Throughout the region, high schools are adding FIRST robotics programs to encourage the study of engineering and related fields, while teaching collaboration and other 21st-century skills, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. FIRST means "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." This school year, the program was offered in 29 area high schools, up from 25 in 2006. A nonprofit based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST simultaneously encourages competition and collaboration. The Chestnut Hill Academy-Springside School robotics program, which began seven years ago in a closet, now has its own facility, a 1,600-square-foot laboratory in Chestnut Hill’s new Rorer Center for Science & Technology. That is where the 24-student team constructed Taz, the cylindrical sweeper that took third place among 350 teams at April’s national championship in Atlanta. The youngest member of the Chestnut Hill Academy-Springside School robotics team shares common ground with internationally renowned physicists. Jeffrey Ng, 15, the team’s programmer, works with the same tools used by scientists to study the effects of the Big Bang and the origins of the universe. "The programming software they use . . . is the same language that powers our robot," said Peter Randall, Chestnut Hill Academy’s director of technology and robotics program mentor. "Our students are learning real-life skills as they apply to the subjects they’re learning in the classrooms…"

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