I am a mentor with a FIRST Robotics team at a local high school. (There are other FIRST organizations for junior high and elementary school ages, too.) Each year FIRST Robotics introduces a new engineering design challenges in the form of a game. All the teams have six weeks to build a robot to play this game. At the end of the six weeks we ship the robot and don't see it again until competition. I work as an engineer and having a deliverable in only six weeks is an amazing feat.
One of the things that impresses me most about FIRST is the concept of “gracious professionalism”. The teams are very focused on winning the game, but they are even more tightly focused on helping everyone have a good competition. It is not uncommon for a team to show up at competition missing a key component (such as a working program for their robot) and by the end of the day other teams will have helped them get the machine up and running. The culture of gracious professionalism is, I think, my favorite thing about FIRST. We are helping train young people to go in to the world and be fierce, focused, competitive, but NOT jerks!
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
I don't know that I have any substantial changes. I have been very satisfied with my participation with the Pittsburgh FIRST organization.
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