Molex Invests in the Future of Technology Through Robotics
Recognizing student robotics as a powerful investment in our future workforce and society, Molex is proud to be a supplier-sponsor of the FIRST student robotics program.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a global robotics community that organizes team-based programs for kindergarten through high school. The teams compete and pair students with volunteer mentors. Each high school team raises funds, designs a brand and collaborates to build a working robot, giving participants a well-rounded learning experience in engineering, business and marketing.
Hands-On Approach to STEM Through Robotics
In addition to monetary support for the FIRST organization, Molex sponsors seven high school teams, across Illinois, Michigan, New York and Texas. Additionally, a Molex employee committee identifies and lines up volunteer mentors, judges and career panelists.
“Students talked to Molex employees about their career paths and future opportunities,” said Naperville North Huskies team member Raj Thadani. “I really enjoyed the mutual sharing of our passions, growing our love for STEAM together.”
Furthering its reach in enabling students to learn robotics, committee volunteers worked with local high school teams to develop component kits with cables and connectors. They then distributed kits to more than 4,100 teams around the world. With the support of Molex engineers, the committee also developed a design guide and “unboxing” video to explain how to best use the Molex parts in the kits.
“We thoroughly enjoyed working with the different FIRST robotics teams,” said Jonathan Thompson, a Molex Product Manager and FIRST committee volunteer who helped develop the kit and training materials. “Each team is unique in how they approach their designs and the competition, and the team members all have different skill sets. So, we tried to develop kits that provide design information and samples to help teams build their robots more quickly without having to build custom cables.”
Molex is deeply connected to FIRST’s mission, drawing from a rich history of employees who are also both student participant and mentor alums of the program. Time and again, these alums tell us their FIRST experiences inspired them to further explore technology and helped give them a sense of personal fulfillment in general.
Extra Credit for Perseverance
As with most experiences in 2020, the pandemic made for an unusual year for the FIRST program, but participants were undaunted. Even when Molex was unable to host an in-person event that includes a tour of its Lisle headquarters and interactive Q&A for local FIRST participants as it had in the past, Molex pivoted quickly to host the event virtually, with engineers answering questions and discussing their careers with the high schoolers from their remote locations.
Similarly, instead of taking place in person with engaged audiences watching the teams’ robots compete as they accomplish assigned tasks, organizers adapted the national competition so it could take place virtually. But this still didn’t put the slightest damper on the teams’ attitudes, experiences or achievements.
Sravan Suryadevara, a full-time software engineer and part-time teacher at Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park in Chicago, volunteers as a mentor to the school’s Hawks on the Horizon (HOTH) FIRST team. “Molex has helped emphasize FIRST 5125 HOTH’s mission of guiding students to pursue their passions,” he said. “The Molex FIRST committee has been highly engaged throughout the sponsorship. The financial support provided by Molex has been instrumental in our best robot performance yet, earning 12th seed at the 2020 Midwest Regional.”
“We worked with Molex employees to learn about and utilize their custom cable creator website, which allowed us to order custom-made CAN cables,” said Huskies Team Captain Nikhil Sathyanatha. “We thank Molex for their time and effort to help us improve as a team.”
The Huskies team has experienced its most successful year in 2021 in terms of awards, winning the Chairman’s Award Winner for the Illinois Region, the Game Design Concept Award and others.
Molex continues its FIRST supplier-sponsorship in the 2021-2022 season and will expand its support by helping sponsor teams globally. By promoting STEM education to students around the world, Molex’s sponsorship and mentor commitment to the FIRST program are a profoundly powerful reflection of our brand promise, Creating Connections for Life.