This is My FIRST Life

Before I went to sleep last night, I spent a good two hours diving into the bowels of ChiefDelphi and browsing threads from the last 2 years. My adventure into the past seems to have stirred up some thoughts. I found several threads about why people are in FIRST. There have been many discussions about the true meaning of FIRST. People have shared their knowledge with those looking for advice. Strangely, I also found two threads about FIRSTers who aren’t interested in engineering. (It might just be my Silicon Valley upbringing, but even after reading them twice, I still don’t get it.) From all of this, it is very evident that FIRST is not just a competition. Rather, it is, as many have pointed out, a community.

I did a lot of reading last night and found that few have actually just sat down and talked about how FIRST is a part of their lives. As I said, many have shared why they are involved with FIRST, others have talked about what FIRST means to them, still others have discussed how FIRST has changed their lives. But it doesn’t seem like anyone has brought all of this together and discussed their lives in terms of FIRST. That’s the reason I’m here now.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? But what role has that phrase played in my life? While I am hesitant to say that it has changed my life in some grand way, I am willing say that it has given me something to be part of and has given me a new perspective on life.

FIRST is an opportunity for me to engage in interdisciplinary studies. Browsing through my course catalog, I don’t expect to take any classes about mechanics (short of physics) or do very much in terms of programming/computer science on my way to a BSEE. I actually didn’t care much about mechanics until I got involved with FIRST. Without FIRST, I’d probably still be wondering what a clevis is. Seeing all of this together and working on various parts of the robot has given me a different perspective of it. I now understand how all of it is interconnected. This is one thing I want all of the high school students to understand as well. While they’re all working on their individual projects, not many of them see how everything is connected. Not everyone seems to understand that in order to make everything run smoothly, they need to cooperate while working on their individual components . I think I’m going to steal a freshman this year and make them my apprentice. This new found understanding of everything doesn’t stop at the engineering level though.

I don’t know how other teams are built, but 1351 follows the industry model (at least that’s what our moderator tells us). Even though we follow this because of the failures of our experiments with democracy and anarchy, it still let’s me participate in it. School can’t prepare you for how the real world works. You’re in school because you want to be. You’re at work because you need money. Not everyone you work with will be the same as you and you might not get along with them. Everyone has different levels of expertise and skill. Sometimes, you’ll end up working for someone you don’t like, sometimes it’ll be the other way around. I’ve gotten to see how people interact in a real work environment. Although things usually work out alright, we often run into rough spots. Everyone has to learn how to get along with different kinds of people. To this end, FIRST doesn’t just prepare you for engineering, it prepares you for life.

FIRST has also given me an interesting way to meet new people. Aside from giving me something in common with FIRSTers I happen to run into during my life outside of FIRST (yes, this has happened), it also brings new people into my life. It seems that 1351 has made a tradition of taking our alliance partners out to dinner. Although I try to contest the venue every time, it doesn’t make the whole experience any less fun. I don’t plan on going to Alaska any time soon, so FIRST is probably the only chance I’ll get to meet people from 568. (It’s also fun to see them wear shorts in California’s “warm” high-60 degree evening.) There’s also 980 from southern California. I don’t make my way down there too often either. And how can I forget the people on CD and our many thought provoking discussions. I always look forward to coming here to see how someone has riled up the community and invoked a new conversation about life, the universe, and everything.

And of course, there’s the people right here at home. I’ve never been on any other teams, so I can’t really say if 1351 is unique in some way, but it has been fun. Where else can I listen to someone’s late night, misguided attempt to explain how to make diamond plate using peanut butter and in a “high pressure nitrogen environment”? How many places can you go to say “Remember not to touch that. It’s hot.” And hear a scream in the middle of the word “that”? There are also very few places that you’ll find such a diverse group working toward the same goal. We have family and friends, of different backgrounds, different ages, and different fields of expertise all working to make this one robot come together. To me, this is it. This is what FIRST is all about; everyone, from different places, coming together for a common goal. The events of the last several years has shown that this kind of fellowship only tends to happen in the face of disaster. FIRST shows that we don’t need to be helping each other to rebuild in order to work together.

There is one thing that bothers me about working with my team, though. I get older, but high school students stay the same age. Every year that goes by means that the new freshman will be more intimidated by me than the last batch. It makes me feel older and more distant from them than I want to be. It feels like just a little while ago that I was walking into school with them. I don’t want to rule above them, I want to be their friend. Hmm…it just hit me that I’m a junior in college. And apparently, I’m also 20. When did I turn 20!? I don’t feel that old. I still remember looking up to people my age. The point is, I don’t want them looking up to me, I want them to stand next to me. I guess that I’m still looking for a way to blur the lines between college student, “mentor”, and buddy so that I can work on getting them to see me more as one of them rather than a teacher. But, that doesn’t mean that I’m not looking forward to yelling at the dang kids for parking their hover car on my holo-lawn in 40 years. I especially can’t wait to tell Billy that grandpa didn’t have access to the internet until high school on his 233MHz computer.

FIRST has given me a different view of the world. I’ve done things that I may not have otherwise been able to do. All of these things will stay with me and forever shape my decisions and actions. I know I said that FIRST hasn’t changed my life, and it sounds like it has; I still stand by my statement though. I don’t just participate in FIRST and it’s not part of my life. FIRST is my life.

yes i agree many have threads have be written about what FIRST means to them, what is about and all like mentioned above.

I’ve always said FIRST is a great big community. we are joined together. it is a way of life in many respects. it instill us with values we hold and learned while growing up. the concept of gracious professionalism always sticks in my mind in what i do in my life and even before i became a part of FIRST. we all build a robot and have the spirit of competition but in the end we all learn and work together.

FIRST has opened many opportunities for me as I’m seeing lately. I have the advantage a lot of my fellow students haven’t had. things i didn’t learn in high school and did through FIRST are coming handy for me know. I went to a public school and went through IB. I never had like in some FIRSTers, a chance to go to a technical high school and be apart of engineering programs. But with FIRST and IB, I feel I’ve gained so much knowledge. I’ve met the coolest people in FIRST from the mentors, volunteers, teachers, and students. They have all inspired me in many ways and many have become some of my heroes and close friends.

FIRST is my life and many I know because we do the things we love. It relates all back to the learning and fun of FIRST in some form. You don’t have to be in engineering to love FIRST or science or math. You can have the love for the arts, public speaking, business and well anything. FIRST may stand for For Inspiration Science and Technology but you get a taste of everything if you want it, just look and you will see it there. Everyone wants to see real world applications for what they learn, here you can see it. One of the great things is that we get to see it for real, it’s not just a fantasy. You are building something and with time and effort it will work.

I thank the entire FIRST community. You all are great people in this world.

My life is FIRST and will continue to be. We all never want to leave it, once you are in you are in it for life. :slight_smile:

(that’s just my side of this story i know there are more better ones out there)