First on the Scene

As someone who loves technology and is a policy wonk when it comes to cybersecurity, I love seeing young people who are interested and engaged in the STEM disciplines. These are industries with huge growth potential in Rhode Island, nationwide, and even around the world, so their interest now could pay dividends if they follow this path. Moreover, we have a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, and we’re going to need more young people who have the skills and training necessary to protect us in cyberspace.

Programs like the FIRST Tech Challenge are inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, technicians and, yes, cybersecurity professionals. These jobs are cutting edge, they are in demand, and they can be fun, so programs like FIRST Tech are preparing students to be successful in and after school — not just as scientists, but as leaders, problem-solvers, and team players.

The FIRST Tech Challenge Championship puts the talent and ingenuity of students on display, and it’s the culmination of many months of hard work learning about robotics and honing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I’m grateful to the New England Institute of Technology for hosting the FIRST Tech Challenge and to all of the mentors and volunteers who make it possible, including Erin Flynn at NEIT, head judge Helen Greathouse, head referee Phil Carlucci, and a team of inspectors led by Art Van Meeteren. These volunteers give up their time to make science and engineering fun for Rhode Island students, and we will have them to thank for the STEM leaders of tomorrow.

Congratulations to all the FIRST Tech participants and winners. Some of you might not be thinking about your career paths, or even what you’re doing next week, but I hope the work you put in for FIRST Tech and all of the things you learned will stay with you for many year to come. You are Rhode Island’s next generation of innovators, and I’m so proud of you!

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