UF engineering students are helping high schoolers build robots.

For the first time, UF hosted the kickoff for the 2016 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition on Saturday at the New Engineering Building. The competition requires high school students to build a robot, and UF engineering students help out as mentors. 

The roughly 150 high school students, who came from high schools throughout northern Florida, have six weeks to build their robots. At the end of the six weeks, each high school’s robot will have to complete an obstacle course.

In addition to meeting their mentors, high school students toured UF’s engineering laboratory and learned more about engineering. 

“We want to be more approachable and let them feel welcomed,” said Diana Mogena, a 22-year-old UF industrial engineering senior. 

Kipling Cohen, a senior at P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School, said this was his fourth year in FIRST robotics. The 18-year-old said he hopes to study mechanical or aerospace engineering at UF next year. 

“The competition has taught us to think critically,” he said.

The event allows high school students and UF mentors to bond as they build together, said Ralph Rivera, the event’s co-coordinator. 

“There are things we wouldn’t experience if it wasn’t for this event,” Rivera said.