Here, you will find all the details on the UIL partnership. This page will be updated as we get information. The proposal details can be found by expanding the sections below, which have been updated since the UIL forum in early February.
Since the approval of the pilot in October, UIL has spent the last several months learning about the existing robotics programs and is now in the beginning phase of identifying what the pilot will look like. As a result, UIL hosted a robotics forum on February 9 here in Austin. Select FIRST in Texas representatives were invited to participate including Patrick Felty, Don Bossi (FIRST President), and Ray Almgren. We are in the process of advocating passionately on behalf of FIRST, a program that we know can significantly enhance the lives and futures of our youth.
A few things to note in the interim that UIL has updated us on.
1. UIL involvement does not in any way preclude the activity of any other organizations that sponsor robotics competitions. There are numerous instances in which schools participate in a particular activity through UIL and other organizations. Participation in all UIL activities is strictly voluntary, not only at the individual student level but also at the school level. Decisions about participation, as well as funding/budgeting, are all made locally by the school or school district.
2. A UIL robotics competition will need to culminate with UIL state championships (this could be in addition to other championship events that contestants might qualify for or advance to). There are multiple possible formats to achieve this, but awarding state championships is an essential objective.
3. Flexibility is inherent in any UIL pilot program. We can account for contingencies as well as make adjustments as we go. We are not locked into the structure that is used for other UIL academic competitions – the pilot process gives us the flexibility to try other possibilities.
Should you have any concerns or questions about the forum, please feel free to contact me directly. We will follow-up again after the meeting with additional information as appropriate.
Thanks for your continued support and dedication to FIRST in Texas.
On October 19th, the UIL Legislative Council, composed of 32 public school superintendents, voted to authorize the development of a robotics competition for UIL Academics to be piloted during the 2015-2016 school year. Review details, explanation and justification on page 4 of the Proposed Amendment to the UIL Constitution and Contest Rules.
Please note that this vote is the first step in a long process. FIRST® stakeholders (team members, coaches, mentors, school administrators, CTE Directors, program partners, and others) will have the opportunity to weigh in on the scope and structure of the pilot. [first] founder Dean Kamen met UIL leaders in August to offer his explicit support for a potential partnership, recognizing an opportunity to greatly expand access to FIRST® robotics programs in Texas. [first] in Texas has been working with the UIL Academic team over the past few months to provide information about FIRST® and to gather and disperse information to [first] program partners around the state.
The UIL Academic team came to the inaugural FIRST® in Texas Summit, a strategic planning conference for statewide K-12 program partners, in August to answer questions and gather information from the FIRST community. They pledged that they would develop a partnership structure to build on the existing program structure to expand access to more teams across Texas. They also provided valuable information that helped ease Texas program partners’ concerns. You will find much of that information in the responses to the questions below.
[first] in Texas supports the rule change to authorize the development of a robotics competition for UIL Academics as an opportunity to further our mission to increase robotics program access to Texas students without hindering any existing participation. Specifically, in schools that have budgeted UIL funds but do not have funds for any other activities, a UIL robotics event will provide an alternative option for teams to compete and be recognized. UIL robotics events will not disturb events or opportunities already in place. As such, we are supportive of this proposal as a step towards our vision where every Texas student has an opportunity to participate in [first]!
National Instruments Vice President of Marketing and FIRST in Texas Board Chairman, Ray Almgren, spoke highly of the proposal, saying:
“This is exactly what [first] and all of those supporting robotics have been asking for several years now; robotics to be celebrated just as our society has celebrated athletes and sports teams. This is our opportunity to make it right for all who participate in robotics in Texas.”