View Full Version : A Narrative of how FIRST Changes Lives

Vincent Chan
04-01-2003, 08:17 PM
Maybe it's time I do something positive on these boards. I know I've been negative lately, and I think it's time for me to try and highlight the GOOD things that I've found in FIRST. I know it's changed my life; I'd love to hear how it has changed yours. Not how you've met a CEO for fifteen minutes, or talked to Dean Kamen or Woodie Flowers over at your pits. I'd really like to hear how FIRST has changed you from who you were and who you would be to who you are and who you will be.

Now, sit in for a read:

FIRST has taught me a great deal about life, even as a rookie. I've learned that anything can be accomplished with enough dedication (and sleep deprivation). I had never thought that I would be able to build something that would constitute a robot, much less in two and a half weeks with but a few other kids. First semester, when a friend of mine introduced me to the idea of joining a robotics team, I wasn't quite sure what I was in for. With his hard work and the help of a teacher, he pieced together what was to become an amazing experience for all of us.

I went into my winter break thinking I'd scarcely have anything to do with robotics at all. In all honesty, I wasn't much interested, and I'd dismissed it as just another goofy school-related competition, much like the way I view math team. (I can see myself ending up on varsity math team just for that comment... Things like that always come back to bite me, but I digress.) With some encouragement, I worked my way to a few meetings, and I really hadn't a clue what I was doing. I saw some parts of the gearbox that we were all struggling to put together (which is quite humourous, now that I look back) and a few other things that looked too complicated for me to understand. I'd heard a few things about a game that was too complicated for me to grasp in one sitting. At some of the early meetings, we hadn't but four or so kids attending. I'm not sure whether I was interested by the parts or if it was my innate want to help out where I could, but I'd decided to stick with it.

I tried to enlist a few friends to come, though unsuccessfully, and soon enough, I'd found myself so involved as to be the head of this committee or that committe, as well as helping in the design of team logos and such. Not being the most outgoing of people certainly did not help here. I barely knew anyone in the group, and those that I knew I didn't know well.

As the numbers at meetings began to dwindle, and the active members of our team grew fewer, I found myself understanding more and doing more. I tried to learn as much as I could, taking in so many things at once. I really hadn't begun to learn much until our 'team' went to a practice day at Georgia Tech.

Our team captain couldn't go, so the team freshman and myself went, as we were the only two other members actively building at every meeting at that point. I began to learn that day. I went from not knowing a thing about our pneumatics system and how to wire to completely understanding the entire mess. I also found a friend in a near-complete stranger. I'd also met a few other people on different teams, and meeting people suddenly became easier for me.

After two more weeks of build and the participation of a couple more students, we all pursued sponsorships from miscellaneous companies, and though we were rejected several times over, we'd learned a lot from that.

Competition was another story completely. We'd forgotten how hectic build had been in just four weeks, and we scrambeled to get our bot working on the field. Despite these problems, we had a great time helping out some other teams, looking at other bots, and giving it our all.

So what is FIRST? It's much more than just science and technology. For me, it's a means to make friends that I wouldn't have otherwise-- to meet people that I'd otherwise just bump and mutter apologies at in the halls. It's a reason for me to slave over wiring diagrams and rule books. It's how I'd come to find skills and traits in myself that I'd've never known I possessed. FIRST isn't about robots; it's all about people and power: when any group gets together and works at something, they have the power to make anything possible.

FIRST has set me on a completely different path in life. And I'm all the better for it.

04-01-2003, 09:17 PM
I wholeheartedly agree. FIRST has quite fundamentally changed my life. It has excercised my strengths and made me aware of my weaknesses, allowing me to work on them as well. For the first time since 1st grade, teamwork was once again heavily stressed in my life. In addition to this I was able to work with several absolutely wonderful Engineers from Baxter. Their roles as both mentors and friends has impacted every aspect of my life. I have also changed education/career plans because of it. Prior to FIRST, I was planning on a career in the computing field, not because I enjoyed it (although it wasn't something I hated), but simply because I hadn't had any experience with anything else that interested me. Now, however, I am about to start my Freshmen year at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Once out of college I hope to work in the automotive field. In the end, I hope I will be able to mentor a team, so that I too may become a wonderful mentor.

04-01-2003, 10:04 PM
You have learned well, my young padawan (sorry Chan, Peter"s been watching EpII four times a day for the last week). It"s been amazing what our team has accomplished this year as just a bunch of rookies whose knowledge base began as a crazy sophomore and an engineer who codes and once designed graphics cards (he"ll go on for hours about how fractal compression is so much better than the rubbish that"s being used nowadays [and the scary part is that we listen silently because we find it interesting]). When we finally found a room to build in [during Week 2 of the build], we were soon kicked out under accusations of stealing markers and breaking a duck"s neck <the duck"s neck was broken last year and we didn"t even know there were markers in that biology room>. We finally found a tiny portable to work in and after long labors and intense devotion from these great students, we put together an awesome looking robot that chucked boxes {I don"t think I could have convinced anyone other than a rookie that we could actually build a launching bot - but we made it work} and next year we"ll have even more fun. At competition we had learned enough to teach another team how to calibrate their Victors when our robot wasn"t even moving [that"s gracious professionalism].

The only odd part about this competition is that rather than further convince me that I want to be an engineer, it did the converse. I don"t think I really want to be an engineer when I grow up.

I want to be a teacher.

Redhead Jokes
04-17-2003, 05:00 PM
Originally posted by pauluffel
I want to be a teacher.

My experience in FIRST has very much raised my appreciation of teachers, what the rewards are of their profession, what the frustrations are.

My daughter, co-driver and captain of the robotics' team, has ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher and starts college this next year to fulfill that dream.

Our district technology director told me just recently I should have been a teacher. Never occurred to me before. One of the many careers I could have taken.

Mmmm...maybe the next chapter of my life.

04-17-2003, 07:11 PM
There are no real words to describe what FIRST means and has done for me. I started doing this because my friends were in it. I soon realized the importance of this organization. It taught me leadership, teamwork, and it gave me knowledge. When I graduated from High School I was saddened by the fact that I was no longer going to be on a team. Then we started one at my college and now I am a mentor. I did not think that I could learn anymore than I already had but I was wrong. Being a mentor was even better than being a student on a team. It makes me glad to know that these kids are learning what I learned. FIRST has given me so much and has taught me so much. Nothing else that I have ever done compares to the experiences that I have because of FIRST.