FIRST Experience Story

Often I wonder how many people attend engineering colleges that were in some way involved with FIRST. And of those, how many stay involved with FIRST? When mentioning FIRST, the usual answer I get is, “Oh yeah, I did FIRST in high school.” As if after getting your diploma, it somehow becomes a childish or unimportant thing to do. Granted, their are often bigger projects to work on at an engineering school (not to mention tons of coursework to keep up with), but FIRST is in no way something that can only be relevant to high school students. I thought I’d share one of my own recent experiences as an example:

I was offered a research position working on a hydrostatic bearing system. The professor and graduate student in charge of the project were looking for someone who “had their [stuff] together.” Having done FIRST for two years in high shool and two years as a college student mentor, my experience showed. One of my first tasks was/is putting together a control box for a system consisting of six pumps with an encoder and a pressure transducer for each. The original idea was to order industrial rate meters for the encoders, at $120 each. My first thought was, “Why not do this with one $5 PIC chip and some LCDs?” Even though I’ve never done it, I know plenty of FIRST teams have used encoders before and at the rates we are using, one should be able to handle all six inputs. I suggested the PIC solution to the professor and now it looks like it’s going to happen…and I’ll be putting it together.

I have always been amazed at how much you can learn in FIRST. And it is done in a very integrated way - they way it happens in real life. In a college environment, where you get more pronounced separation of mechanical and electrical engineering / computer science majors, knowing how to fit the two together is a very valuable skill.

So if you happen to go on to an engineering school, consider staying involved with FIRST. It’s a huge time commitment and sometimes hard to balance with classwork, but you can get a lot of out it…and not only in the altruistic “it’s a good thing to do” sense. It gives you an advantage in many disciplines to have the experience with design/CAD/control - often your classwork will just be learning the rigorous theory behind what you already know. And often your experience will be noticed and opportunites will present themselves for internships and reasearch positions.

Best of luck to everyone - I know a lot of seniors have important decisions to make in the next couple of months. :slight_smile:


That’s a great learning experience you’ve been given, congrats! I haven’t exactly been able to apply my knowedge gained from robotics in such a direct way as you have, but I can credit FIRST with my first co-op employment in a similar mannar:

I’m in my first year of Computer Science at U of Waterloo and I had absolutely no trouble getting a co-op job for my first work term (I got 11 interviews over two weeks… the only reason I didn’t do more is that’s how long the interview period lasted before we ranked our potential employers) during the early job-matching period of this term. I credit this fortunate situation I was put in entirely to my time spent on robotics in high school and today as a mentor.

After creating my resume I looked at the section I had created specially for my experiences with FIRST I realized it was by far the strongest part of my resume, and that I had gained some extremely important life skills over the past couple years. Aside from being asked, “so why do you want to work for <insert company here>?” the most common question I had in interviews was “So… you were on a robotics team? Could you tell me a little about it?” I was also able to easily answer (with many examples) those somewhat typical (and vague) questions asked in interviews along the lines of “have you ever been in a team situation where…”. I can’t say I would have even received an interview in the early match process if I had never joined the robotics team in high school.

Every student, be it elementary school, high school, or university, (and even those older folks too I suppose…) still involved with FIRST would do well to stick with it as long as possible (well as long as you’re enjoying it still), because there will always be more to learn, and you will benefit from it!

Anyways… that’s about it! Now if I could only stop thinking about the Waterloo regional and focus on this homework…

I’m a high school senior on team 698 in Arizona. As I read what you posted, so many things ran though my mind – what I want my future to be, what FIRST has brought me in my past and present, and what FIRST will provide for my future.

FIRST is something I fell in love with years ago. The opportunities it has brought me have been amazing. After our regional this past weekend, I broke down - not in tears - but it hit me. I will never again attend a FIRST regional as a student, I will never again build a robot with my own hands as a student, I will never be able to run wild and go crazy as a driver of my robot.

Every year, my team becomes my family. We hang out together, we party together, we work together, and we accept wins and losses together. They support me and I support them. Having to graduate in two and half months actually scares me now. At first it I was so excited to finally get out of school and be free, but now it’s slowly cutting a hole into me. I’ve even asked the teacher that runs my FIRST team if he would hold me back a year so I could experience FIRST one last time. All I want is that one last chance to go to nationals, to be with my team, and to build one more robot. When they hand me that diploma, they are signing me away from FIRST. It will never be childish to me. FIRST is something that I have felt so passionately about that I was beyond honored to be elected the president of my team this year. I have never made it to nationals, but that doesn’t matter anymore; what matters is that I have found where I belong in life, and engineering is my future. FIRST is my future.

I was offered an internship at Microchip this past summer, and I was hired on because of my experience in FIRST. What a resume builder. And, I’m going back (most likely) this summer, before college. I can’t really tell you what I was hired on for, but I can tell you this: ROBOTS ROBOTS ROBOTS! It’s been amazing.

Now I’m going to college for electrical and mechanical engineering. Talk about FIRST Robotics! I’m aiming for a college education at Embry-Riddle in Prescott, and in fact, I was given a hefty scholarship to the school specifically for my involvement in FIRST.

But no matter where I go to college, I’ve promised myself that I will stay involved in FIRST. Whether that means I mentor a team that is near the school I choose to attend or if I stay with my team now, only time can tell. If for some reason I can’t be a mentor, I will do all that I can to become a FIRST volunteer in order to plan, run, and keep regionals and nationals going strong. But for sure, there is no way I can leave FIRST behind. My dream is to one day own a robotics company with those that I have come to love and respect as peers and friends through robotics. It’s got me hooked.

What can I say? Once a FIRSTeer, always a FIRSTeer.

And as Shane said, good luck to all the fellow seniors this year, and to all those in FIRST. What you are involved in now is something amazing and to be cherished. Our time as students in FIRST is short, but the memories, the knowledge, and the experiences will last forever.

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