Does FIRST only make engineers?

This is something that I started to notice last year as I applied for college: FIRST seems to produce a great number of engineers and programmers at the expense of other science and technology fields. We rarely hear about FIRST students in these other areas. I love designing and building robots, but I also love art and design, so I chose to concentrate (my college doesn’t actually have majors) in industrial design. That said, it felt weird standing next to my fellow graduating teammates and saying that I would be studying industrial design while they all listed engineering or programming majors. I think that a lot of this is a product of the FIRST program design, which emphasizes the build process and engineering mentors, but should FIRST do more to promote non-engineering majors and careers that still fall within science and technology related fields? Was this just my experience, or have other people noticed this as well?

I think that because FIRST, or more specifically FRC, is an engineering challenge, it produces engineers. I don’t think it’s a problem. The world needs many more engineers than scientists.

However, I will note that FRC also encourages business and liberal arts careers through the Chairman’s Award, the Excellence in Design award and many of the other “side” awards for FRC.

The goal of FIRST is to produce a culture that embraces and celebrates STEM activities, not shun them as in the past.

Admittedly some people will choose STEM careers as a result of all this activity. Others will choose careers with a new found respect for STEM.

Someone may become a teacher and encourage and support STEM activities unlike what used to happen in schools. Others will become parents or uncles/aunts/other career influncer and will support a kid interested in STEM (unlike the past).

Having said that it is a concern of mine that there is probably a overrepresentation of ME college applicants relative to other fields such as MSE, ChemE, BioE, CE, and the range of science degrees, engineering technology, and other related fields.

As for an art or communications majors: If they leave with a great attitude toward STEM activities, we did our job.

While this program appears to favor engineering, we celebrate getting students to think about and attend educational institutions beyond high school. It really doesn’t matter what discipline they enter, just that they continue their education. I met one of our former students over the weekend who is a teacher now coaching FLL. Another student now mentoring with WildStang, is an architect. We have had students study biomedical, foreign relations, political science, physical therapy, law, business, art, computer animation, game design, etc.

I agree with what the previous three posters said. I was in FIRST for four years as a student, last year I began to volunteer at events, and this year I’ll be volunteering and mentoring my old team. But I’m majoring in History and English hoping to become a high school teacher.

I was never really good at the robot side of things, but at the “other” half of FIRST. But I think that’s the really good thing about FIRST. Even though it is an engineering competition at its core, there are skills there that can be applied to practically any field someone could study. Personally, my experience on the team helped me to become outgoing and better at interacting with people, while it also showed me that teaching others is really what I’m good at and love doing.

So no, FIRST doesn’t only make engineers. At least one :smiley:

It makes sense that the majority of STEM majors coming out of FRC are engineers or computer science, because those disciplines are directly related to robotics. But one alum from our team is now a chemistry major, and she will likely go on to grad school.

Just in the past couple years we have had students graduate the team and head towards a major in biology, chemistry, industrial design and mathematics. We also have students headed for science-oriented positions in the military.

I’m not sure how much of an outlier our team is, but we certainly seem to have a diverse group of STEM majors leaving our team.


There are all sorts of opportunities on a team for someone interested in STEM fields other than engineering to go more in depth. Have you ever stopped to ask how the robot battery works, and how it’s different from the battery in your cell phone? That’s chemistry. What about material selection - depending on what type of aluminum you’re using, it may bend to the shape you want, or trying to bend it might make it snap. That’s material science. In building your robot, have you ever had to build a strong, stable structure to mount things to (like a tower for an arm)? Have you ever looked around your build space and said “We need a table to build our robot on”, and actually built such a table? That could be a nice entrance into architecture.

What FIRST teaches is a way of looking at the world, of investigating what you could do and how things work. Sure, we all run out every year to solve an engineering problem, but someone with interest will find other STEM fields lurking just below the surface, waiting to be investigated and put to good use.

I am an 8 year veteran of FRC. I have seen accountants, math majors, and marketing people come out of the FIRST. I myself hold a degree in Urban Planning and am getting into the GIS field. All of these people solve problems everyday just like engineers, it is just a different skill set. The FIRST program teaches it all. That’s the beauty of it.

I attend WPI and during my freshmen orientation they asked for the students involved with FIRST to raise their hands. With WPI attracting many FIRST grads more then half of the room raised their hands. But this same question was asked to the robotics engineering majors at WPI and less then half of the room raised their hands. I talking with my classmates i believe that the FIRST grads are spread across all the majors offered at WPI. FIRST teaches much more more the Engineering. I am a robotics engineering major but the skills that i value most form first are not technical i value project management and leadership skills over the engineering.

And occasionally there are anomolies like Billfred. For that, we sincerely apologize :wink:

I suspect that Billfred is a biological sport, like Calvin O’Keefe – he has a special gene driving him to change the culture.:slight_smile:

tl;dr: nope.

I’m a 16 year veteran of FIRST and I’m posting this on my lunch break from an elementary school art classroom.

FIRST does produce students that go into STEM (obviously) but I’ve always known there’s a strong population of people that benefit from the program and go into different fields, like myself.

The program inspired me to want to work with people and students in a way where creative problem solving and working hands on would be constantly happening.

Just as much as we need scientists and engineers to solve problems we have going on in this world we need new, dedicated and enthusiastic educators that will rejuvenate our youth and get them learning hands on. Students get so much screen time and testing preparation that they’re hungry for a hands on learning experience where they use tools and get to explore creative problem solving. For me, FIRST was a way of doing that and now as an art teacher I am able to provide that type of quality learning and exploration experience on a daily basis to my students.

I think sometimes the non STEM path of students involved in FIRST is overlooked, but understandably to an extent because of the intent of the program is to get students interested in science and technology. But to all of you non STEM career pursuant out there, I’d be interested to hear what you’re doing/what made you decide to take the path you did.

The biggest award in FIRST is decidedly non-engineering.

Our team turns out everything from pharmacists to Air Force Officer Academy personnel to someone I’m fairly certain will end up being in journalism or literature.

I don’t think there is a problem.

From a mentoring perspective, I’m not much interested in robotics, but am interested in programs that promote teamwork and problem-solving and leadership skills as well as show opportunities available. So I am back helping for Year 10. It appears there is even a place for the non-engineering people like me. :wink:

Be proud of what you are accomplishing, regardless of what the major is. Study hard, make connections like crazy, and try something you don’t think you are interested in. College can be a great experience, regardless of the major.

I must say the majority of students go on to study engineering after being involved in FIRST. We have had a very eclectic mix of majors over the years. They include engineering, chemistry, biology, mathematics, computer science, finance, business, and graphic design.

I myself am a business major with a concentration in decision and system sciences, which is statistics and information systems on the business end.

Just my $0.02.


Try being in the same boat, but instead of industrial design you’re going into film :rolleyes:

Do I want to be an engineer? Nope. I hated math in high school. But my time in FIRST has added a whole new view to the way I look at film. I love pirate swashbucklers from the 40’s. Those real-sized ships? Someone made those on a soundstage. There was no filming on location. Someone built a pirate ship. Anyone see the new Batman trailer? Bam, Earthquake Machine.

I don’t want to be an engineer. I don’t want to build pirate ships or earthquake machines. But because of FIRST I realize that it’s someone’s job to design these things, and that it’s pretty darn cool.

FIRST produced an architect right here (although some of that had been decided before I joined FIRST) Regardless, FIRST taught me invaluable lessons about teamwork, time management and the design process in general. I accredit my time in FIRST to my excelling past my peers almost every semester (and the reason I’ve never even come close to pulling an “all nighter”) No matter what major you choose these principles you learn in FIRST will give you a step ahead of everyone else.

This thread makes me smile! :slight_smile:

I’m a NEM, never was interested in the robot as a mentor on the team, still not interested in the robot even as a FIRST contractor employee.

My background was library science, a career I held for 25 years. But then the Internet became widely accessible and my library focus switched to providing online information. I’ve been working on websites for over 15 years. It’s a technical field, so it’s a STEM area, and I have great appreciation for it.

As Ed stated,

And for all of you who are post-high school and interested in non-technical topics, join NEMO!