence of other League activities within their schools.

The FIRST Robotics Competition is a high school level program of FIRST, a educational non-profit based in Manchester, New Hampshire. Dubbed a "varsity sport for the mind," FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It's as close to real-world engineering that a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.

FIRST was founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire America's young people to pursue future careers in science and technology by creating the same levels of fun, recognition, and celebration that students experience from participating on major high school athletic teams. The FIRST Robotics Competition has 2,072 teams nationwide and completed its 20th season in 2011. Minnesota's FIRST Robotics Competition has grown from just two to 131 teams during the past five years.

The Minnesota State High School League is a voluntary, nonprofit association of public and private schools with a history of service to Minnesota's high school youth since 1916. Today, nearly 500 schools are members of the League. These member schools provide opportunities for athletic and fine arts competition for more than 200,000 high school students statewide each year.