RAINBOW CITY, UTAH — In a beautiful and isolated desert in the southwestern tip of San Juan County, Utah, a FIRST Robotics team from Navajo Mountain High School is building a robot and practice field in preparation to compete in the FIRST Global Challenge. Team Naatsis’aan (#6546) will travel to Mexico City in August to represent North America.

With the goal to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), the “Olympics”-style robotics challenge, FIRST Global, invites one team from every nation to participate in an international robotics event that builds bridges between high school students with different backgrounds, languages, religions, and customs.

This small community of around 200 people and “the most isolated chapter of the entire Navajo Nation” has rallied around the robotics team, comprised of seven Navajo Mountain High students. With few conveniently-located resources — the nearest Home Depot is nearly three hours away — the team used what supplies they had on hand.

A FIRST Robotics team from Australia, the Thunder Down, reached out and convinced the Navajo Mountain High students to start the Naatsis’aan team (which translates to “Navajo Mountain”). The Waterford Academy Ravens robotics team and the CocoNuts team from Coconino High in Arizona have also served as mentors and had successful partnerships with Naatsis’aan.  “We’re eternally grateful to all the people who stepped up to help us out,” states Conrad.

“The whole point of FIRST [Robotics programs] is having to work together to succeed,” Daniel Conrad, the Naatsis’aan’s founding coach, said in a short break from enthusiastically helping the team prepare for the competition. “As an educator, these kids have proven my personal mission statement that all kids are capable of doing something special if they have people who believe in them.”

Team 6546 (2) 450x600Accompanying the team to Mexico City on Aug. 14 will be Heather Anderson, Team Naatsis’aan Robotics coach for next year. Of her many roles in the community and school Anderson says, “I wear a lot of hats, but FIRST is by far the most fun!”

Team North America includes the following students:

  • Ruby Anderson
  • Breana Bitsinnie
  • Jason Slender
  • Myra King
  • Evan Smallcanyon
  • Chaydin Atene
  • Terrell Platero

About FIRST Global: The mission of FIRST Global is to inspire science and technology leadership and innovation in young people from all nations in order to increase understanding, impress the importance of cooperation, address the world’s most pressing issues, and improve quality of life for all. This mission is accomplished through the FIRST Global Challenge that culminates with an international robotics game, which will be held in a different nation each year. By showing the youth of the world that if they learn how to communicate, cooperate, and work together using the tools of science and engineering to find solutions to the world’s grand challenges – water, energy, security, medicine, food, and education – they will learn how to work with each other, trust each other, and become part of a truly global community.