PHARR, RGV – FIRST RGV, a local K-12 educational non-profit, is dedicating its STEM learning expo to world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who passed away on Tuesday.

The expo, to be held at the Pharr Events Center, will see 450 students aged 5-12 from across the Valley using FIRST LEGO equipment. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The sponsors, Workforce Solutions, have contracted with FIRST RGV.

BBC News reports that scientists, politicians and actors have paid tribute to Hawking, saying he was an “inspiration to millions. The British scientist, famed for his work on black holes, died peacefully in his home in Cambridge, England, aged 76.

BBC News reports astronomer Royal Lord Rees, one of the world’s most eminent scientists, described his life as a “triumph”. Others described him as a “unique individual” whose death “has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake.” Prof Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease at the age of 21 and was told he had only a few years to live.

FIRST RGV President Jason Arms said: “Professor Stephen Hawking was one of our finest scientists, one of the inspirational figures of the century who reminded us that geniuses are cool. As we impress upon young students the fun of STEM, it only seems appropriate that we dedicate tomorrow’s expo to him.”

FIRST RGV is celebrating more success at a regional level. Two of its robotics teams have qualified for the FIRST World Championships, to be held at the Houston Convention Center on April 18-21. Thirty thousand students from 29 countries will participate in the world championships.

One of the teams in the world championships is based at Travis Elementary School in Harlingen.

The other team in the world championships comes from Kenneth White Junior High School in Mission, Texas. The team’s coach, Jose Sanchez, said: “Receiving notification that our team has advanced to the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships has added to an already incredible rookie season. This achievement is the culmination of the countless hours of work and effort that our students have invested into our program, preparing for the FTC competition.”

Sanchez added: “It has been great to see our students’ abilities and characters flourish throughout this season. We are all very excited and ready to continue working hard to ensure we do an excellent job representing our campus, district, the city of Mission and the RGV at Worlds.”

This is the third year of operation for FIRST RGV. Last year, a robotics team from Alton Memorial Junior High School, known as the Robo Rangers, was ranked in the Top 50 robotics teams, having competed in the semi-finals of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Founded in 1989 and based in Manchester, New Hampshire, FIRST is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit public charity designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields. Dean Kamen, a celebrated inventor, founded FIRST.

FIRST’s global reach is:

  • 515,000-plus students;
  • 59,000 teams:
  • 44,700-plus robots created
  • 150,000-plus mentor/coach/adult supervisor roles filled
  • 105,000-plus other volunteer roles filled, such as event volunteers, affiliate partners, VISTAs.

In 2018, there are 3,650 teams and 91,000-plus students (aged 14-18, grades 9-12) in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

In 2017-2018, there are 5,900 teams and 59,000 participants (aged 12-18, grades 7-12) in the FIRST Tech Challenge.

In 2017-2018, there are 35,200 teams and 280,000-plus participants (aged 9-16, grades 4-8) in the FIRST LEGO League.

In 2017-2018, there are 14,000-plus teams and 86,000 participants (grades K-4) in the FIRST LEGO League, Jr.

In 2018, the FIRST Scholarship Program gave out $50 million in college scholarships, and 2,000 individual scholarship opportunities. There were nearly 200 scholarship providers.

In 2018, 255,000 volunteer roles were filled in FIRST competitions. In 2018, FIRST sponsors included more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies.