"I wasn't always into this stuff, I used to be really into football. But then I realized I wasn't big enough to play that sport, so I decided to get my head in the books, and when I found out my high school had a robotics team, I decided to join," Lewis said.
The contest has been fierce. Individual pits were erected for each high school to continue to test their robots before the moment of truth arrived with the judges. Students busied themselves at repair tables, replacing parts as needed, as other team members hit "the track" with the robots for a speed challenge, which included carrying "trackballs."
The robots' speed and agility with the trackballs, as well as other rules of the game, determined the number of points scored during the competition.
The competition played out like a high stakes basketball game, only it was centered on a track more the size of a tennis court. "This game is like a basketball game with robots for players," said Schaeffer.
The competition has inspired several high school students to take their education to a new level. Aside from learning more about an area of work they feel passionate about, while having fun, these students are excited about new opportunities.
"I'm a little nervous today, but more excited than anything. I personally want to be an electrical engineer, so this is kind of my passion," said Desiree Philips, a 17-year-old senior from Bronx Science High School. "Being here is not tiring, it is more [about] me having fun."
Many colleges were at the competition, and offered scholarships for FIRST member participants. And large companies, such as IBM, Goldman Sachs, and Johnson & Johnson were there, taking preliminary peeks at future employees, as well as setting up mock interviews.
"Kids are finally starting to get the message that science and technology is important, and you can see FIRST kids doing stuff all over the country," said Schaeffer.
"I think we really started to introduce science to the youth in a fun way. And these kids now have a great way to develop their skills, make contacts and do things that will affect them for the rest of their lives."