On Thursday 53 high school teams gathered in La Crosse for FIRST's 2nd annual Seven Rivers Regional Robotics Competition, with students battling for a chance to qualify for the Robotics World Championships.
FIRST offers a diverse range of robotics challenges for students in Kindergarten through 12th-grade, challenges that attract people for a variety of reasons.
"I learned about the robotics team when I was a freshman and figured that's kind of cool, it could get me a good career sometime," West Salem Junior Daniel Schwarz reminisces.
FIRST is an acronym meaning "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," and it provides more than just robotics experience.
"They don't have to be engineers or welders, they can be media professionals," Regional Planning Chair for the FIRST Seven Rivers Regional Steve Bissen continues, "We have people that work just in media, video, social media, that write business plans, that do safety presentations."
"Robotics isn't just a one person thing, you need a lot of people to come together and build a robot, market, program, design," La Crescent High School Freshman Leah Thesing describes.
Every year students design and create robots to accomplish a new task and this year the game is power-up.
"There's three very deluxe teeter-totters, if you will, that the alliances are battling for control of throughout the match," Bissen elaborates.
For FIRST robotics it's about much more than just the competition, to the point officials hesitate to call it one.
"We call it a Coopertition, we want to cooperate and we want to compete like crazy. Teams borrow parts from each other, help program things it's amazing," Bissen concludes.
A Coopertition representing FIRST's core value of gracious professionalism that helps students apply their experiences to the real world.
"Pretty much anything in robotics you can turn into a career and go on and use that in your real life," Schwarz concludes.
Whether their passion is programming or photography robotics can provide hands-on experiences for many backgrounds.
Friday's competition features qualifying rounds, with teams competing on Saturday to reserve their spot at the Global Robotics Championships.
The event starts at 8:30 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday.
MORE: Seven Rivers Robotics