Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published (2022) Resource: Engineering and Technology for Sustainable World, 29 (1), pp. 30-31.


Imagine elementary school students understanding inputs and outputs, choosing appropriate sensors, and programming an autonomous robot. Imagine middle school students learning about PID control and creating advanced programs for sensor-based decision making. Imagine high school students using CAD to design drive trains, manufacturing parts with CNC machine tools, using finite element analysis to adjust the design, ordering custom components from a machine shop, using image processing for target recognition, and applying path planning and motion control. We have witnessed all of these skills. They happened outside of traditional classrooms, and they were all student-driven.

Yes, it’s true, and it’s amazing.

These examples are just some of the skills that we’ve seen in students who are involved in FIRST programs. FIRST stands for “For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” It’s an international non-profit organization with a mission to involve students in age-appropriate robotics and STEMrelated competitions. FIRST engages more than 650,000 students and about 320,000 mentors and coaches worldwide in five levels of competition (three levels of FIRST Lego League, K-8; FIRST Tech Challenge, 7-12; and FIRST Robotic Competition, 9-12).