The theme for the 2014 FIRST Robotics competition was “What I thought. What I got. This is FIRST.” We produced a short video that captures the essence of this idea and it was used to kick off the 2014 robotics competition season.
For those that don’t know, FIRST Robotics has become one of the most exciting and most effective ways for young people to become interested and develop skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). They’ve formed quite a reputation for making kids into science and technology super stars. Many FIRST alums go on to have great careers in industries like biomedical and aerospace engineering. FIRST is a great initiative and activity for youth. I think we all agree our country needs to promote STEM and they’re starting a STEM revolution. They claim to be the “sport for the mind.” And they are. These kids can do some amazing things.
However, the concept behind the video as well as the message FIRST is trying to communicate is that there are a few stereotypes and unexpected benefits/results when it comes to being involved in FIRST programs. In short, the message is,”don’t judge a book by its cover.” Or, “I thought I was gonna get this, but instead I got that.”
During the 2013 competition season, a film crew went around and asked parents, competitors, staff, and mentors what they thought they were going to get when they joined FIRST, and then followed up with the question… “what did you actually GET out of it.”
Over and over the responses were about growing as an individual, watching kids mature and develop their skills, etc. The process of learning, preparing, and competing in the context of FIRST promotes growth and a deeper understanding of how STEM can be applied to life.
Nerds are Cool
Many people think that FIRST is just for geeks or nerds. But really, what’s wrong with being a geek or a nerd? Nerds are cool!
Nevertheless, that stereotype can give the impression that FIRST isn’t for everyone. What many kids find when they engage with a FIRST team is that they quickly start to have fun and build meaningful relationships. They also see that using a combination of creativity and brain power to produce something like a robot is certainly an achievement that rivals that of any other venture.
If you’re a parent, you know that kids can be difficult to motivate. Some would even refer to their children as lazy. They may posses a great deal of talent, but haven’t yet found the proper motivation to use it. Or, they’d rather just play video games for hours on end.
Whatever the case, participating in FIRST has a way of bringing out the best in young people by letting them experience the satisfaction of a job well done as well as the benefits of hard work and commitment.
The Power of Team
Perhaps the most compelling part of one’s involvement in FIRST is making life-long friends. When participants, parents, and others are asked about teamwork, they typically respond with statements about life-long buddies, and in most case they refer to each other as family. It’s very similar to what you’d hear from veterans who spent time together in battle.
These kids go through quite a bit in preparation for the competition and they apply their skills and talents in a way they’ve never experienced before. The deadline is tight and they must work together in order to succeed.
It’s More Than Math
What many participants find is that there’s more to robotics competition than just robots. For example, there’s the business side of things. How do you market and raise money for your team? What are the logistics involved in getting ready for competitions? And so on.
Kids are surprised to find out that there’s a job for almost any skill set and talent in the context of a robotics team.
Many of the kids that participate in FIRST are completely surprised by what they got out of it. They experience learning, growth, change, and relationships in a powerful way.
What they thought, isn’t what they got. We’re proud to support FIRST in their efforts to transform our young people and our nation.
Having attended a regional FIRST competition, I can tell you there’s nothing like it. It’s a great experience that rivals any sporting event. If you get the chance, check out a regional competition near you.