Testimonial: Has FIRST worked for you yet?

Well… every year I attempt to weed out my email account, a dreadful task indeed. Just now, I found an email that I sent Catherine Attardo last summer. From what I remember, Catherine asked the entire CD community to respond if you have won a FIRST scholarship… she wanted to know what may have become of FIRST scholarship recipients. It was rather amusing re-reading this email… because strangely, many of my projections have come true.

Dear Catherine Attardo,

My name is Erin Rapacki and I am an 18 year old Sophomore Mechanical Engineering student at Northeastern University in Boston, MA expecting to graduate in 2007.

It is my understanding that you would like to understand more clearly how FIRST has a positive impact on the students who go through the program. Well, I consider myself to be a classic example of how FIRST may be able to direct a student’s talents and ambition toward a career in science and technology.

I grew up in a suburban town called Enfield, CT. I had always been good in math and science in high school, but the only thing working against me was my lack of direction and ambition toward a particular career. I knew I could be happy in many fields, but at the time in my high school career when I was supposed to be making very large decisions… my biggest dilemma was “What do I want to do with my life?!”

I was active with many different clubs, sports, and organizations already… then I happened to be lucky enough to converse with a boy who sat next to me in my Algebra 2 class. He told me about FIRST.

So my Junior year of high school I joined my town’s robotics team sponsored by HSSSI, Team# 175, Buzz Robotics for the 2001 season.

After my rookie season of hard work and learning I finally arrived in Disney World for the National Competition, but it was only when I saw the large cheering crowds did I become hooked to the FIRST program.

As you may already know; Buzz’s big Chairman’s Award push was during the 2002 season, also during my senior year of high school. In the midst of “Senior year havoc,” I applied to Northeastern and applied for the Northeastern College of Engineering full tuition scholarship.

I received my acceptance letter and financial aid statement that January, I didn’t win the scholarship.

However, all my college essays and scholarship applications were full if information pertaining to my current involvement in FIRST, and what aspirations and ideas I would like to apply to the program in the future. I sincerely believed (and still do) that FIRST is capable of inspiring many more young talented students to use their abilities and intelligence for technological gain.

NEU supports FIRST, and that may have been one of the reasons they offered me $60,000 in grants and scholarships over the five years I am to attend school there.

But that’s not all, as a “runner-up prize” to the FIRST scholarship, I received a phone call from the Dean of Enrollment offering me an additional ASME scholarship of $6000. A very pleasant surprise indeed, and all because of FIRST.

Buzz won the Chairman’s award in 2002, and on the way back from Orlando, the students on the team were informed of the Paul Alladaire medal. A scholarship prize I certainly wouldn’t have minded receiving. But I had only been on the team for two years, and the recipient of the award certainly deserved it. He had four years of outstanding dedication.

Once again, I won a “runner-up prize” called the Buzz Scholarship. An annual scholarship given to a Buzz senior student worth $1000.

The only other help I’ve had in paying for college comes from the Chesterfield Charitable Foundation located in Chesterfield. NH. When applying for their scholarship, I wrote mostly about FIRST as well. And needless to say, these past two years I have received in total $10,000 of aid. That money has made all the difference.

As you see (taking a look at my particular situation), I am certain that students all over the country are receiving scholarships and grants because of their involvement with FIRST. Whether it is directly because of FIRST or in a roundabout manner. There is a lot more money being awarded than the amounts listed on your website.

In addition to winning scholarships, the Buzz Mentors helped me get summer jobs at their company, Hamilton Sundstrand. At 17 years old I was helping out with the computer that controls a Jet Engine (the JSF F135 FADEC/LSF/PHAM). This past summer, at 18 years old, I have been working on the EMU (Space Suit). There, I was the youngest intern hired, not considering that over half of the interns hired already had college degrees.

Today I am awaiting move-in day to start my Sophomore year at NEU. This year, the College of Engineering administration and I are coordinating an off season FIRST competition called the Beantown Blitz to be held next May on the Northeastern Campus. I am also mentoring their team, #125 The NU-TRONS, working to make them better organized and finding ways to help more students learn more and become more inspired.

I start my first coop job this upcoming January, and you may be interested to know that I will do my best (and hopefully am very likely) to receive a position within DEKA Research in Manchester, NH. It is my first choice company to work.

Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Who knows what successes my life might bring? But I guarantee you, that if my name ever does become prestigious within the scientific community, that I will owe it all to FIRST.

FIRST has brought me ambition, funding, job skills at a young age, and most important… close friends from all around the country.

FIRST is working.

Thank you,

Erin Rapacki

Do you think you may have had a similar experience? If you did, how so? Have you been able to create small goals for yourself within FIRST, and reach them?

A few of you on these forums have been watching me grow up… it’s amazing what four years can do. :slight_smile:



In high school I wasn’t very active and it wasn’t until my senior year when I joined the robotics club that I had a huge time committing responsibility. I was awarded a scholarship through FIRST in my rookie (and final :() year. When I entered college I quickly became active on campus with several clubs, especially with my residence halls association. Through RHA I became interested in becoming a resident assistant, and I was selected to be one this April. I probably wouldn’t have become active on campus and eventually wound up with the full room and board position had I not enjoyed my experience with FIRST. If it was indeed a direct cause, then FIRST has helped me to pay for college upwards of $6,000/yr. :):):slight_smile:

While I do like the financial assistance, the scholarship itself hasn’t made much of an impact on my continued involvement with FIRST as much as the people that got me involved with robotics in the first place. I’m too far away to do any work on the robot (save for some weekend wiring and LED mounting) but I try to help out with the other areas like team spirit, communications, and logistics.

In our first year we didn’t know much more about the FIRST program other than we were supposed to build a robot. It was my primary focus along with having fun with my friends who founded the club. Even though we didn’t cover a lot of the other FIRST objectives, I still got a great deal out of the experience. I have to believe that more developed teams make the experience even greater.