FIRST accommodates students with a variety of needs, from all walks of life; many FIRST teams have students with special needs. However, for some students, traditional FIRST teams are not always the best option. The goal of FIRST Access is to ensure that these students have an environment in which they can explore robotics in a way suited to their specific needs. Built in partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission, Unified Robotics of Washington, Special Olympics of Texas, the Texas School for the Deaf, and other organizations serving youth with special needs and disabilities, FIRST Access is an opportunity for us at FIRST in Texas to review and expand upon the programming we provide for our students and how we deliver our programs to ensure it is as accessible as possible. Here are a few words from Jess Jankowitsch, our Director of Impact and Evaluation as well as the creator of FIRST Access:
“FIRST is for everyone. We want to ensure it is accessible for everyone. As this is our pilot season for FIRST Access, we will be working constantly to improve the accessibility of these events for all types of students.”
What does FIRST Access look like?
FIRST Access is comprised of two programs that provide opportunities to students with varying needs and abilities:
In FIRST Tech Challenge – FIRST Access, teams are composed of students with disabilities with students from the general education population potentially serving as peer mentors and industry mentors providing technical support. Teams participate in the yearly game created by FIRST, which is reviewed and altered as needed to be even more accessible to students with disabilities. In LEGO Robotics – FIRST Access, students use robotics kits made by LEGO and design, builds, and programs their own robot to compete in a “sumo wrestling” type game created by Unified Robotics of Washington.
FIRST Access teams from UIL member schools that are also Special Olympics Texas Unified Champions Schools are eligible to compete in the Unified Division of FIRST Access. The Unified Division of FIRST Access is a collaboration with Special Olympics of Texas, intent on fostering a neurodiverse environment that promotes social inclusion. The Unified Division pairs “Athletes” (students with intellectual disabilities) with “Partners” (students without intellectual disabilities) in one-on-one partnerships to build robots. For more information about the FIRST Access Unified Division, click HERE.
How can I get involved with FIRST Access?
Where can I see FIRST Access in action?
FIRST Access will host its inaugural competition at The Texas Cup on June 15th– 17th. You can tune in to the event livestream on our Twitch channel. Come join us for this exciting event!