San Antonio, Texas – This past weekend, students and teams from across Texas gathered to take part in the FIRST Access State Event. This event is a remarkable youth robotics event aimed at promoting inclusivity and technological education. This open competition provided a unique opportunity for students with special needs and those who participate in special education programs to showcase their skills and creativity in the field of robotics. This event, made possible through the support of dedicated volunteers and generous sponsorship from the Texas Workforce Commission, proved to be an empowering experience for all participants.
The FIRST Access State Event took place Saturday at Morgan’s Wonderland, an accessibility-focused theme park for all ages. Students arrived on the sunny morning, full of excitement and anticipation for the event. After completing their check-in, teams were given a few hours to explore the park and relax before reconvening after lunch to show off their skills and problem-solving abilities in competition. A pilot program run by FIRST® in Texas, FIRST Access aims to create a specialized inclusive platform where young individuals with special needs can unleash their potential.
With the assistance of both student and adult mentors and coaches, the students worked on their robots and engaged in competition based on the FIRST® LEGO League and FIRST® Tech Challenge formats. Students and teams who participated in the event were each recognized and awarded for an area in which they excelled, from creative design to team spirit. Each participant demonstrated incredible determination, at the end of the day, the high score was announced along with the other awards.
The FIRST Access State Event, and the program at large, fosters not only technological skills and emphasizes the importance of collaboration and camaraderie, but creates an environment that is approachable and accessible for students of all needs and considerations. As in other FIRST® programs, students work closely with their teammates, forming strong bonds and supporting each other as they face new challenges and learn difficult lessons. The emphasis on teamwork and cooperation are echoed from the core values of FIRST®, which encourage gracious professionalism and recognize the significance of collective effort.
The success of this extraordinary event would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of the volunteers who dedicated their time and expertise to ensure its smooth operation. From setting up the competition arenas to providing technical guidance and support, these selfless individuals played an integral role in creating an inclusive and enriching experience for the students. Their unwavering commitment to empowering young minds deserves our deepest appreciation and gratitude.
In addition to its dedicated volunteers, the FIRST® Access State Event is made possible by the generosity of the Texas Workforce Commission. The Texas Workforce Commission’s support not only made the event financially feasible, but also highlighted their commitment to fostering educational and technical opportunities for individuals of all needs. Through their sponsorship, the Texas Workforce Commission demonstrated a profound belief in the potential of every student, regardless of their unique circumstances, and their commitment to preparing future generations for success.
The organizers, volunteers, and sponsors behind the FIRST® Access State Event continue to set a remarkable precedent, illustrating the power of inclusivity and education in transforming lives. Through their collective efforts, they have created an environment where students with special needs can thrive and realize their true potential. Their dedication and generosity have not only enriched the lives of the participants but also inspired a community to come together in support of inclusivity and equal opportunities for all.