The future of FIRST

Listening to Dean and Woody today made me wonder…

What is the future of FIRST?

I’m not talking about next year, or five years from now, or even twenty. Where will we be in fifty, seventy, one hundred years? As the founding mentors and staff start to retire their shoes are filled. Will the future leaders still install gracious professionalism and coopertition in their students they way Dean, Woody, and our mentors do today?

Or will FIRST lose its core foundations to just winning?

What happens when there is a robotics team in every high school around the world? Will it turn out like Football here in the US where winning is all that matters too many teams, even at the pro level? Will we trade quantity for quality?

Will it become so big that we have “pro” robotics teams?

I don’t know any of these answers obviously. So as a game, let’s pretend we just got done playing the 2109 FIRST Championship. What did it look like, what awards were given, where were the teams from, and could the students, mentors, teachers, and fans go back in time to this years’ Championship and have the same or better quality of gracious professionalism and coopertition so that they could fit right in and stand side by side with all members of FIRST?

The sport, in a lose sense of the connotation of the word, which we have created is too strong to lose it’s core values. Some of the new members which we get are a little rough around the edges and they do not realize the larger picture, but over time a sensibility develops and by the time someone has gone through his or her second or third year of robotics, it is instantly apparent that we’re not here to win (although that’s fun).

In 100 years I easily see the level of game play changing. It is becoming apparent now that newer teams are stepping up to the challenges and veteran teams have to keep up their game just to stay ahead. Imagine how much experience team 67 will have after 100 years!!!

And that doesn’t mean rookies will fall behind. The alumni base is also expanding at an exponential rate and as we don’t these alumni coming back right after high school, it’ll be crazy after 6-7 years when these students are in a job and are really wondering what happened to their old robotics team.

FIRST cannot and in my opinion will not lose it’s core values. The core values are just tied too deeply into what makes FIRST fun.

Alrighty here,

I think FIRST won’t lose the values they have seeded in us. When I enjoyed FIRST, I was a bit rough; coming from basketball and baseball. But then realized soon enough what FIRST is about and I now I thank FIRST for doing what they do.

All of our members are a bit rough right now, they are just FRESHMAN and SOPHOMORES (with the exception of me and 3 others). Teams will learn as they get older. Also older teams help keep that tradition going. So I think it will last down the line.

If the culture change that FIRST is trying to achieve comes about, in 50 years maybe we’ll have that world that Dean talked about: energy is free and green, there are no incurable diseases, and life is good. If we celebrate the things that sustain this culture, FIRST will have accomplished it’s mission.

I don’t see a problem with FIRST being in every high school with district, state and national competitions to decide who’s best. Competition can stimulate creativity, resourcefulness, drive, passion, commitment - all good things. Just as long as the spirit of the competition doesn’t become “win at all cost”. The future leaders of FIRST will need to insure that teams remain true to the principals of Gracious Professionalism.

FIRST as a competition could get out of hand if sponsors levied onto their teams expectations of winning, if mass media dollars became the incentive for teams to compete, and if success were measured only by points in a game. Will former FIRST students that become mentors allow the program to take this path? (These are the future FIRST leaders who will step up when the founders are no longer involved). I just don’t think so.

If a “win-win” attitude prevails over “just win”, FIRST growing to be an alternative to football, basketball, etc. in all of our schools is a very good thing.

People involved in FIRST today will pass the fundamentals of FIRST, such as gracious professionalism, to incoming members. They will pass them down to other people, and the cycle will continue.

I couldn’t agree more.

Do you know how, say, Native American cultures were kept? They had storytellers, sages, and the like. They passed on their legends and culture to the next generation. So will we.

I really hope the vision of FIRST’s future expressed above is proved correct in my great-great-grandchildren’s time.

Lest we too-quickly condemn athletics, recall the old maxim that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. In their late 19th- and early 20th-century beginnings, athletic programs representing schools and colleges were aimed at developing core values we recognize in FIRST: sportsmanship, inspiration, commitment, perseverance. In their early years, athletic programs were intended to change the culture to one that honored those values, and in which opportunity would come to those who practiced them – not just to the children of the upper classes. Those who pioneered athletics, whose names are now remembered mostly by the their connection to awards, surely did not envision a world in which young people would aspire to athletic careers as a means to riches and celebrity.

I’d like to second what Richard says here.

For FIRST to continue inspiring as it does, we need to be ever vigilant of FIRSTs core values.

We need to keep tabs on our own competitiveness, because we (by nature) are a competitive species, and we like to win. This is a competition and the goal of a competition is to win, but it is what we do to achieve that goal that defines the person and that is where we need to be vigilant.

I think that as long as FIRST can make sure that sponsorship dollars never surpass the teams expenses FIRST will be able to keep its core values.

The want for fame is a powerful thing, but the want for fortune is greater. FIRST needs to makes sure that it stays focused on the wants of its students, not their coaches or sponsors. The students are (usually), the most altruistic of the three FIRST groups.

I don’t like how sports are constantly given a bad rap in this forum. I learned a ton of great life lessons from my wrestling coach and football coaches in High School. I know that is some areas, bad things can and do happen, but don’t kid yourself if you think FIRST is immune to these behaviors.

That being said, I think that FIRST does a better job through constant speeches and most importnatly rewarding what really matters. Make sure that the culture continues to reward what is truly important.

So who will be the storytellers for FIRST? And how will they tell them - that is, in what medium?

This sounds like an excellent project for teams; recall your team stories, video those who lived them telling them, and preserve these, showing them to future teams.

That would make for a good start on the future, IMHO.

I think sports get a bad rap here because many participants did not get involved in sports, or they had bad experiences. My own sports experiences were with a ‘win at all costs’ team mentality, one which caused me to leave the team in my senior year. I do realize that this is highly unusual, and that coach was eventually “retired”, despite his winning record.

Sounds vaguely similar to Dean’s homework?

I can think of about 10,000 storytellers in one venue. One of them has the name of Don Rotolo…

The venue? CD itself. It’s become possibly the best (and certainly the most frequently used) resource in the FRC community. Stories, legends, resources, and pictures are shared here on a daily basis. Think about that, and take care which stories you tell.

A way to look to the future is to look back to the past. Go back 20 years from now and look at science and technology and the roles of politicians and world leaders then. The global communication/network/impact. Then go back 50 then 70 then 100. Spend some time looking at this history and its impact. Look at the present and within the scope/span of this last 20 years, look at the leaders who have developed in FIRST, in teams, as individuals, and look at their tracks. Their track record. How telling is the record they are leaving? Look at the Hall of Fame teams and the WFAs. How telling are the tracks they are leaving? Then look at the college mentors now, the recent college graduates, the young engineers and technologists that have entered the field in recent years. What tracks are they planning to leave and what are they leaving? Are they handling their careers and their FIRST reputations well and with integrity as they grow, mature, learn? Are they still open to the wisdom and the experience their older peers and mentors are willing to share and pass down?

Pessimism, mismanagement, narrow thinking, tunnel vision, closed minds, and disregard for history and for the bigger picture are some of the ways that could impact FIRST over time, molding it into something it was not founded to be. Time brings change, there is no stopping it. Leadership guides that change and we know there is bad leadership as well as good leadership. There is also a a level of excellence in some of our leaders. Those are the ones whom I hope our young ones are listening to and paying attention to as FIRST continues to expand and develop and they begin to leave their tracks to be followed.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
– Alan Kay

We don’t have control of events or situations fifty years in the future. We barely have a handle on things one year out. FIRST will evolve based on what we do today, so it’s up to us right now to keep the course set firmly on inspiration and coopertition. As Richard and Jane wisely point out, we have a lot of history behind us to help guide our actions and help us avoid known pitfalls.