Supporting STEM education across Western Canada

Since 2019 Finning and FIRST Robotics have partnered to support and promote STEM education across Western Canada through hands-on competitive programs.

FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration of Science and Technology, aims to promote STEM careers by introducing youth in grades K-12 to a variety of skills as they design and build robots to compete in specific challenges.

For the FIRST Robotics Competition Program Finning supports, each year, participants from across the world start the season in January when the annual challenge is announced and starting kits are distributed. From there, students work collaboratively in teams where they learn new skills, solve problems and overcome challenges as they build robots with specialized functions to compete in the annual sport-like challenge.

“I learned things like programming, using power tools and electrical work,” says Daniel, a program participant. “But it also taught me a lot of other unexpected things, like excel data processing, and motors mechanics, woodworking, data analysis, and notetaking.”

As they aspire for the highest level—the FIRST Championship—they participate in regional, provincial and even international competitions along the way.

“FIRST is all about growing the students, through the robot, as one of our founders put, ‘we are not using kids to build robots, we are using robots to build kids,’” says Ian Koscielski, executive director for FIRST Robotics British Columbia.

While the organization was able to hold virtual events through the pandemic, 2022 marked the return of in-person competition. Four teams from the Canadian Pacific Regional qualified for the FIRST Championship which was held in Houston, TX in April 2022, alongside five teams representing other program offerings.

FIRST Robotics has been around for more than 30 years and continues to see robotics grow in popularity. More recently, the release of More Than Robots, a documentary produced by Lucasfilm that follows four teams as they prepare for the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition, has attracted newcomers to the arena.