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Thousands of robot-loving students to descend on downtown St. Louis this week

Thousands of robot-loving students to descend on downtown St. Louis this week

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For the fifth year in a row, a national robotics championship is coming to downtown St. Louis.

The heart of the action is still at America’s Center and Edward Jones Dome, but this year overflows to the adjacent Renaissance Grand Hotel and Union Station, about 15 blocks away.

More than 17,000 children and teens, from kindergarten through high school, will compete in various categories in the FIRST Championship.

Follow Twitter posts about the competition

“The championship is a culmination of the season, a last hurrah, a celebration of what the kids have done,” said Haley Dunn, a social media specialist for FIRST.

The younger teams will showcase their work with Lego pieces. Older teams will compete with 120-pound robots they created.

FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — competitions will include more than 900 teams from 40 countries.

On Tuesday, workers were prepping America’s Center for the young innovators who will begin arriving in force for the event that runs Wednesday through Saturday.

For the multivenue competition, free shuttles will be offered, walking paths designated and discounted Metro tickets sold.

Admission is free, and organizers expect more than 30,000 spectators, including many proud parents.

To put on the event, more than 1,500 volunteers have signed up to log more than 1 million hours.

And for the first time, the championship events end with a free concert featuring Boys Like Girls, a rock band from Boston, and opening act Christina Grimmie, a finalist on Season 6 of “The Voice” TV competition.

As in years past, organizers, are stressing that the championship is more than a competition. In the spectator program guide is a welcome letter by FIRST founder Dean Kamen and Don Bossi, the nonprofit’s president.

“In truth, FIRST is not about robots,” the men wrote. “It’s about developing future generations of innovators, tinkerers, doers, and thinkers — young people who’ll possess the 21st century skills needed to take on the hundreds of thousands of jobs (in the U.S. alone) that go begging for qualified workers each year.”

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