MIT Recruiters Seek Out FIRST Robotics Students

Ever wondered what it takes to get into MIT? I recently caught up with Dr. McGreggor Crowley, admissions director at MIT, to find out. Turns out hands-on robotics experience is a great start:

Why is MIT interested in FIRST Robotics?

At the competitions we’re surrounded by the world’s best and brightest in robotics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and systems design.

What percentage of applicants admitted to MIT have had experience with the FIRST Robotics program?

We recently did a study that showed that one in 10 of our incoming freshman have some participation in FIRST Robotics. Students involved in FIRST have experience in hands-on design and with conceptualization. They know how to take ideas and turn them into robots that do amazing things. We take a close look at these kinds of skills when we make our admission decisions.

Do you find that MIT applicants have similar credentials across all nations?

One of the things we’ve found from our past analysis is that most of the students who have first-hand experience with engineering and robotics attended highs schools in the United States.

Ironically, we see some of our best young physics and mathematics students come out of international high schools. But so few of those students have had any hands-on experience with engineering or robotics design or with computer science and applications.

Do you think this is changing?

Yes, gradually. We’re starting to see the expansion of FIRST Robotics into countries all around the world. Israel, Brazil and Canada are three countries that really come to mind. Last year at the finals we saw one team from China.

Only one team from China? That’s surprising to me.

Yes. China is a huge untapped resource. But it was exciting to see this tip of the iceberg representing itself at FIRST Robotics. In two or three years I predict they’re going to go from the smaller robots in FLL and FTC to the bigger robots in FRC.

FIRST is going to move rapidly in other countries. To see FIRST have an international presence means that there’s going to be an increased pipeline of experienced students in our applicant pool, not just for undergraduate admissions but for graduate admissions too.

Photo Credit: Greg Heartsfield on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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