We stand on shoulders of giants

Education is one of the most fundamental ingredients in the evolution of our knowledge. It happens every time we past our values to our children, and them to theirs. By inheriting wisdoms from our ancestors, we learn from old mistakes and build new theories and concepts on top of that foundation. This accumulation and development of knowledge is the reason we continue to advance as a species. Everyday we understand more about our world, every day we learn to solve harder problems.

Our collective understanding and knowledge is the reason the world is what it is today, which came from people who believed in them. Every technology came from scientific principle developed by scientist who needed to understand this universe, every nut and bolt came from engineers who designed them to put things together, every educational institution came from teachers and professors to pass their wisdom to the students, and every philosophy is created by thinkers who needed to understand our mind. This world is shape by its people and their ideas. Everything in our society is a result of our thoughts. As long as we believe in ourselves and all that we hold dear to our heart, we can use our ideas to change the world and make it a better place.


To many of us the old FIRST logo symbolizes all that we hold dear to our heart. Throughout the course of 13 years, we connected the shape of red triangle, white circle, and blue square with many values we found in this program: Gracious Professionalism, Inspiration, along with our entire history since 1992. Only, we’ve taken it for granted until it is taken away from us.

In many ways, the emotional outburst immediately after the announcement is our ways of grieving for the lost. Some were very disappointed at the new design, some quietly accepted it, some demanded we go back to the old design, others cheerfully welcomed the new shape of red white and blue… Yet, in the mist of these excitements and disappointments, we seem to forget that things important to us never really disappear. If they really mean that much to you, they will continue to exist in this world in your heart, even though they are no longer physically there.

All that is represented by the previous FIRST logo will continue to live in those who designed a robot to compete with 11 other teams in a New Hampshire High school, built an arm to pick up inner tubes in Torroid Terror, and stayed up all night trying to understand the concept of “Alliance”. Mentors like Al Skierkiewicz, Andy Baker, Dave Kelso, and Mike Martus are around to share old tales and experiences with the new kids. These historians are the links between our past and the future. FIRST’s values and ideals will be kept alive as long as they continue to pass every bit of their knowledge and wisdom to the generation to come.

Oh, by the way, this passing of knowledge might sounds familiar to you, its call education. Oh, and the values and ideals taught by the mentors, they are responsible for shaping this program and logo in the first place.

For those of us who are still grieving for our lost, it is time we put our emotions aside and go back to our daily lives. If you really feel strongly about having an icon to represent your passions and your standards, I challenge you to go to college, open your mind, learn everything you can, start your own company/organization, and make this world a better place according to your values and ideals. I dare you to work harder and be more successful than Dean Kamen and Dave Lavery. I challenge you to do something about your feelings and passion instead of telling somebody else to do it.

I dare you to do what I decided to do a long time ago.

I stand by here today as one of the younger generation of FIRST participants to say I am not afraid of what’s ahead in the future. There are bound to be changes and challenges ahead that demands 100% of our mind and strength, but still I say with utmost confidence that I am not afraid of the future, because we are not alone in this journey. We stand on shoulders of giants who gave everything they got to put us where we are today. We inherited every arsenal you can possibly imagine in the form of mathematics, science, engineering, philosophy, literature, art, music, and history. Most important of all, we have FIRST and all the mentors in this program to thank for busting their behinds to make us who we are today.

If our ancestor had the ability to overcome natural disasters, fatal disease, devastating wars, and still managed to be enlightened and achieve major break-through’s, so can we. Only, we will be more successful than they are, and our future generation more successful than we are.

That is a promise.

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Well said Ken. I once attended a workshop by Alan November, an accomplished educator, architect, city planner, technology innovator, and speaker. November travels the world speaking about education, technology, and the future. ( www.anovember.com ). He consistently talks about his truth only being true today and that it all could change tomorrow. The key to a better future, November contends, is about “unlearning” or setting aside what we believe as true for a fresh look at tomorrow and what is possible. The fresh look is not discounting what we knew, nor does it mean we were “wrong” in the past. It simply means evolving without hanging on needlessly.


The term you are looking for is “life long learner”. After 31 years of teaching I am no longer sure that education and learning are the same thing. Education has become the establishment. Education has become a mandate, a right of passage, a place to spend time with your friends. Learning is what takes place in the classroom. It causes the eyes to sparkle, the face to grin, the ears to tingle. Education takes place in offices. Learning takes place where you are. This is what makes FIRST so outstanding. Learning happens in a shop, a lab, a classroom, at a regional, in backyards, at restaurants, and on airplanes and buses. FIRST has expanded the classroom to meet the world. After 8 years with FIRSt, I no longer worry about the future. We do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants.


Slightly off topic, but I urge anyone who has not read the following to do so. It’s an amusing insight into what Newton meant by “I stand on the shoulder of giants.”


Firstly, well said Ken. You are always there to address things when needed.
Second, I was just thinking about “unlearning” things so that I can move on with life. The FIRST logo did seem a little odd to me, but I didn’t really spend time commenting on it because I saw no purpose. I don’t have the source, but a survey was taken which showed that most successful[in terms wealthy] people actually had more “unlearning” to do than “learning”.
I think its time to settle with the new logo… and start to become successful?:stuck_out_tongue:

Two years ago I was invited to a dinner hosted by the publisher of Esquire, along with a bunch of people that were being written up in the magazine. At the conclusion of the dinner, some of us were asked to say a few words. I sat there for a few minutes composing my thoughts while the other two started things off. When my turn came up, I could only think of one thing to really say: as I stood there looking around the room, I saw the faces of a Nobel laureate, the Mayor of Balitmore, a surgeon that had rewritten all the books on heart surgery, a biologist that had completely redefined the human genome project, and other examples of the best of my generation. I was in awe of the things they had built, the works they had completed, and the human creativity they represented. But I had to warn them not to rest easy. You see, I had the good fortune to spend a considerable amount of time each year with some amazing representatives of the next generation, and could glimpse the things of which they were capable. Given the spirit, innovation, and passion that they displayed over something as small as a robotics competition, I knew that when they got serious about changing the world they were going to make my generation look like Luddites in comparison. And the very hardest thing that I was going to have to do for the rest of my life was struggle to stay just one step ahead of them whenever I could.

So I leave it to all the students, alumni, and future mentors to please prove me right.

So far, y’all are doing pretty good! :slight_smile:


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Ken, once again your words amaze me. I actually haven’t been paying attention to the logo thread because to me FIRST isn’t about the logo so it didn’t occur to me that it mattered all that much.

But your post struck home, nonetheless. Change is scary. The unknown is scary. Familiarity is comforting. Routine is comforting. (“May you have an interesting life.” is a Chinese curse, not a blessing). But routine becomes boring and I’ve seen way too many people accept things like bad jobs and dysfunctional relationships because of how comfortable that familiarity is. I don’t really support radical change as a way of life, but I know the wisdom of finding a balance between change and tradition.

Thank you for those words, Ken.


Go away change. Come back tomorrow, maybe I’ll be ready for you then.

The impression I’m getting is that most of the people who oppose the logo change object to it mostly because they see it as a step in the wrong direction graphically not because of their resistance to change. I think resistance would be reduced tenfold if FIRST had produced a logo that was an enhancement, and the concensus seems to be that this is not the case. How much has been invested into changing the logo? Is it too late to turn back? Or do we have to plow on lest we risk destroying our “Brand Image Consistency” :rolleyes:

Essentially, I don’t think people are afraid of change, their just afraid of that shudder grotesque abberation :eek:

Ken, every time I see one of your posts I shutter. They are sooo long. I know though that I have to read them because of the insight that you give. The gentle reminder here is another perfect example. You gave the exact reason I love FIRST. Keep up the great words of wisdom.

I am terribly sorry Steve for making you shutter. Next time I make a long post I will split it into shorter paragraphs and PM them to you in the course of several days and make sure I include dramatic ending for each of them so you won’t get bored by them :wink: (LOL).

In all seriousness, I understand these messages are too long… They are just so much fun to put together. I simply need to learn more about the fine art of English and have better writing skills in the future. If people are willing, maybe some of you can help me edit/shorten my messages before I post them.

Ken, (I just realize you can be called Ken L. too, kind of freaky)

Thank you for clearing that up for me. In trying to finish the message without spending weeks in it, I was unable to define things as precisely as I wanted to. You are absolutely right. I just wish education and learning aren’t so different in this world. I recently discovered I am a “life long learner” when I realized how much fun it can be, I only wish all students can discover the same joy, though I understand it is better for everyone to find their own style of learning.


I first encountered the term “unlearning” from R. Buckminster Fuller, the inventer, architect, engineer, mathematician, poet, and cosmologist who invented the geodesic dome (most of you know what it is, the Epoc dome is a geodesic dome).

When Bucky was early age twenty(I think), he lost his job, all his money, and had a wife and daughter to feed. He spoke about the moment when he decided to turn his life into an experiment: How can a single person be successful in this world. In the next few years, he spent most of his time unlearning everything he knew, and re-think about everything in the world. That’s when he transform from failure to success.

I can strongly relate to unlearning because when I came to America in 1995, I had to unlearn every bit of my chinese culture in order to fit into this society. Then I joined FIRST and unlearned everything I knew about learning, and continue to do so until this day. I was very fortunate to have an early start. Some people never unlearn anything in their lives. Everytime I unlearn something I clear my world view a little bit and understood more about this world. It is a very valuable skill to have as a life long learner. I wish it can be taught like grammar or arithmetic, though I understand everyone need to go through their own journey to discover it.

Thank Ken,
These are excellent words to live by, again, amazing insight and fantistic ability to convey your thoughts.

(This is another classic FIRST posting that goes into my ever growing collection of thoughts and stories from FIRST’ers) :slight_smile:

Excellent statement Ken. You’ve made a wonderful point, one that I forgot about.

Logos are just that, logos, pictures that represent an organization. What really makes one though is what they do, what they contribute, etc. The change in the logo doesn’t change FIRST and it’s purpose. Rather, it just gives a new feel to a growing cause.

And as far as the giants are concerned, I can’t wait till I become one with them. I can’t wait till people start looking up at me, stand on my shoulders, or at least learn about me, and know that I am here to help. I personally believe that I’ll take a position of leadership no matter what. Just remember, we as humans are all in this together. (I think Ken made that point, but it just doesn’t hurt to repeat it.)


While we all look back and appreciate the shoulders of the giants of the past upon which we are standing, let us not forget that we are the giants of today. Ours are the shoulders on which others will be standing in the future.

After your experience with FIRST is over as a student always remember where it was you came from and what it was that shaped you. If you decide to be a teacher and a group of students want to start a team, be the shoulder. If you become a person of authority in a company and students from your local school show up looking for support, be the shoulder. If you are a business owner and a local teacher needs team support, be the shoulder.

Always remember…Be the shoulder.

The more I thought about learning and education, the more complicated they are to me.

There are many paths you can take in the formal education system, people choose where they want to go based on many factors, such as interest, career, money, and so on. There are also many things you can learn without the education system, and people choose what they want to learn based on many factors too, but more toward interest and what you already know (in other words, you are more likely to learn something you have some knowledge about).

It is a matter of how to develope people’s interest, in other words, how to inspire them about a certain field.

I am more and more convinced that education, learning, and career are the paths we have to take in our lives, but inspiration is what open the doorway that lead us to those paths. Without inspiring kids to be more enthusiastic about science and technology, they are less likely to follow this field of studies/career. Without inspiring kids about curing disease, or creating a music master piece, they aren’t going to want to become a doctor, or a musician. There are many paths out there, but inspiration is the key to the doorway of those paths.

Of course, there are certain mandatory paths we each have to go through, such as language, basic math skills, and other things we learn when we are small. There are other mandatory paths you have to take depending on what field of studies/career you decided on, such as calculus and physics for engineering, writing skills for journalism, and so on.

I think the key is to inspire the students as much as possible, while getting them to complete those mandatory paths so they have a better foundation for the future doorways/paths. The hardest thing to do is, how do we balance between how much is mandatory and how much is by choice. And meanwhile, how do we balance between teaching them to know and teaching them to think.

Very tricky thing to think about.