Originally published April 4, 2013 at 5:33 p.m., updated April 5, 2013 at 4:51 p.m.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be 1.2 million job openings in the science, technology, engineering and math fields by 2018.
But estimates show that there may not be enough qualified graduates to fill them.
That's where the First Robotics competition hopes to change the playing field.
The regional event is about team building, sharing ideas and resources, and trying to build each other up instead of bringing each other down. It also lays the networking groundwork for many graduates who want to make a career of technology and offers them a shot at scholarship money.
This year's coveted blue banner went to a group from San Diego's High Tech High School called The Holy Cows.
The win means big things for the team, including another trip to the First Robotics World Championship. This will make the eighth time the team has made it to that level.
Once they get there, they'll compete against 60 teams from around the world for three days starting April 24 in St. Louis. There, they'll do everything from building robots to engineering to marketing and public relations.
Jon Jock, mentor and High Tech High grad, has made a career for himself in the technology industry. And he did it just weeks after graduating from high school.
"Coming out of high school, I actually got the job at Seabotix," Jock said. Seabotix is a San Diego-based company that specializes in manufacturing of underwater technology. "I think it was two and a half months after I graduated from high school that I actually started working there."
As the science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries try to recruit more young minds in general, they are also focusing on girls. That demographic has largely been left out of STEM education and there have been many recently-announced initiatives to change that.
Ambar Avila, a senior at High Tech High, said she saw fewer girls than boys in technology first-hand and did something about it.
"I noticed that there weren't many girls on the engineering side of the team, so in tenth grade, I tried to get some of my friends more involved and now they are leading members on the team," she said.
While Jock was able to snag a job just out of high school, the biggest hope for teachers and mentors is that they'll be able to foster a love of technology in their students who will ultimately fill some of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will likely be waiting for them after they graduate from college.
"Our hope is that we're going to get some of these students into those careers," said Devid Berggren, founding mentor of The Holy Cows. "It's just a really impactful, feel-good program that makes you realize there may be some hope for the future."