MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Robots are connecting students to scholarships and industry professionals from all over the country, and even overseas, for the next three days in Myrtle Beach.
This year's 15th Annual Palmetto Regional FIRST Robotics Competition is taking place at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where the worlds of science, technology, engineering and math are inspiring students to dream bigger.
This year's FIRST Robotics theme is "Power Up," which is based off 80s video games. Over 2,000 students and mentors flew in Wednesday night and loaded robots into the convention center.
Thursday was the practice round for 64 high school teams from nine different states and the Netherlands who are competing at the regionals. There are more than 2,500 teams worldwide.
FIRST holds a game each year, but it's kept a secret from the students until the first week of January.
Once students receive the kit with all their parts, they then have six weeks to build a robot to compete with at the regional competition. The winners will then head to the world championship games in April.
Frank Landford, South Carolina's regional director of FIRST Robotics, said the event is really for the students to build skills in teamwork and networking, and to prepare them for the future.
"These students that are here today (Thursday) and the assignment they have was to build this robot and to compete in the game. They are the best in the world to do that," Landford said.
For Aaron Saltzstein, a senior at Conway High School, the experience is much more than the competition itself. In some cases, it's life changing.
"So my dream job ever since I was a little kid was to work in NASA and that has stayed strong pretty much my entire life," said Saltzstein.
Students involved in FIRST Robotics say the program is the best experience they can have to help prepare them for their future.
"It builds a lot of team building. I'm a very nervous, shy person and this has helped a lot because I am more confident around people, and it helps me with public speaking and it's really fun," said Katelyn Dubose, a senior at Myrtle Beach High School. "I find it a pretty fun field to work in. It's really entertaining. You learn so much. You work with all these people and you get a lot of really nice, challenging things and it helps a lot with college."
This event is free and open to the public to watch.
For those interested in joining FIRST, follow this link to learn more.