(sorry for the length of this, as I broke my own rule of being a concise poster)
Jane and I were trading PM’s, and she encouraged me to start this sort of thread. So… if this discussion goes well, we can blame her.
FIRST is definitely unique. Sure, we build robots and compete. We get together as teams, bonding as we go through a FIRST season (recruit, plan, design, build, freak out, compete, celebrate, repeat). We mingle and relate to other teams along the way, sharing ideas, winning and losing matches, and then dancing the YMCA at an event next to a fellow FIRSTer on another team. Of course, there is the Inspiration that happens.
On these discussion boards, we’ve talked about robot designs, competitions, sometimes politics and religion, and even how to make a 4 pound turtle cake.
What we have not discussed much is the fact that the FIRST community is simply an incredible networking tool, with access to many influential and important people in our society.
What other programs can people on any participating team have access to the people who are putting robots on Mars or developing the newest technology of space travel? How cool is it to be able to talk with world famous CEO’s, leading edge inventors, highly respected leaders in education, business owners, and at the same time get to know peers (adults and students) on other FIRST teams 1/2 way across the world? What other program puts these role models on a first name basis with teenagers?
FIRST is cool. It’s a community of people who care about what is happening today in order to influence the way we all will live in the future. What is the price that these folks pay to help achieve the goals of FIRST? They make themselves ACCESSIBLE. Access is key. It is commendable to these visionaries and leaders give themselves up to be accessible to those of us in FIRST… students and adults.
Now, I would like to get to the discussion about this.
This access can be a difficult thing to manage. Since these folks are accessible, sometimes they are subjected to people who do or say things that are not well thought-out. I’ll give an example:
Dean Kamen was hanging out at his “Founders Party” during the night before the FIRST kickoff a few years ago. I was waiting my turn to say hello (my typical “thanks for opening up your house to us, Dean”), and another mentor began talking to Dean. Dean, being the nice guy he is, listened as this guy went on to tell Dean that he thought the Segway was crappy and should be re-designed. Dean said something nice and thanked him and then gracefully went on to the next person who wanted to say hello.
So… this guy used his one chance of access to Dean to insult him. To me, that was stupid. Now, if Dean remembers the guy, he will try to avoid him. Maybe the guy had a good idea. This was a party at Dean’s house. Couldn’t it wait? The guy should’ve said… “hey, I have some ideas about how to improve the Segway… can I send you some communications in the future about what I think?” He could’ve asked, instead of jumping in and being critical.
You’re in FIRST. Most likely, you can seek out these role models you want to talk do. What will you do? Would you abuse this access and say something foolish, or will you put yourself in a position where these people will look forward to talking to you. How you act in your initial situations of this sort of access will depict the future of how much access you will get in the future to these folks. Whether you are talking to Woodie Flowers, John Abele, or an engineer on another team who may want to hire you in a few years, the impression you make can be a memorable one. It could be good or bad. If it’s good, then your access to these folks will grow. If you are foolish, you will see less opportunities to redeem yourself.
Discuss at will,