Reflecting on Roboticon Tampa


I recently attended Roboticon in Tampa Bay. While SolidProfessor has been a FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) sponsor for years, this was my first time attending a FIRST® event and I can’t begin to express how impressed I was!

In case you aren’t familiar, FIRST® is an organization aimed at preparing the next generation of science and technology leaders in a fun, innovative environment. There’s a FIRST® group for pretty much every age – FIRST® Lego League Jr., FIRST® Lego League, FIRST® Tech Challenge, and FIRST® Robotics. No matter the age, teams learn engineering, design, and manufacturing principles. Then, before competing against other teams in an arena, they use those principles to plan, design, and build legos, robots, or other mechanisms to solve a problem.

Gaining real-world experience

Roboticon gave me a front row seat to some of the innovative and complex robots these students are able to design and build. I was impressed by the technical know-how the students displayed through the complex robots they built and actively repaired throughout the event. These experiences create a real-life engineering environment where students are challenged to think through and solve problems relevant to what they will encounter in the future as professional engineers.

In addition to the engineering challenges, students must work together as a team to learn, solve problems, and decide how to act. Students with these skills enter the workforce with confidence in their ability to accelerate innovation and address global challenges that need to be solved.

FIRST® Looks – Tony Glockler Roboticon Interview

The importance of women in engineering

The engineering industry has historically been a male-dominated sector. As a father of three young girls, it was exciting to see all of the girls, from kindergarten to high school, actively involved in FIRST® at Roboticon.

Only about 14% of engineers are women. When gaps like this exist, everyone suffers. The influence of bright, young women will change the direction of engineering. Greater diversity in engineering will bring a more diverse set of ideas to the table and help teams to avoid errors and design flaws. Airbags, for example, were originally designed by male engineers. Come to find out, they worked great for the male body, but failed to protect the bodies of women and children. Increasing the population of female engineers brings a new perspective for solving problems, one that the engineering community needs.

Scholarship opportunities

Because the engineering and design workforce is largely nearing retirement, FIRST® understands that, as a community, we need to prepare the next generation to take the reigns. This means we must make this a financially viable career path for students.

FIRST® invests in the futures of its students. They have more than 200 scholarship providers and a total of $50,000,000 in college scholarships available to participants. Yes – $50 MILLION! They not only want FIRST® participants to enjoy a fun, challenging, and inspiring program, but more importantly, they want these skills to help students get into college and start careers.

first roboticon


My partner and I founded SolidProfessor in 2002 because we saw a need – a need for designers and engineers to keep up with the speed of innovation in an industry evolving at an unprecedented rate. Exceptional innovation happens every day and we need to focus on how future generations of engineers will continue to push the envelope.

I see FIRST® as an organization preparing the engineers of tomorrow, which is why one of my goals for 2018 is to get more involved with this organization and participate in as many FIRST® events as possible. I want to support the opportunity for kids to learn, explore, engineer, and create. Our community of engineers will benefit from cultivating intelligent, capable, and team-driven students through the FIRST® programs.

Now, I challenge others in the industry to do the same. If you want to join me in this venture, but don’t know how, let me know and I’ll introduce you to the right people. Our children and the future of engineering will be better for it.

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Tony Glockler
About the Author

SolidProfessor Co-Founder and CEO, CAD junky, sailer, surfer and former world traveler (before kids, that is).