FIRST Robotics Volunteers of the Year Awards given to RIT President Bill Destler and Xerox Corp.’s Elissa Nesbitt

University’s and company’s many contributions over more than 13 years were also highlighted as part of event opening ceremonies

Follow Michelle Cometa on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

A. Sue Weisler

RIT President Bill Destler receives a Volunteer of the Year Award at the FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Regional.

Rochester Institute of Technology and Xerox Corp., long-time supporters of FIRST Robotics competitions, were recognized for their contributions at the recent Finger Lakes Regional Competition on March 17. RIT President Bill Destler and Xerox Corp. Director of Community Relations Elissa Nesbitt were each presented with the regional’s Volunteer of the Year Award. The award is given to individuals and companies that have made major commitments to local and regional events, teams and students involved in FIRST Robotics programs.

The Finger Lakes Regional has taken place at RIT for the past 13 years in its Gordon Field House and Activities Center. Destler, who will retire from the university at the end of the academic year, has left an indelible mark on the campus as well as the community, said Richard Bryant, regional event coordinator.

“The leadership he has provided throughout his time at RIT has always emphasized the importance of FIRST Robotics as a way to educate a new generation of students who will make an impact in STEM careers in the future,” said Bryant, a systems consultant for Conduent, who thanked the president for making teams, mentors, families and friends of FIRST welcome at the university.

RIT faculty, staff and students volunteer for the event in the areas of logistics, hospitality and technology support. Many act as team mentors, field and event judges and provide access to the machine shop in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering in the event of robot repairs needed.

Nesbitt has been part of the regional event planning committee since it began, involved in coordinating logistics, communications and fundraising. Xerox was one of the original, national corporate sponsors of FIRST Robotics when it began more than 25 years ago and provides support to numerous teams throughout the country. For the Finger Lakes regional, 19 teams have connections to the company—from current and retired engineers and researchers acting as mentors for teams, and onsite at events as judges and referees.

“Xerox’s commitment to FIRST is seen most powerfully in the leadership so many of the company's staff members have provided as mentors to teams, in addition to technology, financial support and all-around involvement with the student-competitors,” said Bryant.

The 2017 FIRST Robotics competition, STEAMWORKS, took place March 17-18. This year, 49 high school teams participated in the Finger Lakes Regional at RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activities Center. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), sometimes referred to as a “Sport for the Mind,” began in 1989 to spark interest in science through solving engineering problems in a friendly, yet intense competition. Winners from regional competitions around the world participate in the 2017 FIRST Championships April 19–22 in Houston and April 26–29 in St. Louis.