Students with an interest in robotics, engineering and programming will have an opportunity to join a competition team as Duxbury High School jumps head-first into the FIRST Robotics competition program this year.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national high school competition where students build robots to complete a task, the requirements of which change every year. This year at Duxbury, teachers Matt Files and Dave Scott will pioneer the robotics program.

“Sink or swim, we are going to do it,” Files said.

Students on the FIRST teams will work from September through April, learning the ins and outs of robotics. In January, they will receive a box of parts and the task that their robots must perform. The team may use the parts provided or switch them out for their own parts, but the robots must meet certain weight, size and cost requirements. As soon as the parts arrive, each school team has exactly six weeks to construct the robot.

“It’s a large commitment for the kids, just like a varsity sport,” Files said. “Once the competition officially begins, they work every day all day to complete the robot.”

With 12 students expressing a significant interest in the program Scott said they are hoping to build up a feeder program that could start in the middle school, much like a varsity sports feeder program.

“We’d like to take some of the things that we have been doing with robotics at the high school, such as working with LEGOs, and bring it down to the middle school in order to give them a basis they can build upon when they get to the high school level,” Scott

said. “It’s just like a sport. If you are going to be good at a sport you have to have a good feeder system.”

Once in the competition, each team’s robots are pitted randomly against another team to perform a specific task. Teams are awarded points for succeeding at the task. Some robots are designed for scoring while others are designed for defending. In the final round, four or five teams with the highest points get to choose which team they will face.

During the competition, students work behind the arena in the “pit,” where safety glasses are mandatory. If a teammate or someone affiliated with the team is not wearing glasses, the team loses points. If a team helps another team with an issue or by providing a tool, for example, they receive points.

FIRST Robotics teams are made up of student participants and mentors, which include corporate employees, teachers, engineers or college students. While funding has been put aside to support this year’s program, sponsorship and fundraising will be necessary to continue the program. Looking forward to getting the competition program off the ground, Files said the most important piece of the puzzle is community support.

“We do need corporate sponsorship, but what we really will need is help,” he said. “We are trying to drum up community support from engineers, parents and volunteers. We’d love to find someone in town with a machine shop or connections to engineers who would be interested in helping us out once or twice a week.”

School superintendent Benedict Tantillo said the robotics program is the “best educational opportunity you could have.” When he was a superintendent in New Jersey,

he said he had two female students from the high schools who were accepted early admission to MIT and their participation in the program was a big part of their acceptance.

“The competition encompasses everything for a 21st century learner,” Tantillo said. “I can’t say enough about this program.”

In addition to the extraordinary education students receive from being on the team, Tantillo said there are often opportunities for scholarships for students who participated. From past experiences, Tantillo said its is a team the community can get behind.

“The support for these teams is overwhelming” he said. “Engineers from town volunteer to help build, parents bring in dinner for students who are working through the night, supporters raise money for trips; its amazing.”

The team will be having an informational meeting on Sept. 12 in the student lounge at DHS from 7 to 9 p.m.for students, parents and community members.