Eastern Washington University is hosting a regional robotics competition; First Robotics features a real world challenge to be solved by research, critical thinking, construction, teamwork and imagination.
There are nearly 40 teams from the Inland Northwest, and the top six go to the world championships in St. Louis. The level of competition and fun they will have this weekend isn't the only reason these kids are here.
"I think they're drawn to it because robots sound cool," Michael Campbell, executive director of First Robotics Washington, said. First Robotics is the governing body of these competitions.
"Kids think they're coming to build a robot, but they are really building themselves," Campbell added. "It's all about their self-confidence, their own ability to work with other kids, to have a deadline, to have a project to work on, try and figure out how to do a budget."
And even that is just a small part of this program, which was started to celebrate bright, young people and encourage them to pursue careers in math and science, fields that Americans are falling short in
"As a country if we want to maintain any sort of competitiveness in the global economy, we need to be smart we need to educate people and we need to educate people in the technological skills that are required for the 21st Century," Campbell said.
That's the big picture; for now, however, the competition is the focus for the thousands of kids across the country, including the dozens here in the Inland Northwest, working their way to St. Louis for a shot to being national champions.