Renaissance Jax is the North Florida Affiliate Partner for the world’s biggest youth robotics competition platform, FIRST Robotics.
Between 2013-2018 we’ve grown from 120 to 4,000+ students who design, build, and program robots for competition each year. When Jacksonville has thousands of young people with in-depth technical and soft skills, our whole economic opportunity will change drastically.
Our founder, Mark McCombs is a FIRST Alumni who saw the skills gained on a robotics team as a major differentiator for his peers who took jobs at Apple, SpaceX, Google, Dept. of Defense, and many more top firms around the country. Maybe companies like that would set up shop around a region with a high density of tech talent and a low cost of living.
Renaissance Jax was built on the premise that we could create more talented young people per capita by building more FIRST Robotics teams per capita than any city in the country. We want to answer questions like, “What do you do with 1,000 of the most talented people on earth?” We have 130,000 students in Duval County Public Schools—even if 10% get on a robotics team and gain that experience—that is a ton of people gaining skills they would not otherwise be gaining in programming, automation, machine design, fundraising, business formation, and so much more. Extrapolate that to the 20 county region we manage for FIRST Robotics and you can start to see a huge future propelled by kids coming out of our programs.
From training teachers, directly sponsoring teams, coordinating corporate sponsors and private donors, partnering with school districts and universities, hosting upwards of 60 events a year, and driving a comprehensive growth strategy for teams, tournaments, and our volunteer network—Renaissance Jax is a hands-on approach to building and maintaining our community through the values and opportunities afforded to our young people. Even within any 5 to 10-year timespan —our participants will come into decision making and value-add positions in life, and we want to make sure that their skills are driving the future rather than playing catch-up.
Over the last couple of years, our growth has been some of the fastest nationally for FIRST Robotics. We’ve helped to pilot a program called Camp Amazon which ties FIRST and Amazon together around their Fulfillment Centers, received the Arts Innovator Award from the Cultural Council, and through a partnership with Duval County Public Schools enjoy one of the largest instances of robotics programs in a public school district.
We are working for a future where over 25,000 kids a year are growing up through FIRST and gaining the skills they will use to transform our culture in North Florida. Our story and vision have been shared through most major media outlets locally, including a talk at TEDxJacksonville where our founder spoke on “Why Every Kid Should Build a Robot”. You can find us online at www.renaissancejax.org and we’ll see you at competitions around the region each fall and spring.