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Unread 09-09-2012, 11:08 PM
Ian Curtis Ian Curtis is offline
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Why Robots?

‎Reading through a recent thread, I noticed something. There seems to be a portion of people that really like FIRST (for the sake of argument we'll include Vex & other STEM engagement type robot competitions) to the exclusion of anything else. Why is that? What do you get out of this program that you can't get anywhere else? Is it the time constraints that limit you to really getting into just one thing? Or is there some deep rooted satisfaction you haven't been able to find elsewhere?
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Unread 09-09-2012, 11:34 PM
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Re: Why Robots?

Define "to the exclusion of anything else"... When you invest a lot of time in a program like FIRST, you meet a lot of people and only interact with them in at FIRST events, on CD, and with FIRST teams. In those situations, it's only natural to spend most of your time talking about FIRST, and it's pretty easy to come away with the impression that the other person is more involved with FIRST than they are with anything else.

Given that, I can tell you that no one on our team (student or mentor) is so dedicated to the team that they exclude other things. We have students who miss most of the fall meetings due to sports. We have students who are part of the theater department or the debate team. Pretty much all of our students are heavily involved in at least one other activity at their school. As for the mentors, we rotate our "day off" so we can each maintain our other external commitments.

I will tell you, FIRST fulfills my desire to volunteer and give back to the community, and I don't do much of that outside of FIRST. On my day off each week, I play pool with some friends. Over the entire year, I probably spend more time playing pool than I do with FIRST (it helps that I have my own table). I doubt anyone at any of the FIRST event's I've met knows that, though... it's just not something that comes up in that atmosphere.
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Unread 09-10-2012, 06:00 PM
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Re: Why Robots?

A friend and I were talking about this one day, he has invested so much time into FIRST, it's almost an obsession. He told me that it was the most fun he has ever had doing anything at all. Whether that is true or not is debatable, but I also stand by his point, it is a lot of fun for everyone involved. I have enough time to build the set for my school plays and run sound and lights for concerts held at the school as well, so I a not limited to this program. But if I were to choose FRC and another option, like a vacation (or some other presumably fun activity) I would choose FRC.
FRC has so many different aspects to it that you never get bored and you can never feel out of place, because no one else knows how to approach the challenges at the beginning of the season. (The challenges presented in the game for that year, you must all go through the design process.)
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Unread 09-10-2012, 06:12 PM
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Re: Why Robots?

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Originally Posted by M. Lillis View Post
A friend and I were talking about this one day, he has invested so much time into FIRST, it's almost an obsession. He told me that it was the most fun he has ever had doing anything at all. Whether that is true or not is debatable, but I also stand by his point, it is a lot of fun for everyone involved. I have enough time to build the set for my school plays and run sound and lights for concerts held at the school as well, so I a not limited to this program. But if I were to choose FRC and another option, like a vacation (or some other presumably fun activity) I would choose FRC.
FRC has so many different aspects to it that you never get bored and you can never feel out of place, because no one else knows how to approach the challenges at the beginning of the season. (The challenges presented in the game for that year, you must all go through the design process.)
For me it is an Obsession. Unfortunately that Obsession made my grade drop last year. So I will be doing an even amount of school and FIRST this year.

For me FIRST has gotten me to meet a TON of people from around the world. Amazing and nice to talk to people. I have become friends with a lot of them also. And it gives me tha chance to work with my hands, learn outside of school and do something I have a Passion for. Dean Kamen is now the man who inspire's me to do things, like now I want to invent things (mainly as a side projects). I already have ideas for what to invent so hopefully that will work out
I get to work with world class engineers, talk with people from Nasa and Bowing, Say "I've Met Him!" when I see Dave Lavery in the control lab for Nasa. These are the coolest things ever. FIRST is helping my goals in life happen, and I'm hoping that will bring me to good places in the future.
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Unread 09-10-2012, 11:32 PM
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Re: Why Robots?

From what I have seen most students that are involved with FIRST can still find time for other extracurricular activities. But a few cannot, and if you really had to pick, FIRST robotics is hard to beat. This seems to be by design. Robotics itself offers a lot of things that are rare in many schools today. Real hands on experience putting theory to work and designing, building, debugging and repairing some really cool machines. Getting to work with real industrial components, software, and tools. Robotics all by itself is a really great vehicle for a mixture of fun and learning at a very high level.

But FIRST seems to have found a great formula to take things a lot further. Just being on a FIRST team offers additional opportunities in marketing, fund raising, performance arts, outreach and community service. And then there is that other layer of cooperatition, networking, and the all important team spirit. Until I went to my first regional last year I had no idea how completely immersible the experience can be.

So yes, if you had to pick just one activity it would be hard to beat a robotics competition for the diversity and synergy it can offer. And if it is FIRST robotics, I just don't see anything out there that is even close.
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Unread 09-11-2012, 01:04 AM
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Re: Why Robots?

Two points:

As a student, I really got into robotics for the challenge and experience I couldn't get anywhere else. My high school didn't really have a computer science or engineering curriculum, but through FIRST I was able to explore the field of engineering and have fun at the same time. I was also involved in student council, scholastic bowl, school newspaper, and another academic team, but FRC became my passion. Come build season, I pretty much dropped everything (except schoolwork, that always must come first) and went all-out robotics. There's something about the community of a FRC team that is unlike anything else.

As a mentor (and college student), I'm dedicated to robotics and FIRST because I want to give students the opportunity to have the great experiences I had. Plus, it really is about more than just robots. Robots are a tool to build problem solving, teamwork, communication, and many other valuable skills. It's really cool to see current students making discoveries; they grow by leaps and bound every build season. I am still involved in other organizations, too, but if I had to choose just one, FIRST would be it.

So really, there is room for activities other than robotics, but robotics covers so many things that it's really a group of activities by itself. FIRST and robotics in general is a great program to bring everything together in an exiting and engaging way.
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Unread 09-11-2012, 08:14 AM
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Re: Why Robots?

Why robots?

Because once the hook is set, there really aren't any other options.
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Unread 09-11-2012, 08:42 AM
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Re: Why Robots?

Why robots?

Becauserobots.org

sorry I had to post the link to my site because the thread name was just too good

To answer your question though, I think the biggest limiting factor for me as a student and a mentor is the lack of time needed to do more than just one thig. If I were to go out and participate in several competitions, which I have done with FIRST and Botball, it is just hectic to try and dedicate yourself fully to either competition.
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Unread 09-11-2012, 09:55 AM
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Re: Why Robots?

Why Robotics?

This is my 8th year of Mentoring a robotics team. I do it because I enjoy seeing students that I work with succeed. Students from FRC Team 704 have gone on to study at major universities acrross the country. Many of them have recieved scholarships because of their involvement with the robotics program. Some of our former students have landed great internships form companies Like Space X, NASA and Lockheed Martin in part because of contacts they made through robotics.

I believe that FIRST is one of a very few programs out there that is based on giving High School students with an interest in STEMs a head start on success,
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Unread 09-11-2012, 10:19 AM
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Re: Why Robots?

I don't think it is so much robotics as it is the combination of robotics and FIRST.

FIRST has the right balance of bright minds/helpful attitudes, competition/cooperation, challenge/success, plus a lot of great people and core values that make it appealing and addicting.

Robots without FIRST? It would still be appealing, but not sure I would have the reason to dedicate as much time as I do to FIRST Robotics. Seeing the changes that are made in the lives of students, mentors, and volunteers by this program gives me a great answer when asked why I do this.

FIRST without robots? Hmm, hard to imagine, but the robots are just the vehicle lubricant to keep the mission of FIRST humming. Would be different if we were doing Mock Trial? Math Olympics? Civil engineering projects? I guess as long as it was some kind of hands on project that engaged and enhanced our knowledge it would work, but robots are just so much fun to create and it is real easy to engage the public with the results of our effort.

So I doubt I would be this engage without the synergy created by the combination of FIRST and robotics.
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Unread 09-11-2012, 10:46 AM
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Re: Why Robots?

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Originally Posted by rsisk View Post
I don't think it is so much robotics as it is the combination of robotics and FIRST.
Agreed, wholeheartedly and with much applause.
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Unread 09-11-2012, 12:05 PM
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Re: Why Robots?

Yes, agreed.

FIRST and Robotics have so many dimensions, it is easy to find something you like and keep doing that. A lot like Amateur Radio.

But unless you spend time - a lot of time - with someone, don't assume that all they do is FIRST and/or robotics. I have so many things that I do in my spare time, I don't have spare time. And many of these overlap.
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Unread 09-11-2012, 05:11 PM
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Re: Why Robots?

It's not about the Robot.

It is about people coming together to play a game to learn about life.

I could go on, but those of us who have chosen to commit a substantial portion of our lives to this "divertissement" believe it is valuable.
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Unread 09-12-2012, 11:24 PM
Ian Curtis Ian Curtis is offline
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Re: Why Robots?

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Originally Posted by DonRotolo View Post
Yes, agreed.

FIRST and Robotics have so many dimensions, it is easy to find something you like and keep doing that. A lot like Amateur Radio.

But unless you spend time - a lot of time - with someone, don't assume that all they do is FIRST and/or robotics. I have so many things that I do in my spare time, I don't have spare time. And many of these overlap.
My control panel tells me I've averaged almost a post a day on this website for the last 7 years and I know I do plenty of things outside of FIRST. I'm not assuming people spend all of their time building robots -- it's just when I see posts like "There is a life outside of robotics?!?" without any hint of sarcasm I get curious.

In general my experience has been quite the opposite -- people that do FRC tend to be involved in all sorts of other interesting things.
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Unread 09-13-2012, 06:53 PM
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Re: Why Robots?

From a teacher's standpoint, FIRST has been a wonderful program for me due to a couple of pretty important reasons. As a part of my funding I am required to offer a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). To fulfill this I have a few options: SkillsUSA, Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society (MITES), or through some work on my end, FIRST Robotics. The basic requirement is that it is a student led group that involves regular meetings and competition with other high school programs.

I still send kids work off to MITES for judging when I have good drawings to enter, and I send off posters every year to the North American Auto Show each spring. But I have never gotten the same satisfaction from those contests as I have from FIRST. To mail a drawing in and get a ribbon back a few months later is nice, but to build a machine based on a challenging task and compete with it in front of thousands of people has been so much more rewarding as a teacher. I get to see the instant reaction of my students as they realize that what they are doing is directly related to real life problems even if it is presented in the form of a game. Then I get to see their reactions when they realize that there are professionals from local industry that are willing to help them with a project like this if only they ask. And finally I get to see students who came into my room as freshman that were too nervous to talk to anyone but me and a handful of other students, give a presentation to all 106 members of my school staff to explain what they accomplished that year. Those are things that you just can't learn from mailing a drawing that you worked on for a few hours in to a competition.

I have a lot of respect for MITES and what they do, but I think that FIRST has simply gone above and beyond with the program they've assembled and the message they relay.

With that being said, we also build an electric race car as a part of the National Electric Cart Association (NECA) in the fall to race in the spring. That program is new to us, but seems like it can be a great off season project to do some team building and have some fun at the end of the school year by letting kids get out on the track and race other high schools from Michigan and around the country.

Between those two things and my 16 month old daughter, I don't have much else for spare time unfortunately...
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