Question for college students.

I am writing a research paper for a class on the effects of technology education in high school on college students. Could you please tell me about how FIRST or technology classes such as the PLTW program have helped you in college?


i am currently a member of 125 Nutrons (3rd yr in college), and was a member of MORT Team 11 in HS (soph-sr yr). In HS our mentor had whole progression of classes set up, a full cirriculum if you will. It started out freshman year with a “intro to technology”, we built co2 cars, balsa wood bridges, the current FLL comp. Each thing we did was preceeded by a lesson in what every it was we were doing. For the bridges, we used a truss program to determine the best design, we then built our bridges based on what we had designed. This was meant to get kids hooked into first by providing compeittion, each project was a mini comp, and the winner got some small prize, maybe lunch one day.

Sophmore year we were in “Advanced Technology”, which we started to play with electronics a little more. We used basic stamps to create some basic circuits, using light sensors, LEDs, and other things. We also did a project called marble maddness, we would get materials list with costs, and would challenged to get a marble to move specific x,y, and z distance for the least cost. We also used the basic stamps to control small walking robots using light sensors.

Jr year we took the previous years first competition, cut it down to a 1/3rd scale and build mini robots to compete in that competition. This was interesting because we got some more time to revisit the previous game and things we would change about our robot, or build a design we liked from another team.

Senior year we had a double period in which we got to work on our first robot, and since i was a leader of the team, work on different admin things that needed to be done.

This eased us into the skills we woudl need to the FRC seaon, time management as well as the excitement that competition could provide.

Well PLTW didn’t help me as those classes just showed up the year after I graduated :rolleyes:. FIRST helped me in that it gave me a taste of the engineering/comp sci field and in that sense it was a very valuable experience. I mostly did mechanical stuff but now I am majoring in CS at CMU. FIRST introduced me to 3DS max and I have taken an interest in animation and I will further pursue this field when able (darn prerequisites. I shouldn’t need 4 math classes to take an animation class :rolleyes: ). As for high school classes preparing me for college, well now the thought seems like a joke. The bar is so much higher in college. In high-school, you can get away with just paying attention in class and you are pretty much guaranteed to pass. If you screw up you are given plenty of makeup opportunities. However this is not the case in college. If you fail a midterm (usually 3 per class + the final), you might as well just drop the class. It is not enough to just parrot back information but your work needs to be 100% your own. Even collaboration with other students is somewhat limited. The professors have their own rules as to when and to what extent collaboration is allowed. Unauthorized collaboration/not noting who you collaborated with is considered cheating and grounds for expulsion from the university. In my math classes, were not allowed to use a theorem unless we prove it ourselves (and put that calculator away, not that it would help!). In my English class last semester, if your paper was a summary of other people’s works, you would receive an F. They expect your thoughts, your work, your own arguments and they go over everything with a magnifying glass. There is a huge emphasis to put ownership on your own work and not just lean on other peoples’ works as in high-school. We are not given grades based on effort and partial credit/mercy points are not handed out frequently. Sometimes it can get very frustrating when you best is just not good enough. I can spend all week studying for a test and still only score 50%. Thank God for curves!

Overall, it has positively affected my college abilities. I aced my first semester engineering classes because it was all basics that I have done in the past. One example was ProE. I have been using Inventor for 3 years before college so it was not that hard to adapt to the new software. One downside was that some of my teachers want me to do things their way. In one of my classes, we went over drafting and my specifically told me to break a drafting rule. I didn’t and got docked 1 point, but I chose to follow the rules of drafting instead of his. I suppose had I not known the rules of drafting, I might not have lost this point but I would have lost plenty more from lack of knowledge. FIRST however, has helped me in many ways. I am used to pulling longer hours then what I used to. (all thanks to the build season) Overall, I suppose that it just strengthened my resolve. I always thought that I would like to be an engineer. But now I am certain. I know what my goal is and am always working towards it.

One thing that is not necessarily to your topic but might actually be: I am so used to using my graphing calculator, that now my college teacher that won’t let me use a calculator and that makes it hard. (Sorry for the grammar issues, I am not an english major.)

I hoped this helped. PM me if you need anything cleared up.

FIRST has essentially given me my current lifestyle. I could live forever and still never have proper time to repay FIRST for everything it has given me.

The effects of FIRST on my college life started long before college.

I joined team FRC 360 at age 14 for three practices because that was a condition of a bet I lost with a friend. After that I stayed of my own will, first mostly out of curiosity and eventually out of a genuine enjoyment of the challenges presented to me and the community FRC linked me to.

FRC helped me discover the entire branch of engineering as a concept of a career (I am not entirely sure how the idea had not dawned on me previously but then again at 14 I didn’t spend much time considering what I wanted to do with my life).

FIRST brought me into early contact with engineering colleges. In my sophomore year of high school team 190 visited our regional. I must have made some positive impression on a mentor from that team (probably as alliance captain etc) as one of the mentors approached me asking me to consider WPI as a potential college. As a sophomore I didn’t really care about college but I listened politely to the man’s sentences as best as I could. This was mostly because he was standing next to a pretty sweet robot.

FIRST assisted me in applying to college. When applying to colleges my FIRST experience comprised the majority of my college essays, and interview responses. Additionally my mentor wrote most of my reference letters.

FIRST indirectly assisted me with paying for college. I received a FIRST scholarship. Being a foolish high schooler and not knowing what I wanted, I actually applied for only one scholarship but applied to get it from a school I eventually decided I did not want to attend. However, the competing offer forced other schools who were aware of the scholarship offer to bid higher in financial aid.

At college (and yes, I did actually wind up at WPI after all that) FIRST has continued to assist me. Aside from federal work study and various near-minimal wage jobs I have held four paid “resume-worthy” jobs so far during college. My participation in FIRST has been directly linked to all of these jobs in some way. The first job, as an FRC mentor, I received directly from my experience in FIRST. The second job I received notification of the open position from a FRC mailing list I am on and the actual job involved using VEX. In interviewing for my third job my interviewer (and eventual boss) shrugged and said “Well if you can build robots you can fix computers. When do you want to start?” I found the offering for my fourth job on these very forums. RoboMom posts the NASA Robotics Academy application every year. I applied and was accepted. Due to bizarre and awesome freak circumstances I was permitted to stay at NASA and complete my senior project my junior year with NASA as my sponsor.

In short, the positive effects of FIRST on college life are not limited to your actual academics in college. The program helped me find my major, get into college, pay for college, and find jobs to pay for college.

If you have any further questions I’d be happy to ramble more. IM or PM me.