Grainger is joining forces with the nonprofit FIRST, which aims to inspire young people to participate in science and technology.

“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” is the acronym behind the organization, which was founded by inventor Dean Kamen.

“Grainger is committed to supporting technical education and we are pleased to support the FIRST organization and the important skills and experience they bring to the students of today,” said Chris Sperry, vice president of distribution operations at Grainger.

Grainger is contributing to the FIRST robotics competition at the gold-supplier level. This designates a contribution  between $50,000 and $200,000. Grainger provided safety eyewear, gloves and hinges for the 2009 parts kit, which was distributed to more than 1,600 teams of high school students Jan. 3.

“For 18 years, the FIRST organization has been working to create a culture where students not only emulate leaders in science, technology and engineering, but also realize the potential within them to someday be one of those pioneers,” said FIRST President Paul R. Gudonis. “Grainger is helping to instill those values and beliefs in today’s youth. Like FIRST, Grainger aims to excite students about pursuing careers in engineering.”

The kit contains 604 items, 39 percent of which were donated.

Since 1992, FIRST has used the competition to get young people interested in science and technology. On Jan. 3, the organization unveiled the annual engineering challenge to teams, who also received a parts kit made up of motors, batteries, a control system and a mix of automation components - but no instructions. Working with mentors, students had just six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots in preparation for regional events that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration and the determination of students.

More than 42,000 students from 10 countries will design and build robots to compete in regional events with winners advancing to the April 16-18 championship in Atlanta. Participating students are eligible to apply for more than $9 million in scholarships offered by universities, colleges and companies.