On March 5, I walked into RIT’s Gordon Field House. The 60,000-square-foot venue was packed, standing-room only. The lights were dimmed except for the spotlights center stage. The loudspeaker was blaring and the crowd was going wild. Face-painted fans waved banners. The atmosphere was vibrant and exciting, to say the least.
But I wasn’t at a concert or sporting event — I was at the FIRST Robotics competition that I had been assigned to photograph, and it was not what I had expected.
I arrived during the final rounds and was thrust into the heat of competition, getting a crash course in robotics and, more importantly, teamwork. I was impressed by the knowledge and maturity the students exhibited. I watched them work together, problem-solve and quickly make repairs between rounds. They won some rounds and celebrated victory, and lost some rounds and congratulated each other on a good effort.
This was not the stereotypical science fair filled with geeks. The combination of the excitement of sport and the rigors of science and technology was refreshing. I feel foolish for not expecting all that when I walked in the door. I know I was expecting it for my next assignment that day, covering high-school basketball at the Blue Cross Arena.
What students are doing in the areas of math and science is just as important, if not more so, than what they do on the court or field, and yet it doesn’t get the same recognition. Our future will depend more on the problem-solving and technical skills of those robotics students than on a three-point game-winning shot at the buzzer. So in the future, I will do my part to encourage and support the "varsity sports for the mind.” Will you?