Yale engineering alumni join forces with FIRST®

An alliance between the Yale Science & Engineering Association and FIRST, a non-profit group widely known for its popular K-12 robotics competition.
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Students from the FIRST robotics team at Hill Regional Career High School in New Haven are shown with a robot they built. They demonstrated their creation's capabilities at the ceremony announcing an alliance between the Yale Science & Engineering Association and FIRST. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

What do you get when you combine hundreds of successful Yale Engineering graduates across the country with thousands of aspiring high school scientists?  The answer will play out in the months and years ahead as the Yale Science & Engineering Association (YSEA) implements a national alliance with FIRST, a non-profit group widely known for its popular K-12 robotics competition.

The alliance between the nearly 100-year-old YSEA and FIRST, which was founded by inventor Dean Kamen, will give technically-minded young people access to a group of accomplished adults with advanced training in engineering and other science-related fields. FIRST is an acronym ­­– For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Announced Dec. 5, the alliance is part of a broader effort by Yale, FIRST and others to advance science, engineering, and mathematics education among children in grades K through 12. Through the YSEA-FIRST affiliation, Yale will join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as one of only two universities in the United States with formal FIRST alliances.

“Yale has been cultivating cutting-edge engineers for more than 150 years,” said T. Kyle Vanderlick, dean of the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science. “We are delighted that some of our most committed alumni will be working with one of the nation’s most creative engineering advocates to ensure a rich supply of bold, innovative problem-solvers for our society.”

Founded in 1989, FIRST organizes an annual series of middle- and high-school robotics competitions around the country, as well as an array of technology challenges for younger students. Worldwide, nearly 300,000 children and adolescents participate in FIRST’s progression of four programs.

“We want our culture to celebrate science and technology, and we want our society to be one where countless young people not only dream of being engineering, science, and technology leaders, but also have the mentoring that can inspire and enable great achievement,” said Kamen, who is president of DEKA Research and Development Corporation “We’re delighted that a dedicated corps of Yale engineering graduates is joining our mission.”

Under the multi-year alliance between the groups, Yale alumni will attend and volunteer at FIRST robotics events, promote FIRST among other Yale constituencies, and broadly support FIRST programs. FIRST will involve Yale alumni in alliance planning sessions, set aside space for them at the FIRST Championship and other events, and supply them with training resources and marketing support.

Initially YESA will focus on five geographic regions, starting with southern New England, and expand from there. Yale supports a FIRST robotics team at New Haven’s Career High School, the site of the Dec. 5 announcement.

There is no shortage of practical challenges facing our society, but there is a shortage of smart, creative people tackling those challenges,” said Joseph A. Cerro, YSEA president. “Through this alliance, Yale alumni hope to change that by helping ambitious young people find and explore opportunities in science and engineering.”

Dating to 1914, the Yale Science & Engineering Association is composed of alumni who studied a science or engineering discipline at the undergraduate or graduate level and care deeply about science education. Many members work in science, engineering or other technical fields.

About FIRST®  

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $14 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) and FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) for 9 to 14-year-olds, (9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S., Canada and Mexico) and Junior FIRST®LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for 6 to 9-year-olds. Gracious Professionalism is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.

About YSEA

The Yale Science & Engineering Association (YSEA) connects Yale alumni with students, the University, and each other to strengthen the Yale science and engineering community. The association promotes the highest quality of scientific and technical education; assists students financially with research grants, prizes and scholarships; recognizes and promotes the accomplishments of Yale students, faculty and alumni with special awards and prizes; encourages interaction between Yale and its engineering and science alumni, and between Yale and private and public enterprise; and makes investments to enable or complement Yale initiatives that advance science and engineering.

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Media Contact

Eric Gershon: eric.gershon@yale.edu,