In an effort to spark young people's interest in science and technology, Bishop Wisecarver Corp., Pittsburg, Calif., is supporting a national nonprofit’s robotics competition.

The manufacturer has teamed up with FIRST as a Diamond Supplier of the FRC Robotics Competition, supporting three high school robotics teams in the San Francisco Bay Area. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit founded by inventor Dean Kamen to help develop youths’ interest in science and technology. This is the fifth year that Bishop-Wisecarver has participated as a program sponsor and supporter of the robotic teams.

At the beginning of this year, teams received a kit made up of motors, batteries, control system, PC, Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect for Xbox 360, and a mix of automation components − but no instructions. Students work with adult mentors to design, build, program and test their robots to meet the season's engineering challenge within the six-week deadline. Once the students build their robot, their teams compete to measure the effectiveness of their creations, their collaborative power and personal determination.

"The participation of innovative companies such as Bishop-Wisecarver is a major reason why FIRST continues to experience phenomenal growth,” says FIRST president Jon Dudas. Nearly 300,000 students participate in FIRST each year.

By donating components for the competition, suppliers give students access to the latest technology and the chance to use the same tools as do career scientists and engineers, helping them pick up real-world skills to carry into the workforce.

"I feel lucky to have the resources to help the next generation of scientists and engineers," says Pamela Kan, Bishop-Wisecarver president. "If I help even one student stay engaged in school, I have served a purpose. If I have helped one student understand the value of working and making things with their hands, I have served a purpose."

As the female owner of Bishop-Wisecarver, Kan says that she draws encouragement from the growing number of female participants in the program. "I am very excited to see the number of girls invested with FIRST," she says. "I want to make sure they know that science and technology is a viable career option for them." Diamond is the second-highest supplier sponsorship for the contest, designating a contribution in the $200,000 to $500,000 range.