ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - Thousands of kids from around the world kicked off the FIRST Robotics Championship Friday morning, and rapper will.i.am announced he is going to college.
"Boeing has been sponsoring domestic teams,” said Boeing’s Matthew Daniels. “From Seattle, Washington, from St. Louis, Missouri."
"There's teams from Mexico here,” will.i.am pointed out. “There's teams from Brazil, there's teams from Turkey, Israel, a tangible representation of what America could look like."
If so, the United States would look like thousands of kids packing the Edward Jones Dome on FIRST Robotics weekend. Hip-hop artist will-i-am showed up, showed support and pushed for more inner city schools to compete, year-round.
"Instead of a FIRST Program, we should just have FIRST schools,” he asked.
Teammates led from the stands, wore costumes, waved flags. With this party atmosphere, you would have thought the Rams football team -- not robots -- were on the field.
"The energy's great,” said Ahnam Hassan from Team Epsilon Delta 116 from Herndon, Virginia. “After seeing these guys get beat, it's greater than any sports game you see out there."
will.i.am had a message for any student who thought spending a weekend dealing with computers and robots was geeky.
“I’ll tell you right now,” he warned. “You want to be Mark Zuckerberg.”
He was speaking of the reportedly socially-awkward billionaire Facebook founder.
"I want to be part of that little competition. I'm going back to school. I don't just want to talk about it. I want to be about it,” he laughed “I wanna be a gansta geek.”
But, he seriously planned to start online classes in the fall.
Daniels pointed out that the kids with the top robot were not the only ones winning cash at the competition. They also got prizes for their character.
"That's one of the greatest things about FIRST Robotics,” he said. “It teaches them communication skills, it teaches the kids teamwork."
will.i.am said future scientists and engineers have to make an effort to raise their profile to rock-star status.
"When they go to school, how they conduct themselves is part of making it cool."
Kids aged 6 through 9 wrapped up their Junior FIRST Lego League Expo. The high-school students will name their champ on Saturday.
Learn more about the First Robotics Championship.