The Power of Connecting: A Guest Blog by FIRST Tech Challenge Director, Ken Johnson

Kim Moore, Principal of Middleton High School, with Ken Johnson, Director of FIRST Tech Challenge, during ROBOTICON 2016.

Ken Johnson, Director of FIRST Tech Challenge with FIRST, in Manchester, NH, is a big fan of ROBOTICON, which is all about connections: showcasing great student work and connecting students with each other and with the people who can help them build a great future for themselves and for their communities, and connecting people who have never seen FIRST with this great Sport for the Mind.  Ken shares his thoughts here about the Power of Connection.


We constantly talk about the importance of inspiring the next generation – to help them visualize possibilities they can only imagine. Our model at FIRST is to put forth a technology based challenge, create an environment where students can work with others to meet that challenge, and celebrate those efforts. We’ve been refining this simple formula for almost 30 years.

One thing that can get overlooked however is the importance of opening the door, welcoming those in who don’t know us, and growing our community.

All of us started as outsiders.

Before we heard of FIRST, or any group with which we now identify, we were outside. Something caught our eye, someone opened a door and said “Come in, take a look.” Without that invitation we never would have had the chance to learn, explore, connect, and benefit. We all have someone to thank for opening that door.

Events like ROBOTICON are incredibly powerful in their ability to show the possibilities, excitement, and fun of not just robotics, but of the community that comes together around FIRST. Without events like these, and the people who put so much effort into them, our community stagnates. With them our community grows, and thrives, and the world changes.

Science and technology is so much more than classes at school, subjects or majors. It is the engine that propels us as a society. Those that get engaged in it will shape the future, totally independent of ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or geography.

Don’t just take my word for it. Look at the Universities that covet these students and the companies that line up to hire them into rewarding careers. This year more than $50 million dollars in scholarships are available to FIRST students from more than 200 Universities.

We’ve got a special opportunity for those considering getting involved in FIRST Tech Challenge, our program for students from grades 7-12. Stop by the ROBOTICON Info table to learn about special ROBOTICON FIRST Tech Challenge Rookie Team Grants. These grants can be used to cover the cost of registration and offset the cost of the robotics kit. It’s a great way to get into the game!

I hope you can join us at ROBOTICON. Meet the students, volunteers, and others who are involved – the door is wide open.

-Ken Johnson, FIRST Tech Challenge – #MoreThanRobots


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