I see the Dean’s list as comprising 3 things: “checking off” the items listed in the Awards section of the rule book, showing that the student will continue being involved with and promoting FIRST after graduating, and providing a “wow” factor.
FIRST provides the following criteria for the essay:
Criteria for selection of the FIRST Dean’s List shall include, but not be limited to a student’s:
· demonstrated leadership and commitment to the ideals of FIRST;
· interest in and passion for a long term commitment to FIRST and its ideals;
· overall individual contribution to their team;
· technical expertise and passion;
· entrepreneurship and creativity;
· ability to motivate and lead fellow team members; and
· effectiveness at increasing awareness of FIRST in their school and community
Given that criteria, you can imagine the judges going through the essays with a checklist and sorting them into piles - a pile with students who “check” every box, students who “check” most of the boxes, and everyone else. For that reason alone an essay should have something in it for every item on the list.
First also describes Dean’s List winners as:
The students who earn FIRST Dean’s List Award status as either a Nominee, Finalist or Winner, will not only be great examples of student leaders who have led their teams and communities to increased awareness for FIRST and its mission all the while achieving personal technical expertise and accomplishment, but it is the intention of FIRST that they will continue on, post-award, as great leaders of FIRST ever growing student alumni and as advocates of FIRST.
Given that description, you need to be able to show that the student has what it takes to continue on after they leave the team. They need to be involved with both their team and the community more than anyone else, and demonstrate the excitement, energy, and enthusiasm to help FIRST grow.
Finally, you need something in the essay that makes the student memorable. In my experience, all students in FIRST are above average. Every team has several that are exceptional, and every event is going to have a bunch of these students going for Dean’s List. When reading through all those essays, you need something that sticks out and is going to make the judges remember that essay after reading 30 of them. This is going to be something unique, amazing, and memorable.
Last year, our team had a Finalist:
Team 2177, The Robettes, would like to nominate Kate Azar for the Dean’s List. Over the past two seasons, Kate has showed the passion, ability, leadership, and community outreach this award was created to celebrate. At every meeting, Kate shows up with more questions than we’ve seen from a student. She has demonstrated the ability to build everything from an entire electrical system for a robot to a compact circuit board. When she was a rookie, she took on a leadership role within the electrical team, allowing the seniors on the team to step back and focus their energies on other aspects of the team. Finally, she initiated a process that has directly led to Best Buy becoming strongly involved with FIRST in Minnesota.
Kate’s passion for FIRST and our team has led to a better understanding of our robots for every student involved. Unlike most other students, she has read through all of the documentation for every part of the robot control system. She designed a test platform for motor controllers, allowing the entire team to clearly observe the differences between the 4 different types of controllers allowed this year. She then distributed these results through a white paper posted on Chief Delphi. Her tendency to ask questions and dive into the details of how and why things work has been a great benefit to both her and the entire team.
Her technical ability has easily matched, if not surpassed, our best graduates. When she was a rookie, she helped to design, test, and build two homemade optical encoders that were then utilized on the competition robot. As we approached the end of the build season, she worked harder than anyone else to get the robot wired up once the mechanical team was finished with construction. In the off season, she has increased her knowledge of the control system, helped to train new members, and presented at the MN Splash event, educating over 100 students and mentors from other teams about the control system.
As a student leader on the team, Kate has demonstrated all of the traits we expect from our leaders. She shows up early for meetings, helps to organize students and activities, and ensures the electrical team stays on task through the entire meeting. Outside of our regular meetings, she has organized and held special sessions to bring other members up to speed and to prepare materials for the meetings. Her natural energy and enthusiasm acts as a model for all other team members.
The night after kickoff of her rookie year, Kate as a very pointed question - why isn’t Best Buy sponsoring FIRST? She pursued this over the course of the season, working with mentors to write two requests for sponsorship applications. The first was for our team, while the second was for FIRST in general. Over the course of the next few months, she pursued these requests, eventually presenting directly to Best Buy’s CTO and the founder of the Geek Squad. When she was done, he simply replied “I get it”. The team received substantial funding from Best Buy, and FIRST was able to direct additional funding from Best Buy to three other teams in need. Best Buy also launched a program this summer called “Tech Teen Summit”, and as a result of our established relationship, The Robettes were invited to participate and lead a hands-on robotics project.
Kate has demonstrated over the past two seasons that she is, without a doubt, one of FIRST’s All Stars. Her dedication and energy at the meetings is an inspiration even to the mentors. Her knowledge of the control system easily surpasses any other student we’ve talked with. Unlike many other upcoming students, her rookie year we didn’t talk about how great a leader she would be in the future - we talked about how great a leader she already was. Her effort to engage the community, both within FIRST and without, has surpassed any other student we’ve ever had. Not only does Kate deserve this award, we feel she is the embodiment of what this award seeks to celebrate.
If you go through the essay, you can check all the boxes, and you have the “wow” factor with the Best Buy interaction, with the CTO providing a specific memorable moment. The only thing I missed was continuing on with FIRST after graduating… it’s just something I took for granted and never really stated.
This year, we had a Dean’s List winner at Champs a few days ago:
Team 2177, The Robettes, nominates Madeleine Logeais for the Dean’s List. In her three years on the team, Madeleine has shown the passion, leadership, technical expertise and community outreach indicative of a Dean’s List student. She has grown from an excited freshman prototyping at home to a junior who is one of the best captain’s the team has ever had. Her energy and enthusiasm for all things FIRST know no bounds.
One of our seniors said of Madeleine, “Robots are her life. She’s passionate beyond measure and brings vivacity and joy to everything she does.” Since she joined the team, her passion inspired her parents to join as mentors and encouraged her 7th grade sister to join as well. Her participation doesn’t stop with team meetings, either. She develops concepts outside of meetings and builds prototypes at home. Despite the weather cancelling two meetings at the start of the season, Madeleine’s perseverance and determination led to the development of a design over Google Hangout, and the creation of a CAD model that prepared the team to start final construction earlier in the season than ever before.
Outside of the team, Madeleine has had a huge impact on the community. She helped to arrange for media coverage of the team at an off-season competition that otherwise would have been ignored. When the team needed new drills, she decided to seek sponsorship from The Original Pink Box, a company that has a line of high-quality pink tools. When they declined to partner with the team, Madeleine persevered and led the team to enter a video contest for the company. After posting a high quality video to the company’s Facebook page explaining FIRST, FRC and our team, they reached out to us and invited us to send them a wish-list of products, resulting in a donation of over $1000 worth of equipment.
Madeleine has had an impact within FIRST as well. She helped to start an FLL program in the lower school last year, and has proven herself to be a dedicated mentor, helping that team to earn the Core Values award at an event last fall. In addition to her work with FLL, Madeleine has used any opportunity to help out the greater FRC community. Last fall she helped lead the team in our efforts as one of nine FRC teams participating in the Alpha Test program for the new control system. After fitting last year’s robot with the new system, Madeleine represented the team in New Hampshire during the Alpha Test weekend. She later presented our experience to other Minnesota teams at MN SPLASH to prepare them for the new system.
Madeleine has shown great technical expertise and inquisitiveness over the past three years. As a rookie, she developed more design concepts than any other students, and even built a prototype at home. In her second year, she took on the role of design lead for a multi-jointed arm, a type of mechanism the team had never previously attempted. The arm was both stable and reliable, enabling a 3-level climbing and helping to earn the team the highest rank it has ever achieved in competition. This year, she is helping to lead the team in the use of pneumatics, which the team has not used since its rookie year.
Over the past three years, Madeleine has shown that FIRST is much more than an entry on college resumes - it’s a way of life. She possesses the energy and passion needed to drive an already successful team to new heights. She has been a leader on the team every year, and was the first student to fill a new “junior captain” position. She has some of the strongest technical ability we have ever seen in a student, and combines that with community outreach both larger and more varied than some entire teams manage to do. One of FIRST’s best and brightest, she has both the capability and desire to give back to the program for years to come. She is a role model for other students, she exudes the spirit of FIRST, and her technical ability is unparalleled – Madeleine Logeais deserves this award.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the final version, but it’s close… one of the teacher’s did some small modifications to open up some space to add a line about Madeleine running out of class at any opportunity to help show prospective students, parents, and community members around the new STEM center the school built last year.
This essay checks all the boxes, provides a very memorable moment in the quote (which happens to have come from our previous Finalist, Kate), and very clearly shows that she will be one of those kids who never leave FIRST.
When I read your essay, Safiq, it’s obvious that you’re one of the exceptional students FIRST has, and I strongly encourage you to continue your efforts. For the essay, I see a lot of items you did as part of a group - “lead a group of 5 students”, “helped set up one of our big events”, “helped raised $11,000 with a team of 5”, and all of that is awesome… but the way it’s approached in the essay might be diminishing your specific impact for those aspects - it’s too easy for someone to read that and get the impression that the credit goes to the entire group, and not just one outstanding individual. If you look at the essays above for Kate and Madeleine, you’ll see that I tried really hard to call out what they specifically did individually that went above and beyond team participation. They each took different routes with different focuses, but both essays show they each took the initiative to lead the team and interact with the community on their own, promoting FIRST and helping to grow the local FIRST community.
I’ll leave you with a final thought. Frank stopped by our pit earlier in the week, before the Dean’s List ceremony. While talking with the students, he asked Madeleine what she thought of the interview process. Her response was “Well, at first I was really nervous, but then I got in there and we walked about robots and it was fun.” Frank seemed to think that was exactly what they were going for with the interviews!