As a coach and mom, watching kids gain confidence, get inspired, and develop as a team is amazingly rewarding. They’re there watching each other’s programs run, cheering when it works, and helping their friends figure it out when it doesn’t. This is made possible through FIRST. From Core Values to fun science and tech, to Coopertition - this place has it all.
5 years ago, I was asked to help teach some high school kids how to use the a 3D printer at the local makerspace. These kids were attentive, motivated, and willing to help other members learn what they learned. It turned out, they were part of a FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics team and they were building a robot for that year's competition. I helped out as a mentor for that team for the next four seasons.
FIRST gave these kids a new challenge every year - one that was difficult but never impossible. They help provide a competitive environment where cooperation, gracious professionalism, a great work ethic, and project management skills were all rewarded. For those loner kids who don't fit in, this is a blessing. They didn't need to be book smart to succeed- they needed to learn to solve problems and communicate to do well. This program is one of the best preparations for working in the real world.
As a volunteer, mentor and corporate sponsor I watch for the unspoken benefits of FIRST in preparing our next generation of clients, employees and partners. From technology, to planning, administration, project management, working in teams and yes building robots I see the program provide nearly every skill imaginable to prepare for the workforce.
After convincing myself this was for the kids, I realized that each year I learned something myself. I have changed some of my habits, and I have pushed my own limits. For example, I spent most of my career giving presentations. FIRST put me in front of thousands on a big screen! Scary stuff, but I go through it with help from my volunteer mentor.
FIRST is indeed the 'hardest fun you will ever have', regardless of your age or contribution.
Such a great experience for the students participating and the fans watching. Every event is a production and the character shown by the teams with their "Gracious Professionalism" is a model for all. So much time and effort goes into FIRST, but the outcomes are worth it. I've been involved for 10years with over 4,000 hours invested and I am looking forward to another year... truly the hardest fun you can ever have!
This was the first year that I donor for this team, and was great, see how teenagers from different places in Chile work all the summer (south hemisphere) for a common objective is amazing on this times. Also, see their effort to be in the competition, because non-US teams are more difficult due that donors have no tax exemption, where funding the team is a harder job. In the end, all were proud to participate, even if they don´t get the grants/recognition that other teams in the US get.
FIRST is such an amazing nonprofit with a passion for putting tools in the hands of students. As a parent and educator finding a STEM program that ticks all the boxes in a hands on creative way is hard but FIRST does that. Their focus truly is on creating opportunities for kids. Not only is this nonprofit meeting a current need in our society but it is impact the future!
Note: I was both a client served and a volunteer.
My biggest regret was joining a FIRST team three years too late. As someone who has been through the FIRST robotics program and visited elementary schools to promote STEM, I would like to say that year was the best of my high school years. If I hadn't been in a team in high school, I would not have had the technical skill and expertise with CAD, machining, and programming that I do today.
Moreover, FIRST stays true to its tagline of More than Robots: the FIRST Lego League (FLL) program has a research component that lets elementary and middle schoolers research topics that pertain to the robots they just built, and the Chairman's Award for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) rewards community impact. Most importantly, the FIRST community is supportive; it emphasizes building each other up and competing with integrity.
FIRST truly does inspire kids to work cooperatively and teaches them core values that they carry throughout their lives. As an FLL coach I can say that I have seen FIRST bring out the best in all of my team members
By doing FTC (One of FIRST’s amazing programs) I was able to learn about not only engineering but also how to work in a group, how to be a leader, how to take charge, how to listen to other people’s ideas, explain things that I was passionate about and how to be literate in the STEM world. FIRST taught me about Gracious Professionalism, which I try to live my life by day to day, and they taught me how to make life long connections that will last a lifetime for me. A lot of my closest friends came from FIRST and the FIRST community really turned into a second family for me.
FIRST more than robots is the STEM education tool I continually choose year after year because it offers so much to all qho volunteer and particpate.
The FIRST family of programs are the BEST at engaging students and introducing them to the STEM jobs the world will need in the future.
Very rarely do you find a nonprofit where the volunteers so deeply believe in the program that they give up multiple weekends during the holidays to help at events. FIRST is one such nonprofit.
The best part about being a mentor (Team 2342) is getting to see students solve challenging issues and problems on their own, or watching them learn something and then turn around and teach it to another student. It is insanely rewarding. What my three sons have gained from being a part of this student run team is so much more than how to build a robot, they also gained valuable leadership skills, about time management, about fundraising, the importance of helping the community, all while having a blast with teammates that became friends that turned into family.
I am a writer for the Prescott eNews in Prescott AZ. I covered our local teams competing against each other in the recent water based challenge. I was highly impressed by the enthusiasm, teamwork and hard work of the teams. I was also impressed by the fact that the volunteers putting on the event included many former team members (although former is not quite correct as they seem to be members for life.) Many are studying or working in STEM fields. I now follow FIRST both locally and worldwide on Facebook.
FIRST is a fantastic organization for young people interested in STEM education and careers. They get hands-on experience with realistic parameters (time, budget and materials constraints), giving them a true tase of engineering careers.
I have donated both time and money to FIRST for many years - while the program may be built around robots the real outcome is preparing our next generation leaders to tackle the future!!
Student for 7 years, Mentor for 3, Volunteer for 5. FIRST gives students a real inspiration, and makes them realize that it's cool to be into STEM. No other organization that I've found does that to this degree. I will be with FIRST for a very long time to come.