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Unread 04-30-2006, 11:33 PM
Jaine Perotti Jaine Perotti is offline
...misses her old team.
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In four years, alot can change.

WARNING: This is another one of Jaine's essays. Please read it - many of you will probably relate.

Three years ago, at around this time of year, I was an anxious freshman attending my first Championship event at Reliant Stadium in Houston. I had spent most of that year struggling – struggling to find true friendships as a new high-schooler, to fit in, to feel confident enough to speak my mind, and to find my place and purpose on my FIRST robotics team. I entered the halls of Housatonic Valley Regional High School not knowing where I would be in four years, and who would be by my side along the way. I walked those halls in anxiety and fear of what my peers thought about me. I also walked in uncertainty – not knowing what purpose I needed to develop for myself so that I could make my mark upon the world.

Three hours ago, I came home from my fourth Championship event – my last official competition as a student. The past year has also been a struggle, but this time I found myself striving for very different things – my independence, my education, a secure footing for my future professional career, and love, amongst other things. As I was flying home today, I compared my freshman mentality to my senior mentality, and was struck by the differences and what they indicate about the progress of my life over the past four years.

Some of these differences are small. The very first robotics competition I went to (Bash @ the Beach 2002) was full of tension and anxiety for me. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do anything for the team because I was so inexperienced. On a larger scale, I worried about what my purpose was on the team as a whole. As a freshman, I believed that I was only useful to the team if I could contribute something which would help them win. This was reflected by the way in which I mentally reacted every time our robot would go out on the playing field. I remember feeling adrenaline pumping through my veins every time we would go in to a match – wishing and praying that my team would win. I also remember feeling devastated at every loss. After all of the fun and excitement that I felt after every competition, I remember that I still felt disappointed every time my team returned home without a trophy.

These general feelings of anxiety (over the outcome of matches and my worth to the team) lasted through my sophomore year. My sophomore year was probably the high point in terms of our team’s success throughout the six years of our existence. I was responsible for designing and building the robot’s pull-up arm (designed to reach the bar in the 2004 game), and was appointed pit captain. That year, we were finalists at the New Jersey Regional, winners of the UTC New England Regional, and finalists on Archimedes (a tough division that year similar to this year’s Newton field). We also won Delphi’s Driving Tomorrow’s Technology award at BOTH of our regionals, for our unique and efficient arm design. Finally, I was able to feel as if my efforts for the team had come to fruition. However, throughout the whole year, I still felt similar anxiety to what I had felt the year before. In 2004, I still was trying to recover from a difficult freshman year and I felt the need to prove myself. I also felt that my main role on our team was still to help us win.

Even though I still felt the overwhelming desire to achieve statistical success for my team, a change began to occur in the way I viewed my role as a member of the FIRST community. This change began in 2004, slowly, when I founded and mentored a Lego Robotics team at my mom’s elementary school (she was a middle school writing teacher at the time). Although I founded the team because I felt that this was the next step in “succeeding” in the FIRST program, this truly marked the beginning of a new “phase” in the way I viewed myself as a part of the team. 2004 was also the year I joined the ChiefDelphi forums – right after Championships that year. I wanted to delve deeper into the world of FIRST robotics, and I wanted to garner as much information as possible to help my team succeed.

Last year, during my junior year, a truly radical change occurred in me. Our robot that year was mediocre at best, and our performance during 2004 was a tough act to follow. However, I found that I was no longer disappointed when our robot performed badly. I greeted the start of every match that year with calm acceptance of the fact that we probably didn’t have a shot at winning the Championship. My acceptance of this fact made it possible for me to enjoy myself much more than I ever had at any previous competition. This was augmented by the fact that I had gained several new friends through the ChiefDelphi forums – many of whom taught and guided me towards a higher level of understanding for what the FIRST program truly stood for. During 2005, I expanded my Lego League program by running several summer camps aimed at getting more kids from the surrounding school districts involved in the Lego Robotics program. I decided to volunteer at a FIRST event for the very first time at the Indiana Robotics Invitational. I also decided that I wanted to be an engineer.

In short, my awareness of the FIRST program and what it’s intentions were expanded greatly that year. I saw beyond the personal successes that I would see reflected in my team’s performance, and instead saw more and more opportunities for me to inspire and be inspired. I no longer viewed myself as exclusively a member of team 716 – I viewed myself as a part of something larger. My junior year was hard – probably the hardest year of my life – but it was also the year where I began to see myself as an independent person who was not only being inspired, but able to inspire others and strengthen the FIRST program as a whole. This feeling of independence was, and will continue to be, the driving force which is now moving me into adulthood. I no longer feel limited by the confines of what I can do for my team to “make them win”, because now I see that there is literally the whole world just waiting to be impacted by the FIRST program – in a positive way that is many times more satisfying than winning a regional or the Championship.

When I was a sophomore, it used to bring tears to my eyes when I thought about my senior year and how I would have to “leave FIRST” someday. I viewed the years of high school I had yet to complete as “how many more robots I have left to build.” I wanted to go to college close to home, so that I could continue to mentor team 716, because I couldn’t imagine myself without them. Every year, I felt deep sorrow for the seniors graduating from the team, not wanting to think about how I would feel when it came time for me to leave.

However, when my team placed 47th this year on Galileo, and when we didn’t get picked for the finals rounds for the first time ever in our team’s history, I didn’t feel angry. I was somewhat disappointed, but I viewed our losses with the calm acceptance that I had gained the year before (just as I have come to accept many of the things which people view as “unfair” in FIRST). I didn’t even feel sad about the fact that I am going to be leaving 716 this year, or that I didn’t “end my student career” with a bang. What I felt instead was a moment of release. It’s hard to explain what exactly it was I felt release from, but I do know what that feeling will bring to me (and already has). You know those Southwest Airlines commercials that always end with the slogan “You are now free to move about the country”? When I returned home today I realized that my FIRST career is anything but over – it is just beginning. My graduation from my team will allow me to start bringing the joy and inspiration that comes through FIRST to other people, instead of merely being a recipient. And the most amazing thing about this is the fact that in bringing this joy to other people, I am going to be bringing even more joy to my own self – more satisfaction than I would ever have from bringing home a trophy. I am no longer "held back" by the desire to benefit team 716 specifically.


I have changed so much as a person since the very first time I stepped into the Becton-Dickenson warehouse to attend my very first robotics meeting. I walked in as a child, and now I am walking out as a young adult. Life can change so much over the course of a mere four years, especially when you are young. What makes the FIRST program so amazing is the fact that as we grow personally, it molds its purpose to make our experiences better and better, and this causes it to reach more and more people. As I go through my life, I am going to make sure that I choose experiences which will grow and change with me for the betterment of myself (and consequently others). I want to say thank you to FIRST for helping me realize this – for helping me to see the larger scheme of things, and to keep an open mind.

I am ready to experience not just FIRST, but life on a whole new level now. I encourage each and every one of you to do the same. Don’t get caught in mindsets which will limit the potential that the future may hold. We all change, and we need to make sure that we can grow and change together in a positive way. Keep close the people who are capable of doing this with you, and you will surround yourself with the tools for success. I thank FIRST for giving me these tools, and for giving me the awareness of them.

-- Jaine
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Unread 04-30-2006, 11:52 PM
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Tetraman Tetraman is offline
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Re: In four years, alot can change.

When I had to leave 174, It was at the worst time. We had just won our first Team Spirit award. To many teams, the Team Spirit award is just another trophy for the case, but for us, it was just as important as winning the regional all together. Never had the team shown so much spirit, and never has the team done anything to show the robotics community what our team is. But it had to change. I stood up, and I aked our team to cheer. And we did. And I poured my entire sould into cheering, and so did my team, every memeber gave everything they had. When dave read off our team number for the award, something came over our team. We were connected, we were together, we were finally a team. But I had to leave, and those team members of my age had to leave too, so I knew our team would lose what I had planted.

But I was wrong!! We went to Buckeye this year, and without me saying one thing, my team cheered the second we entered the stadium. They cheered everyime our robot was out. They cheered for everything, and everyone. They didn't stop either. We cheered in our hotel, and on the bus.

You may not know it, but you can leave the greatest impact, by doing the smallest things. Thats the power of FIRST.

I tell the team all the time, that the hardest thing to do is to cheer for a loseing robot. But it's the team that counts. And if the team builds a robot, the team has completed the task FIRST has given.

FIRST doesn't end after your last year within a team. It's never going to end.
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Unread 05-01-2006, 12:06 AM
sanddrag sanddrag is offline
back to school ;-)
FRC #0696 (Circuit Breakers)
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Re: In four years, alot can change.

Jaine, you've left me at a loss for words. Your essay is absolutely incredible. It is a tragedy I've never met you in person.

Let me just say one thing though. Never be ashamed of playing to win. However, progressing from just caring about winning matches to also caring about winning a great future is what makes you a great FIRSTer.

If you ask me, I think every team needs a Jaine.
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Unread 05-01-2006, 12:08 AM
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Eugenia Gabrielov Eugenia Gabrielov is offline
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Re: In four years, alot can change.

Jaine is my hero. People like her, like Lisa Perez, and like so many others on this forum changed the way I see FIRST, and I haven't even started with other mentors.
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