The subtle disadvantages of being a FIRST Alumni

Let me start off by stating that my life will be forever better after doing (4 years) of FRC. I made life long friends (looking at you, yash), and it exposed me to things I may have never known existed.

But there is a somewhat darker side to it. It makes students too hard ahead. We have all seen it. The brightest kid in middle school wash out and become a c average student in high school.

The statistics on my team don’t lie. Yeah, nearly every senior goes off to an engineering school, which is great, don’t get me wrong, but how many finish it out? There are a surprising number of our alumni who had to hit the restart button on life after high school. I’m sure this isn’t the case everywhere, and it probably has never been discussed.

Allow me to introduce myself, I am a freshman at MST, it is THE engineering school in Missouri. I learned how to program my sophomore year under a boeing engineer, for whom I am forever grateful for, and I didn’t stop learning there. I published two papers in the field of computer vision and placed third at the international science fair. Where am I now? Bored out of my mind academically at a supposedly amazing school. I am too far ahead of my peers. I am working in a graduate level lab doing computer vision and I am seeing what the grad students are doing wrong.

What I’m trying to get at is sometimes what seems like an advantage can be a (minor) disadvantage. Keep that in mind.

This doesn’t sound like a disadvantage to me. It sounds like an opportunity that you are letting slip away.

So, you’re bored? Are you involved in clubs? Idk MST but I’d be willing to bet they have a handful of great programs for students (Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition was big in Michigan).

Have you approached any faculty about research they’re doing? Maybe you could get involved there.

Heck, get a group of friends together and prep for next year’s Sparkfun AVC.

If you’re bored in college it’s your own @#@#@#@# fault. It’s not a disadvantage of being an alumni, it’s just a reality of not having every minute of your life scheduled and having to be responsible for your own life. Sounds like your team/school is doing a pretty mediocre job of preparing folks for this reality.

Try taking some non engineering classes in an area you know nothing about. I actually look forward to those the most.

If you are incapable of finding activities to be involved in, and other ways to continue your own education on your own (separate from class) you simply will never be successful.

Companies don’t want engineers that are unable to be self starters. If you don’t want to work for a company, your personal business won’t be successful for the same reasons.

If you are “too far ahead of your peers” then it is time to find different peers (at least academically). There is ALWAYS someone out there who knows something you don’t in your area of expertise.

Pick up a second major if you are that far ahead. My roommate in college was “suffering” from this exact scenario and was set to graduate from one of the top physics programs in the world by his second year. His solution was to pick up computer engineering as a second degree and he finished that in his fourth year. He liked it so much he stopped pursuing his (original) dream of getting a PHD in physics and became a successful software engineer.

You could always take your spare time and create a project which becomes a startup.

Oh to have had this problem …

There are 24 hours in a day. Sleep for at least 6 of them, and find something worth doing for the other 18. What the heck is free time? What’s up with being bored? There are over 7 billion people on this rock and I guarantee you that there’s someone out there who has achieved more than you and is continuing to achieve more than you.

That’s not an insult. That’s a fact. You have so much time out of class? Get a job scrubbing floors! Go to the gym! Get an unpaid internship! Volunteer your skills and time to something! Teach yourself something! Use more exclamation points!!!

Growing up is about finding a life where you can actively and successfully engage yourself in the world around you with other people in greater experiences than ones you could have alone or at a younger age. Go out there and do it.

I think you are missing a step in my guide to success as an FRC Alum:

  1. Join a team
  2. Enjoy being on a team
  3. Do robot things with your friends
  4. Do better in school
  5. Get into a great college
  6. Go to said college
  7. Profit.
    *]Give back to what got you there.
    From my analysis, you are somewhere between step 6 & 7. We all like to do well at robots and try our best to win. In real life, there are lots of ways to win and way more design constraints than just R26 or the rest of the Manual. Know what you can do, talk to some other people, create a product, launch a business and grow the world’s economy. Clearly there are skills learned in FIRST that people can make at least a few bucksoff of. Heck, you might even solve a few problems that Dean hasn’t gotten around to yet.

Be really careful about feeling that you are bored out of your mind in your freshman year in college. Be mindful that the university needs to teach to a common denominator, and you are currently ahead of it. That won’t always be the case.

Your situation sounds a lot like mine 14 or so years ago. I was on a FRC team, learned a lot of cool stuff. I was in the top 10 of my high school class at a blue ribbon school in New Jersey. All through high school I really wanted to go to Duke. I even took a summer session there. But, alas, Duke didn’t accept me for college. I ended up “settling” for the University of Virginia. That’s right, I felt I “settled” for the then #1 and current #2 public university in the country.

So, when I got to Charlottesville, I was a really cocky and arrogant son of a you know what. Practically slept through my first semester, when my schedule was basically a re-take of a bunch of stuff I took in high school. I left for Christmas with a 3.6 GPA. College was going to be easy.

But then I got kicked in the shins. I didn’t take my introductory circuits course seriously. I mean, given enough effort, I can do circuit analysis. Who cares about this Node-Voltage and Mesh-Current stuff anyway? All I ever needed to know about circuits I learned in High School. Right? Well, I thought so then. At the same time, I didn’t take multivariate calculus seriously, because I’ll never have to worry about things more complicated than a circuit.

Next thing I know, I’m simultaneously failing three courses in my second year: E&M Physics, Electronics I (transistors), and DiffEq. Why? Because I didn’t know how to do a two dimensional closed surface integral over an inverse square force field in spherical space. And, I didn’t know how to do N-V and M-C for small signal transistor models. Oh, and dear God I didn’t know how to find a determinant so now I can’t solve differential equations using Cramer’s Rule.

Yes, I can understand the boredom. I was there. But, a question to ask yourself: Can you explain how the fact that the divergence of a 4 dimensional anti-symmetric rank 2 tensor equals zero means that there is light? Can you explain why a square pulse in the time domain equals something like sin(w)/w in the frequency domain? Can you explain why a single pendulum is well governed by algebra, but a double pendulum is chaotic? Can you explain why a curve ball curves, in a mathematical sense?

There’s a lot to be learned. If you want to be an engineer, then find some healthy distractions until you hit the challenging stuff. I wish I had taken up billiards my first year in college, that would have probably helped. Instead, I found myself teaching myself vector calculus, field calculus, and differential equations during Christmas break 2001. I’m really glad I did, that re-commitment to myself meant I graduated. That meant that I went to on grad school and earned a Ph.D., and that in turn gives me the career I have today.

So, stick with it, and use this opportunity to find those good rounding passions that make us human.

I don’t entirely disagree with the message, but is this really a constructive way of putting it?

Some people need the 2x4.

As a freshman myself at Notre Dame, I’m jealous, I wish I was ahead of the class all the time. But more importantly, you should branch out and do something new! I’m in the Notre Dame Marching Band. We have more engineers than any other major (>30%) and we do zero engineering at band, we just play music, have a good time, and do something that a lot of people enjoy.

Obviously band isn’t for everyone, but try something completely out of your comfort zone or out of your usual skillset. I’m glad I did, it’s a fantastic break from what is usually a day full of quite difficult classes and it’s the single coolest thing I’ve been a part of in my life. All I’m saying is, there is always an opportunity to fall in love with something new, you just have to go for it. (And by it, I mean something not directly related to robotics or at the very least you’re particular strongsuit in robotics)

Also, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest NOT doing robotics in college. Branch out and find something new for a while like Formula SAE (if your school has it), Ribe Goldberg, or even non-STEM organizations. College is a time where you can really grow as a person. You finally have an opportunity to be out on your own without supervision. Looking back after being out of college for a few years now, I really wish I made better use of my time in college…as in making more friends, getting into a bit more trouble (but not too much of course), etc. You will likely never be surrounded with such a variety of types of people again, so take advantage of it. I currently work in an office full of introverted engineers. I sure miss the variety of people.


Look through the 3k or so posts I’ve got on here, there’s only a handful of times that appears. Go on, I’ll be here when you get done checking. Back? Ok, EVERY time it’s to emphasize a point. So, yes, not only did I view it as a CONSTRUCTIVE way of putting it, I viewed it as a point in need of emphasis in that manner.

A couple of thoughts from someone ten years removed from his freshman year:

  1. Beware boredom early on, since it’s possible you’ll get a rude awakening. Diversify, but keep it where you can ditch the extra stuff if you have to.
  2. You are the composite average of the five people you spend the most time with. If they’re motivated and excited, you will be. If they’re broke lazy bums, you will be.
  3. I’d definitely advise you to go beyond your major. I have a marketing degree, but I took the CAD course out of USC’s MechE department anyway and minored in media arts. So ignoring the fact that I’m horribly rusty in both fields, I could CAD the robot and shoot and edit the reveal video. Odd tools like that make you a better prospect down the road.
  4. Hang on to the oddball stuff you grab out of boredom. In the summer of 2007, I had a long layover in Washington, DC at Union Station. That day, Chevrolet just happened to have the Volt concept on display there. This was pre-iPhone (for me anyway), pre-free-WiFi-everywhere, and I didn’t really have time to go enjoy the city proper…so bored me pulled out my point-and-shoot and gave the car as much of a photo shoot as one can when one’s not allowed to touch. Ten months later, as fate would have it, I applied for a job at a GM dealer–and those photos went in the portfolio. Sure enough, got the job.

Also, if you’re bored, go to the gym and lift.

Speaking from experience I feel for you. I actually got into my first choice of University, and chose to go to the local community turned state college to save money. I was BORED more BORED then I ever have been in my entire life. I was like some people on here and my arrogance and intelligence coming out of FIRST allowed me to cost through my AA degree. I also got a rude awakening upon transferring into an accelerated Master’s Degree program (which I am still in), let me be the one to tell you, use these moments of being bored to read up on the classes you plan on heading into if you don’t want to/can’t do extracurriculars. This will help you in the long run.

I also feel your statement several alumni and friends have started pursuing engineering degrees and switched, but as you said statistics don’t lie(which if you take a stats class you would know how wrong that statement is) the number of major switches in comparison to the population as a whole is shockingly less.

On another note:

Thank you for supplying me with some great questions that I used to be able to answer and will now be spending some time beating myself up for forgetting then being proud of myself once I remember :smiley: