Has Being In FIRST Made You More Brave - More Confident?

A few small events happened this past week that have gotten me started thinking about this topic. As I have been thinking about this, I have also been thinking about some of the discussions regarding changing the culture and Gracious Professionalism. These thoughts have led to other thoughts, wondering how deep does it go? Does it impact your life in such a way that your life is changed? Is it a time of build and competition that comes and goes in your life and you are no different that when you started? Is the philosophy that you have been exposed to something that you carry over into other aspects of your life and education? These are things I’ve been thinking about.

One small event was a little yellow sticky note that was stuck on my windshield at my eye level when I got behind the wheel. The author was not happy with my car or my parking and left a message that I can not repeat here. My first reaction was, this person has not heard about Gracious Professionalism. My reaction to that was one of - did I really just think that as an immediate response? The second small event is that my husband told me that I am brave. I’ve given that some thought as well, and I think that working with a team and helping to convey some of the philosophy of FIRST, has helped me become more brave and more confident.

I’m a very strong introvert and have to work hard in order to be with people all day long. I don’t draw my energy from others, I re-charge by solitary pursuits. FIRST has helped me realize I CAN be at competitions for several days on end interacting with others (many of them :eek: teenagers!). I CAN lead teambuilding workshops, give conference presentations and faciliate NEMO meetings. FIRST has enabled me to develop professional skills that I don’t have the opportunity to do in my professional career.

This has to be the part about FIRST that I treasure most. My experiences with FIRST in addition to overall maturity have brought out the confidence and courage inside of me that I never knew existed.

Prior to starting high school, I might have had a case of extreme shyness. I didn’t talk to anyone, actually, I was afraid to. It was hard for me to order movie tickets at the counter, call for a pizza, or even respond when someone noticed me in public. Even though I held a few leadership roles previous(NJHS pres.), I still distanced myself from most direct interaction with people, and preferred to express myself through other channels. When I got to high school, this was unacceptable, people thought it was pathetic. And they were right, it was. But then I found robotics!

Because I was so interested, I wasn’t so quick to let opportunities pass me by because I was too shy to speak up or ask a question. I do admit that it wasn’t immediate, and it did take me about a half of a year to become really active, but it was all of the developmental stages that shaped me to what I am today. Last year, I may have had an idea for a design, but would never dare to speak of it at a meeting. I would wait until after to talk to the team leader or someone else later. This year is quite different. I actually had a presentation for the design meeting, and presented it in front of the whole team!

I don’t know the exact point of transformation, but I know that FIRST definitely had something to do with it. I remember someone always telling me “Go ahead and try, what’s the worse that can happen?” And that is probably what fuels my confidence, instead of overwhelming myself with thoughts of incompetence and hiding. If there is a problem, I now try to develop
solutions, instead of just sitting back and let whatever happens happen. I have always wanted too, I just could never gather the courage to go forth. Even though I didn’t really have a major part in robot construction this year, I made sure that my opinion sand suggestions were heard elsewhere. A few years ago, I would have never considered being the leader of a team, but if all goes as planned, I will be the team leader of 108 next year.

It is amazing to look back and see so many changes in two short years. It’s even more amazing to compare to some of my peers, who matured faster in that sense, and see that we are now almost equal. I would like to sincerely thank FIRST for such an amazing opportunity (this sounds so cliche) to discover the real me. I can really understand that “FIRST is not just about building robots”, but using robots as a collective tool for accomplishing SO many other things. I have been inspired.

-No L

I did a survey this year, at the request of a sponsor, of some of the teams in Maryland.
The word “brave” came up a couple of times in the responses, along with other similar thoughts. The students were addressing how their experiences in FIRST this year exposed them to speaking in public with people their didn’t know, and having to work with people they didn’t know. Others talked about being shy and now they are more self-confident. Anecdotal data, but important.

Jane, I’m so glad you started this post, and am looking forward to the personal stories from the students.

When I started in FIRST after the 2002 season with MOE I was not very shy and was mostly confident. I can say that FIRST did make me more confident, going to give speeches wearing a MOE jersey and bright green hair and being able to do it with confidence knowing that the program that I was talking about is amazing. FIRST gave me the chance to speak to people, a lot if you ask anyone that knows me when I was on the team, and work on my public speaking skills and confidence. Has FIRST made me more Brave and Confident? Yes, like nothing else could ever have.

Jane, do we just like, share 1 brain? :wink:

My personal self confidence is the #1 thing that FIRST has given me. I credit one man, and his name is Walt Hickok. This man took me from a kid who joined robotics because I walked into the right place at the right time and gave me inspiration. He let me do anything I wanted and supported me, encouraging me that everything that I did could be the beginning of something great. With his support, I was able to open up and try new things.

The more support like Walt’s that I got, the more I tried. I got stronger, I took more chances. And it worked. The more I attempted, the more I found myself capable of. By the end of my freshman year of college, I had started and ran a rookie team. But the big thing for me, at that time, wasn’t that. It was how I had done it. I had talked to icons, people who I had never imagined I would have the guts to talk to. They told me that they knew who I was, and they did everything that they could to help me.

Now I sometimes pinch myself, walking up to people like Jim Zondag, Dave, Andy Baker and just forming conversation. I’ve talked to executives at General Motors, just like they are friends.

I have gained so much confidence since I joined FIRST. I have done things that I never thought possible. I am not intimidated, and I feel like that gives me a significant advantage over my peers. I look around myself in my classes and feel like I have the possibility for so much more. Between the opportunities that FIRST has given me, and the confidence to feel like anything I want is within my reach.

Jane, seriously, we are like, one person… :wink:

I had to really sit and think on this one. Somewhere between eighth grade and now, my horizon quadrupled or something like that. I didn’t know exactly how, until now.

You see, I was the shy one that would sit back, silently absorbing what everyone else said, formulating ideas of my own, but never having the guts to say them. Presently, I am still kind of quiet, but nothing like I used to be. The quiet now is different. It’s more like: I am not afraid to speak up, but I only speak my mind when I know it will be effective. Some of my wonderful mentors are always reminding us not to post on CD, or any other forum saying only: I agree. Or something similar. When we speak, we need to actually build on the topic, not keep it at the same level it was already at. This is how I respond to normal, everyday activities. There isn’t really a point in saying something, if it doesn’t have meaning.

In addition to this, I was thinking: Well, I have only been on this team a year. And even at the beginning of this year, when I had my interview to be on the team, I was very comfortable speaking to the mentors in the room. I was a little nervous, because I didn’t really know what to expect, but other than that, I was fine. I feel like there are so many options out there for me right now. It is really cool, actually, to think that a single program can be the basis for an amazingly positive outlook on life in general. That really has increased my self-confidence.

I think something else that has contributed to all of this, is that I was on a VEX team in eighth grade, before coming to the high school. I already kind of experienced some of this, but I wasn’t really able to process all of the information being thrown at me.

I am also more self-confident because I think that FIRST provides an atmosphere that makes you feel like you are important. I know that what I contribute to the team is valuable, equally so as everyone else. I know that it takes not only what I do, but what everybody else does to keep the team going. It provides many leadership opportunities, and it has helped me to become a better speaker. I am not nervous at all to stand in front of a bunch of classmates I have known for years and give a speech; that fear was broken as soon as I was sent out to be the representative for our team during alliance selection. There is nothing more intimidating than knowing that the fate of your team lies in your hands (for that competition, at least:D ).

And (I’m kind of backtracking, sorry), because I spent all of my time prior to robotics, being quiet and listening and absorbing so much information, it is easier to memorize different things and recall data much faster, such as robots, their capabilities, number, name, etc., while scouting. Everything seemed to just kind of fall in its place with FIRST. It is really simple to prioritize my activities; no matter what robotics is first, unless there is something where I am direly needed (such as winter guard prelims:rolleyes: ).

There is no doubt that FIRST has increased my self-confidence, and has given me new outlets of people to be involved in, that all care about it as much as I do. Everyone involved in this program is a great person, and because of that, it is easy to communicate to everyone else, because I know that no matter what I say or do, I have my team and the FIRST community behind me. That’s how FIRST is such an effective program- the people that run it and are in it are exemplary people. I will always promote FIRST and introduce people to it, and be a living example of how effective a program it really is.
I will never regret being a part of this.

Definitely both. Before FIRST, I was shy with anyone I didn’t know. I usually stayed with my same group of friends and was horrified when I was called upon during class. At that, I would never challenge a professional or give them pointers or even second guess what they had to say. Now, after FIRST, I am more confident when speaking to people, and I can talk to people that I don’t know easier due to the competitions and helping other teams out. Even more so than that, the greatest gift I have received through FIRST is to challenge what others’ say as well as not to be scared to say “I don’t think that will work,” even to a professional because they might have made a mistake.

In contrast with the others posts, I do not feel that my experiences in the FIRST community directly made me a braver or more confident person. Rather, I found that I was drawn to FIRST because I was able to exercise these very skills. FIRST for me was more like the first time you let your pet dog off the leash outside on a sunny day-the dog is still a dog, but there’s a whole lot more to explore in their little doggy universe now.
I have seen myself grow as a person during my time as a student in FIRST, but, in a possibly overly simplistic comparison, just as I don’t give the ground credit for making the dog dig holes, I can’t give FIRST credit for making me braver or more confident. Rather, it gave me the opportunity to develop my confidence through a variety of hands-on and presentation methods (build, on-field competition, and talking with judges to name three examples).
So, for me, FIRST has been a huge shaping factor in my life to date, and undeniably was one of the largest sources of opportunities for growth in my life for four years, but I’ve remained myself throughout and prefer it that way.

FIRST is hands-down the best thing that has ever happened to me, and honestly I feel like I owe you all the story. I may not know you, I may have never met you, but you are a part of something so big, so powerful, so wonderful that has changed so many lives, now including my own, that even though the story is not over, I would like to share it.

I don’t think I will ever know the true reason that I joined my school’s FIRST team. I enjoy technical things, building things, and I had a close friend that had decided to join. Neither of us had any idea about what we were getting into. I didn’t take it very seriously in the beginning, I would miss meetings for soccer games and practices, etc, or go and work on my former senior project. The build season started, and not much changed. There was more work to be done, and we met more often, but I still wasn’t sure about the whole thing. I kind of just stayed back. Aside from designing the electrical system, and assembling the chassis, I really didn’t take any initiative whatsoever. I was the secretary, so I had a leadership role, but I didn’t have any ideas to contribute, or anything like that. One day before ship when we broke part of our lift system and decided to go for an arm with 24 hours left, I started to get ideas. A little late, and none of them were used, but I started to get the hang of it.

Our first regional was intense. We had to build the entire arm on thursday. I was needed, and useful. I contributed. I got to know those guys more in that one day than during the entire six week build. It also took me away from all of the crap in life. When I got back, returning to life hit me like a brick wall. I was soon diagnosed with clinical depression. First of all, if it weren’t for FIRST, I don’t think that I would have wanted to get better, but I could tell that it had effected me throughout the build season, and at the competition as well. Our second regional and the champs are what have kept me going, kept me fighting to get over this mountain, and I finally feel like I am making some ground. Not everyone on the team really knows what’s been going on with me lately, but Mr. Steele, our coach does, and I really appreciate his support and understanding. Some of the other members know a little, and parents too. Soon I plan on talking to the rest of them, each and every one of them has helped me through this, even if they don’t know it.

The depression set in when I realized that everything that I was doing in my life was for my parents, and not for myself. One day I just “woke up” and realized that I didn’t agree with them. It sounds like teenage rebellion, but its much more than that. I didn’t, and still have know clue about who I am, other than that I am not that person. Soccer is not my life. Anymore. I had to fight my parents to go to every robotics meeting. The moment that I quit soccer, I went straight to the meeting that I was missing. It was the best feeling in the world. I took each of my parents to a competition, and they are now beginning to understand a little of why I love it so much. What they don’t understand, is that I am doing it for me. For the first time, it is something that I want to do. They fought me on it because my only excuse for wanting to do it was because “I liked it.” They wanted a more beneficial reason, and I didn’t want to have to make my case. I wanted that to be good enough. FIRST has taught me that sometimes doing something because it makes you feel good, even if it doesn’t benefit you is alright. Is GOOD! Gracious Professionalism is the most amazing thing that I have ever experienced. FIRST is the only thing that is going to make it through this time in my life, and will be a part of my life until the day I die. FIRST has given me the courage, confidence, and bravery to stand up to my parents and tell them that FIRST is good for me because I like it, and I don’t need any other reasons than that. Yes, it will help pay for college, and it has renewed the direction in my life, but that’s not why I do it, and that’s not what’s important.

I do it because I love FIRST, math, technology, GP, and everything else, and that is more than enough.

(I apologize for the horrendously lengthy post)


I’ve told quite a few people how being in FIRST has changed me. When I joined the team, I was shy and rather introverted. Thanks to being nudged into the coaching position on our team, I’m no longer able to accurately describe myself as shy. FIRST has helped shape my personality in deep and (hopefully) lasting ways over the past three years. I was once told it brought me out of my shell, and I think that’s the best way to summarize it.

I’ve had a project presentation I had to do about FIRST with my friends and we had soo much to talk about and soo little time to talk and even PREPARE the project before presenting it. I was ready to start the opening speech, I started talking confidently and since we didn’t have alot of time I had to rush from subject to subject and I got a bit nervous about it, but if I would have the time to talk, I’m sure I would feel more confident to talk about it.

When I go to piano concerts where I play, I know I have no reason to be nervous, I LOVE a crowd, but no matter what I do, the thought of dissapointing and doing mistakes still overwhemles me and I do tons of mistakes. Nontheless, I keep playing in concerts trying to control myself.

I had projects to talk about astronmy to my class and I did it quite well without disturbances and it went smoothly, but it was talking to my classmates who I know. When I play my concert peices to my family, I don’t feel any nervousness, but when it’s other people, I’m nervous.

I haven’t done something that requires bravery or confidence lately, so I still don’t know how FIRST affected me yet, it’s still an early stage, but I feel that FIRST gave me something to my personality, I just need to learn to adapt it.

Well… for sure FIRST made sure I was ready to hit the trade shows… theres a lot of similarities… have to remember what everybody offers, figure where they are on the exhibition floor, be prepared to be on your feet all day and put on your best personality… even if people (or the constant drone of a first competition) starts to get you on edge! :ahh:


As an outsider looking in so to speak… I can say the young people I’ve met and worked with that are part of FIRST do seem more sure of them selfs and willing to take on new projects.

Building a robot in just six weeks has got to have a positive effect on a persons confidence. After taking a box of parts and building something that actually does what you designed it to do is just amazing. :smiley:

Long story short, definitely yes.

I have enjoyed reading your posts. I am sure that FIRST has benefited you all in tremendous ways. However, my own experience is a little different.

I have been a member of team 234 for three years now. When I first applied for the team, I wanted to join for three reasons: I had a few friends on the team, I was somewhat interested in engineering, and I wanted to build a cool robot. As I worked. By the end of my first year, I was sure I wanted to be an engineer. I had had so much fun during the build season, and I really wanted to be a part of the team for another three years.

As I moved into my second year, however, I began to develop my own opinions. I wanted to voice them, but I was afraid to. We had a lot of very opinionated seniors on the team at the time, and I was afraid of posing an idea that they wouldn’t appreciate. I just worked harder than I ever had before, and I made it through our team interviews to join the team for another year.

Before I joined robotics, I was a part of both the Boy Scouts and my high school orchestra. During these two years, I became a much better cello player, and I was elected as the Senior Patrol Leader of my troop. I credit these two activities for making me “come out.” As I became more confident in playing the cello, I became more confident in my speaking skills as well. Through Boy Scouts, my leadership skills vastly improved. I now find myself playing the leadership role in almost every school group project.

As I moved into the build season this year, I became more vocal than I had ever been before. Nearly every activity had a little bit of my input. I let the lead mentors know my feelings, and sometimes they agreed with me. Sometimes they didn’t. Robotics gave me an opportunity to use these new skills, but I don’t feel that it developed them.

As I move into interviews this year again, I hope that I will once again make the team. Over this past year, I have found that engineering is just not the skill that I am best at. I don’t know what I want to do in college anymore. However, I do have a few ideas that could improve the team. It’s no longer about building a robot for me, or preparing for college, or even friends. Most of my friends are seniors this year. Instead, it’s about providing guidance and teaching what I have learned.

FIRST may bring out the speaker in some, but it didn’t in me. Instead, it allowed me to use speaking and leadership skills. FIRST can greatly influence a person, but it is not the only program that can. At least for me, I wish to be a part of many activities, that way I can learn and be influenced by each of them. FIRST can develop a person, but it’s not the only organization that can.

Like Miranda, I thought the interviews for our team were a bit nerveracking until I actually got in there. It immediately made my confidence fly. Later these interviews would help me prepare for other interview-type situations at school.

In addition, just being a part of the team had built up my confidence in many ways. During our brainstorming sessions, I think that a freshman only spoke up once. Part of this was because of our lack of experience (even with a year of VEX behind us), but after this season, I feel like I’m ready to go tell all my thoughts on the type of robot we should create next season.

Although, I have always been a pretty good public speaker in class, I definitely think that FIRST has changed the way I do a speech. For example, in a question and answer situation, being able to think quickly and critically has been greatly aided through robotics. Having to work accurately quickly definitely has its benefits.

This and other comments have made me think of the word, temper.

  1. to soften or make less harsh, as a potter tempers clay; justice is tempered when combined with mercy
  2. to moderate or control by reducing, tempering one’s joy
  3. to change in consistency or texture; to make hard, tough - steel and glass are tempered in various ways

It’s a nice word.

sidenote: This was taken from my 8th grade dictionary that I keep by my computer. I wrote Beatle stuff all over it. It is the only book I ever wrote/scribbled on. I can see Paul, Ringo, George, and John from where I sit, big letters.