The President gets it !!!!

From the Tonight Show transcript 03/19/09

And what we need is steady growth; we need young people, instead of – a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher. And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing.

And where is the national funding for FIRST?

Seriously I know we could use a few thousand dollars more. I wish FIRST got some of that bailout money, I know we would use it better than the AIG executives.

This shows why Dean goes after politicians all the time. Politicians, like the President, seems to understand that scientists, engineers, docters, etc. are important and that developing these skills in high school is crucial. What they don’t all understand it that FIRST is the program that does this! The President, as well as other politicians, should still be invited to FIRST events, even though it was Dean’s Homework for 2007 (and there is more homework to be completed this year!), so they can see the program that really makes a difference!

You have part of the picture of what it will take to get anything meaningful done on a large scale.

  1. Awareness of the problem(s) and potential solution(s)
  2. Awareness that FIRST and other similar programs exist and are attempting to meet the need.
  3. Public commitment/pledge of support

1 through 3 are a nice start and Dean (and others) have been able to get to this point at state and even federal levels in some cases. However, the real, lasting, meaningful culture change takes place one student, mentor, school, and community at a time. Thus, even if a Governor, Senator, President promises widespread support and even if they find a way to appropriate funds in the direction of these programs, there is still the need for:

  1. Refocusing of the educational system as a whole in order to get the “No Child Left Behind Act” working for its originally intended purposes. Using the one size fits all standardized testing model to gauge our progress may be cost-efficient, but it sure as heck flies in the face of all current and semi-current research which shows us unconditionally that there are many ways to cultivate, measure, and reward excellence. The time in schools we spend teaching “to the test” so students can jump through a hoop all in the name of convincing ourselves this is the way to a better future is, well, frustrating at best.

  2. An investment in our future so businesses, school systems, and govt. agencies encourage, reward, and create incentives for employees to participate with students in these programs as part of their professional responsibilities. This happens in small pockets (thanks to Dave and others),but we need the federal support for the local folks to think differently about what our work day looks like on a grand scale. Right now too many of us lose money, time, and even put our jobs in jeopardy to a certain degree just to be able to help out and run teams and events. Appropriating funds is only worthwhile if we also empower enough of the right people to execute the mission on a daily basis. Preparing students for a 21st Century world when many of us are confined, constrained, and beaten down by a 19th Century mentality is a huge obstacle to our efficiency and productivity. Right now it takes extraordinary and creative efforts to do what we do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m wholly encouraged by the President’s comments. Publicly stating the right thing can certainly create positive rumblings in the culture, however actually affecting the decisions and helping 4 and 5 above to happen is much more difficult work - and for some public officials would be political suicide to mention that we need such overall reform.

Here’s to hoping these comments are ones that will be backed by real, systemic, meaningful action.

We encourage teams to develop short term and long term goals. To develop and maintain business plans. In other words to use a lot of common sense when helping the team to remain stable, sustainable, and prepared for achievement and success.

Businesses need to do this same thing, as well as the educational system, the health system, the political system - everyone should use some common sense and develop good business practices that will help develop the communities and the nations. We see too many times that money that is not used wisely and with careful thought and planning can be frittered away and misspent. So can time, energy, and reputation.

It’s easy to say that we need engineers, teachers, scientists, and doctors. It’s another thing to provide sound opportunities for these professions to develop and thrive, helping to create change. And to give them the respect that they deserve. I have never understood why teachers are so underpaid and so overworked - and continue to be.

Thank you for your insight, Rich.


Exellent comments Rich.

Team 2339 is in it’s second year at Antelope Valley High School. Next year the district has approved a robotics class as an A thru G elective ( UC credit)based on our performance and efforts. This is where the paradigm shift needs to occur, one school at a time, one class at a time. Ultimately the education system will evolve, sometimes kicking and screaming, but evole it shall!

One factor leading to the creation of the class was the axiom:
"Applied knowledge is this generation’s version of wood and metal shop. Instead of making chairs and boxes, we are working with robots.:slight_smile: "

You know, I just had a conversation with someone at the Florida regional who told me that high schools in the U.S. spend $millions on their football stadiums and sport arenas. It’s pretty shocking when you consider that ‘non-sport activities’ keep having their budgets cut, and cut, and cut. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the community that supports something will pay for something, regardless of what it takes. To realign things for academia (including Band, Arts, Music, Wood Shop, Robotics, etc), there has to be local culture shifts before we can do a nationwide culture shift.

I think the next political step isn’t just to have Congress appropriate funds for FIRST; actually if you understand the way federal educational appropriations work, you would know that the funds MUST be for federal programs only. Since education is a state-level line item, it would be up to all of us in FIRST to get to our district representatives for the state we live in, and get them involved. Then the step after that is to get the school boards involved, which is, I believe, the hardest part because the communities we live in directly interact with the school board on a daily basis. Hence, if you truly influence your community, you will eventually change your school board’s mind. Obama’s words are a start to get a spark going nationwide, but don’t think for a second that they alone change anything.

I couldn’t agree more. This is why it is so important the FIRST exists to inspire kids to pursue these careers. Perhaps the government will provide opportunities for these professions to develop and better our society if it is able to notice the impact that FIRST has on youth today. So, in a sense, FIRST could be a means by which society can begin to reasses its priorities. That is not to say that other measures should not be taken, but FIRST is certainly helping.

Hopefully, society will begin to appreciate the heros that really matter (engineers, teachers, scientists, etc.), and then politicians would be able to advocate the programs and priorities that will truly help us to advance.

Within that advancement, it would be my hope that there would be focus on quality of life, appreciation for excellence, respect for knowledge and application. Some would say this discussion is idealistic. Idealism can become a part of reality when change is created with vision, understanding, and an educated plan. Rocket scientists get that. It must be frustrating for them to watch the rest of us struggle with the basic concepts or not even attempt the struggle.

As a student that is eternally frustrated with ALL standardized tests (partially because I’m just not good at them), I can not agree with you more. My Statistics 2 class did a project where we ran a correlation of SAT scores with final college GPAs, and it is no shock that a couple hour test of knowledge is unable to gauge how well one is able to study and perform academically.

When Harmony High School opened 5 years ago, a special room was built with modules and a teacher highered to teach construction and engineering (as well as a room for veterinary, and one for the arts). A couple years ago all of these programs were closed (and team 1604’s budget cut) so the school could allocate more resources to teaching FCAT Test programs. This is no surprise, the school’s budget depends on how students well students do on the standardized test, not based on real world skills learned. What gets rewarded gets managed.

That was then, this is now. 1390 and 1604 is now one team. 1390’s room was demolished last year, and they built this years robot in the old construction room. The principal of St. Cloud came to the Florida regional, and made a call for a room to built just for FIRST. Both schools are going to work together to get and Engineering curriculum as an elective credit, and also make that a Duel Enrollment class worth college credit.

Side note, I would like to mention all of this wonderful momentum has all to do with the teachers of the two schools, and I do not accept credit for their great work.

Originally Posted by Rich Kressly - “Here’s to hoping these comments are ones that will be backed by real, systemic, meaningful action”

Unfortunately, Saying it and Meaning it do not seem to correlate in politics.

I find it unfortunate that these days, pointing fingers at individuals and implying that “all of them” in a certain profession like investment banking are unworthy. This is a sad situation. I am sure that there are some very well intended, highly educated, and pretty smart investment bankers out there.

The world is a big place, and it holds alot of opportunity for everyone - even good financial, business, and management people that may not “make things”, but they can make a difference.

I love Engineering, but the world needs GOOD people in ALL walks of life.

I hope some day to figure out just what value politicians provide.

Bi-partisan legislation for the betterment of all, regardless of party, race, gender, or religion, seems like what is needed - but it isn’t words that get that done, it’s deeds. Unfortunately, it seems like there is an abundance of one, and a shortage of the other.

Let’s hope that changes - and soon.
(Mike steps down off soap box)

You know, I can agree with pushing science and technology in school. But hey, if someone really WANTS to be a businessman or an investment banker, I say let them. Science is important, but being happy with the career you choose is more important.

…Yeah, but in tax money received back, those stadiums most certainly pay for themselves after a few year’s and more…

That’s the inherent problem. Short term & quick payoff verses investment in the future that will never directly pay off the investor but to society as a whole. Money screws everything.

I think it’s a good idea to spread the word about FIRST around. It will be all over the news if the president comes to a FIRST competition.

Yea and after it is paid off via tickets and other things, the money is then put towards sports teams and a new stadium which is put towards training new players and making a new stadium. If we can’t afford to build a stadium in a few years because of an economic depression, what good will training a bunch of professional league grade players do to benefit us as a society. Yet 20k for a robotics team which will train a bunch of individuals on future skills cant be done.

The other part of this is that not all of your return on investment is necessarily in money. If you spend the money on a new stadium, you might make a profit. If you spend the money on upgrading school lab facilities, you might inspire someone to make a vaccine for HIV.

Thta’s one of the things I love about FIRST–I think the idea of combining a sporting event and scitech education is one of the best ways to effect this culture change.

He could start by going to his own alma mater in hawaii that has a FIRST robotics team, team 2090. They have a great team. When Dean came to visit Hawaii, he did a speech at Obama’s school.

Its great to know that some people understand the value of robotics and engineering for our generation. Its encouraging to know that this kind of change is occurring. But in some cases, much like my school, there is a backwards shift. Due to the tough times, we are in a position to lose our metalworking major (we are a trade school). We had the whole club and lots of parents etc come to board meetings to fight for it, and we hope the message got across. All we can do now is hold on for the ride and see how things turn out… :frowning: