Brad Choat

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It’s all about the “wow.”

Boeing engineer Tom Wendell is a mentor in the FIRST Robotics program, which held its International Championships in downtown St. Louis over the weekend.

Wendell says he loves working with today’s youth, “They go, ‘wow.’ They come out of their shells here and learn to work with teams here. They say they had no idea what engineering was, and wow, this is a lot of fun.”

Christian Wallace from Normandy High School  in St. Louis was a first-time competitor at the world championships, “Oh yes, the Wow Factor is like a 10, maybe 11.”

Leslie Gill came in from Ithaca, New York, “There are so many good teams here. We’re learning from everybody. Helping people build bumpers and fixing whatever, loaning some parts, it’s just so crazy here and wonderful.”

Some traveled even longer to get to St. Louis, like Raz Karl of Israel, “We were given six weeks to build our robot. But actually it took seven years to get to this level. It’s our seventh year (of Robotics) and each year we’re evolving and getting better.”

Karl’s team was sponsored by Boeing. He said the corporate sponsorship allowed his team to reach a new level of competition in 2012.

Boeing’s Val Bring says her company realizes the importance of sponsoring the international competition and numerous teams, “As you walk around here and talk with these kids, you know they really are the ones who’ll solve tomorrow’s problems. All we have to do is inspire them and teach them how to think a little bit.”

Nearly 40 teams from the St. Louis region qualified for the finals.

Team “Simbiotics” from St. Catherines, Ontario won top honors.

The FIRST Robotics International Championships will return to St. Louis in 2013.


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