By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — FIRST is an international robotics community that uses a team-based learning approach to prepare young people ages 4 -18 for the future. Each letter has a meaning: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Austin- East High School is an official team of this prestigious robotics program and the only African American team from the Knoxville district.
The FIRST program uses a mentoring based model designed to inspire young people to be leaders in science and technology through engagement and inspiration. The students develop “out of the box thinking skills” and their confidence and self-esteem is bolstered through this program that helps them develop a passion for STEM. For Austin East High School, the program has been a win-win for all involved.
The Robo Runners, as the A-E team is known in the robotics world, have done very well since their inception in 2015, a venture made possible by their founding sponsor, Project GRAD.
Over the last eight years the teams have steadily improved and are making a strong showing in competitions across the region. They have competed in many different venues such as Robo Rodeos where they won first place twice.
Post COVID-19, in the return to large arenas, Austin-East has been doing very well. In the latest competition held in
April at the Knoxville Convention Center, the roadrunners placed ahead of the L and N Stem Academy.