Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas partner with Arkansas FIRST

 Innovative robotics program stresses science, technology and math skills

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas recently entered a partnership with Arkansas FIRST, a volunteer-based, non-profit organization founded to ensure every Arkansas student has access to competitive robotics education programs. The program partnership replaces a successful electric vehicle program that the cooperatives had sponsored for 14 years.

Student-built and student-controlled robots compete in a series of challenges during the three-day Arkansas Rock City Regional competition.

Teamwork and cooperation are key aspects of the Arkansas FIRST robotics program.

“The Arkansas FIRST Robotics Competition provides great learning opportunities for students,” said Rob Roedel, corporate communications manager for the cooperatives. “We will work with Arkansas FIRST volunteers to promote and support the program. Our goal is to get teams in all 75 Arkansas counties and eventually hold four competitions within Arkansas to provide students with maximum exposure to science, math and technology. The additional events will increase the students’ knowledge and understanding of the robotics tools that they build and enhance.”


An Arkansas Rock City Regional robotics competition competitor fine tunes his team’s FIRST Robotics kit.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was launched in 1989 to support educational interest in robotics and emerging technologies. Globally, the FIRST organization involves more than 515,000 students, 59,000 team and more than 150,000 mentors and volunteers.

In addition to partnering with local teams, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas partnership includes sponsoring the Arkansas Rock City Regional competition, a multi-state three-day competition that was held March 8-10 in Little Rock. The 2018 event included approximately 3,500 contestants from Akansas, Alabama,California, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texeas and Mexico.

Teams work to achieve maximum performance from their creations. photo by Jon David Carmack

According to Meredith Novak, president of Arkansas FIRST, the robotics program combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas to expand the Arkansas FIRST program throughout the state,” she said. “The program features strict rules, limited resources and time limits, with teams of 25 students or more being challenged to raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. We look forward to a great partnership with the cooperatives.”

Several Arkansas teams received awards and will proceed to the next level of competition. For a list of winning teams please visit: frc-events.firstinspires.org/2018/ARLI/awards.