FIRST and Success: A Question of Definition

Okay, so, rather than watch another thread go down the toilet, I decided to start this topic and see where it goes. The Championship threads still hold some relevance to FIRST and I’d like to see them remain open. I hope the same for this, as well.

I’ve seen a lot of people involved in FIRST talk some about the right and wrong reasons for being in the program.

Personally, I don’t think I’m capable of fully understanding everyone’s reason for being in FIRST, nor do I think it’s my place to judge the value of those reasons I do understand. As such, I tend to err toward the liberal end of the spectrum when it comes to issues of questionable participation, commitment or success.

So, I’m wondering how other people feel about this issue. How do you or your team define success? Is it sending kids to college? Is it changing their career choices? Is it making them smile? In my mind, there are too many possibilities to count. I’m really curious as to how other people gauge success.

What is the message?

Has FIRST outgrown Dean’s vision? If Dean were to announce tomorrow that kids who join just for the hope of going to Walt Disney World are in this for the wrong reason, would his word become law? Or, would you question it?

I guess, really, I’m trying to get a sense of exactly how far FIRST’s potential has extended. If you’ve read anything I’ve written recently, you’d know that I think the potential to save and change and enrich lives through FIRST exists in venues far more varied that robotics, science, or technology.

I’m sorry there aren’t more concrete explanations of exactly what I’m trying to grasp, here. If you think you understand, run with it. If not, well, I guess that’s okay, too.

I see Disney as a reward for the workers, and in our team, if you don’t work and get your name out, you won’t be going.

Perhaps a good definition of what first is as it stands today or at any given time might be had in the reactions of an outside observer who has taken a look at the organization and it’s apparent effects for the first time. I.E. initial impressions.

For example, when I told my father about my latest writing project and the connection it had to FIRST, he was curious and took a look at the organization for himself with the inter-net tools he had at hand.
His reply was this:

“Those kids are different! They seem more mature, respectful, and intelligent than most adults. They can actually think instead of just spitting out facts. They are obviously getting a real education.”

He feels as I do that the young adults and children of first are a true hope for the survival and improvement of society.

The message? FIRST is a real education for real kids.

Is that what you’re looking for M?

Success is the indescribable feeling you get when you see something you worked so hard on in front of thousands of people.

Success is realizing that anything is possible, persistence is the key.

Success is the gleam in a child’s eyes when they catch their first glimpse of your creation and their life is forever changed.

Success is making a difference.

Oh, I like that very much (Mr./Ms.?) Slamminsammy.

Success is also in being able to impress and give hope to a cynical old man that has seen much pain in his life.

Thank you FIRST.

*Originally posted by Miss Tree *
**Is that what you’re looking for M? **

To an extent, yes. It’s always interesting to learn what people outside the program think of things.

I’m really wondering, though, to what extent people involved in the program understand the scope of what they’re capable of. I don’t know if they do, or if they can know this.

Is it just about robots? Competition? Can we do something more?

By precluding kids who don’t show obvious, typified interest in these machines from participating, would we be maintaining the sanctity of the vision, or would be stunting its growth?

In that vein, is there a place on these teams for gearheads? . . .the kids who are already inspired by science and technology. Are they in the way? Do they facilitate spreading the message?

Why aren’t the kids who sit alongside the sidelines and observe as valued? Why are they looked upon as leeches, in it for a trip? What definition do we use to determine their worth to the team, or the program? Do we deem the program a failure in their case? Maybe those students inspire the gearheads to look beyond science and engineering - to art, or history, or economics. Is that counterproductive? Has FIRST failed if a student learns so much about themselves that they realize engineering isn’t their path? …like I have.

More to chew on, I guess. Sorry for the stream of consciousness.

*Originally posted by M. Krass *
**Why are they looked upon as leeches, in it for a trip? **

I don’t think everyone looks at these kids as leeches, just in it for a trip. Just last meeting, I told a few kids that nationals may not be at Disney this year. One of them flat out told me that was the only reason he was here. I frankly told him to leave if he was serious.

I’ve been told I’m not the only one it’s happened to.

If imagineering is considered engeneering, the I will be doing that job.

But as for the question, I think we need to look at what people think of the lowest common denominator. I rarely work in the pits. I hate the pits. I would rather do things that I wouldn’t rather do than work there. But I show off Team 384, watch matches, and spread the word. I also like to edit video for various things. :slight_smile:

My question to add to Micheal’s is this:

Should FIRST change their focus, from promoting just science and technology, and add promoting higher learning through a robot?

*Originally posted by AdamT *
**

I don’t think everyone looks at these kids as leeches, just in it for a trip. Just last meeting, I told a few kids that nationals may not be at Disney this year. One of them flat out told me that was the only reason he was here. I frankly told him to leave if he was serious.

I’ve been told I’m not the only one it’s happened to. **

If he is in it JUST for the trip, just to sit around and be a paper weight, then get the hell out of their. But if he’s interested in going to Disney and building a robot to get there, then keep him. He’s got potential.

Should FIRST change their focus, from promoting just science and technology, and add promoting higher learning through a robot?

Success is actually learning something through the competition. It doesn’t even matter if its related science.

*Originally posted by wysiswyg *
**
It doesn’t even matter if its related science. **

I definately agree. I think that everyone gets so many different things out of First. I personally learned a technical thing or two but most of what I learned were business skills that will stick with me for the rest of my life. For other people it was learning about how to design, animate, or fabricate the robot.

I think with so many facets of FIRST, success comes from learning the true meaning of teamwork through working towards a common goal.

A team’s goals change from team to team. Some want to win championships, some want to win the chairman’s award, some want to mentor other teams, some simply want to produce a working robot and learn. And from what I noticed, teams usually very happy if the process of obtaining the goal the team had a lot of fun and worked together well but there is usually less fond memories if there was a lot of inner strife. We wanted to qualify for a nationals this year but it didn’t happen but we felt incredibly accomplished working together to produce an amazing robot.

*Originally posted by M. Krass *
**.
What is the message? **

The message delivered by FIRST can be defined many ways, from many points of views, and believe me mine is only one way of seeing it. From what I have seen so far, FIRST is trying to expose students to new concepts and experiences that they wouldn’t have an opportunity to tap into. Depending what you work on - Building the Robot, Animation, Chairman’s Award, Public Relations, Website - The message may differ, but from all these topics and more, I can pull a few things they share in common.

Learn the subjects that interest you, but at the same time know how it relates to real life situations, and how it is applied. At the same time, have fun, remember this is a game, an extremely complicated game that teaches a lot, but still a game. Have fun with it :slight_smile:

Hope that made sense… It did in my head :rolleyes:

*Originally posted by JosephM *
**

If he is in it JUST for the trip, just to sit around and be a paper weight, then get the hell out of their. But if he’s interested in going to Disney and building a robot to get there, then keep him. He’s got potential. **

While one student may not be of much value to the team, do we ever stop to think about how much value the team may be to that student?

*Originally posted by M. Krass *
**

While one student may not be of much value to the team, do we ever stop to think about how much value the team may be to that student? **

Mabey, but think. If the student ONLY gets a trip out of the team, then what does the student get? A trip to WDW on the house and an excused absance from school.

But if WDW lured him into robotics, and he has potential and will do things, then keep him. If he dosn’t do anything, then the team’s in a pickle.

I hear all of this about people only caring about walt disney world and stuff and maybe if a team’s having a problem about people only getting to go to nationals, then maybe they could present themself in a better way.

This is just from my perspective but we don’t glorify nationals that much. This year my team qualifies since we’re an odd team but we are only going if the team earns its way there. Sure, the ambience of being surrounded by hundreds of teams is awesome but our team would rather spend the extra money getting to know more teams intimately at a regional or helping another team. For all the info meetings where we recruit new members, walt disney world was not mentioned once and I think the only regional we even talked about was just the one we went to in LA. We draw enough people in on the basis of a love for engineering or animation or the business aspect (not as much, but they got me).

Also on our team you have to earn your way to travel and be funded by the team. Basically the team pays for the hard working, committed, and crucial members of the team to go. Its a really really tough desicion (that grrr…our advisor made me make, I still resent him) but it makes sense to me. If people want to travel too they can pay their own way otherwise they can get the regional experience by driving 1/2 hour to the LA regional. But there’s no way anyone on our team is getting a free trip for not working.

I only see one problem of apathy on our team and it comes from those students who want to add something else to their college application. Is this a problem with any other teams? Sometimes we luck out and they’re drawn based on the fact that it looks good on the application but they end up doing some amazing work, but there’s just some people who just don’t do anything, so annoying!

Our “Team Vision” goes something like this:

“To be a place where our students can explore their giftings and talents in a professional environment.”

In our minds, if a kid finds out they are gifted in an area and pursues it into a career, we have been successful. We don’t care if they suspected they were gifted in that area or not. We have had kids discover unexpected talents in Graphic Arts and Pnuematics and had others further develop known gifts for computer programming.

Finding the place in the world God created you for and choosing to be there, is our definition of success in life. Our team is dedicated to helping our students acheive that end. The professional environment means acting in a professional manner. Respecting others in spite of disagreement and maintaining a unity of purpose. Also working with professionals and doing professional grade work wherever possible.

The beauty of FIRST is that it has so many avenues to explore and they all open off of the same square.

This thread is teeming with replies dealing with material possessions and this troubles me greatly.

*Originally posted by SlamminSammy *
**This thread is teeming with replies dealing with material possessions and this troubles me greatly. **

How so?

I’ve seen much about “free” trips but little about material things. Unless you think the giftings I mentioned were tangilble things, which they are not. I was thinking more of things like the ability to see how a structure must be built to do it’s job. Or how to lay out random pictures to create something that conveys a message. These are things that come from the core of one’s being and while the products can be bought and sold the gift itself cannot.

These gifts are mental and to some extent spiritual, not material.

Learning new skills is not inherently material either. Though the skills might be marketable enough to sell your proficiency and use the proceeds for material things. But I don’t see references to that either.

So please explain your comment, with specific examples of what you mean, for the slow (like myself) among us.

*Originally posted by SlamminSammy *
**This thread is teeming with replies dealing with material possessions and this troubles me greatly. **

While not everything deals with possessions, exactly, I understand what you mean. Many of the responses seem deeply rooted in concrete manifestations of some of the questions I posed. . . I’m very interested in learning more, though.

Perhaps it’s something you’ve never had experience with personally, but that doesn’t mean your input isn’t valued. . . I’d like for this to take a more philosophical turn. . . maybe a bit introspective?

I’m really interested in learning more about this because I am finally realizing how important parts of FIRST have been in my life, and furthermore, I’m noticing that very little of it has to do with the robots themselves. Sure, I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to see some of my designs become a reality - and I’m eternally grateful to have learned that engineering really doesn’t seem to be for me - but, those are just two minor realizations in the grand plan. I very unabashedly admit how important Walt Disney World has been for me as far as some of my involvement in FIRST is concerned.

But, now, I’m becoming quite interested in how FIRST can influence people in unexpected ways. We’ve all heard about getting girls excited in science and technology, or giving opportunities to students from low-income areas, or placing students in jobs - but what are the untold stories? Who are we leaving out?

When we make broad generalizations about what FIRST does and who it’s for, are we alienating these people and their experiences? I’ve realized by now that some people aren’t as vocal as I am (even though I’m quite timid in person). Are we driving these people away from the program?

I’ve begun to worry about some of the homogeny that permeates FIRST. Just as economies of scale destroy craftsmanship, and Wal*Mart Supercenters decimate entrepeneurship, I worry that the regimentation of FIRST programs into curriculum-based classes, or varsity sports, or victory driven activities narrows its focus far too much. I worry that the space for the idle dreamer is being down-sized in favor of the yes-men. I worry that there’s someone else out there just like me, but that we may gloss over them and their input, ideas, and contributions because we they don’t jive with the master plan.

So, because of this, I’ve grown curious about how we define success. I’m less interested in where we draw the line than I am in why we draw it there; or anywhere, for that matter.

So much about FIRST focuses on the team, and teamwork, and cooperation and mentorship, but have we lost sight of the idea that this is all to benefit the individual? …so that that they may go out into the world and have the ability to work well with others, but the individuality and self-confidence and purpose to think for themselves, to challenge convention, and to do a better job of inspiring the next generation?

…just some more thoughts…

Personally I dont care if I go to Nationals or not… Im in the program to get inspired in a technical job, which is what FIRST is about. I didnt go my 1st year, wasnt suposed to go last year but went because I kept coming and putting in many hours and our teacher saw my will to be on the team. I now am one of the leaders on our team. I thinking about going into Engineering Teaching cause of the experiences I’ve had with my team.