What skills acquired in FIRST are applicable to aviation/aerospace?

I’m sure we have lots of aviation/aerospace people on here, right? I’m working on a proposal for a grant that is from a local aviation-related organization. One of the questions (the most important section, it seems) is this one:

“SPECIFICALLY outline the goals of your program and that you clearly express which aeronautics/aviation skills students/participants will gain by participating in the program.”

We’ve got some aerospace-affiliated mentors and I’m going to run this question by them, too, but I thought I would toss this one out there to see if anyone has insights that you can share. Any thoughts? TIA

(Side note: it seems that trying to fund a new team is way more difficult than trying to get funding for an existing, successful team. This starting budget of $0 is brutal, but we’ll get there! Writing 1-2 proposals per week, and starting other fundraising soon…)


My gut instinct is to tell the story of how students who graduate your program will go on to fulfill the mission and vision of that aviation organization.

If they focus on technical topics, talking through the hands-on mechanical, electrical, and software development skills that students acquire.

If they focus more on professional stuff, maybe talk about the teamwork aspects, project planning, or “soft” people/business skills that students pick up.

If they focus on community service, talk through the outreach and community improvement aspects of FIRST.

Specific to the technical side, I know there’s plenty of crossover with PID and state-space control concepts. A lot of the simulation features that are being added of recent are a key component of controls development in an industry where testing on hardware danger-fraught. You could also speak to the tight integration between software-implemented control algorithms and the electronics and hardware under control, as well as the human issuing commands to the system.


Thanks - that’s good input. I kind of have the first four points, so I think more specifics like the last paragraph are helpful on this one. We failed with this proposal a couple of years ago with the typical “benefits of FIRST” spiel that often works for other entities so I was thinking additional technical details would help on top of the inspiration bits. Last time we even included how our high school team members were interning at a major aerospace company as proof and it didn’t work out, but I’ll need to review that one to see what else we did wrong.

EDIT: the organization is focused on increasing the aerospace sector in our area as a whole, so I guess it could be anything.

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From my experience with both FRC and aviation, the biggest correlations I’ve found are business, human input (growing even more relevant as time passes in terms of indirect control via “fly by wire” systems) and the design and manufacture of components, specifically pertaining to some of the goals we attach to our designs (such as being strong, but lightweight) and the materials and methods we use to manufacture those designs. Aviation and aerospace work with aluminum a lot, and my experience working with aluminum on a FRC level was a big help working with aluminum on an aircraft maintenance/manufacturing level. A big thing in aviation and aerospace that goes somewhat under the radar is also leadership. Having strong leadership qualities is a big benefit working in aviation and aerospace, a great example of that is the fact that the program I’m enrolled in at college isn’t just commercial flight, it’s Commercial Flight and Aviation Leadership. Hopefully that helps, if I knew more about the specific organization I would probably be able to get a more refined idea of what might be beneficial to include but this should be a good generalized starting point


OK, you just threw one right up my alley. Mine… and a LOT of other SoCal mentors. If you happen to be out here before the grant is due I’m relatively sure we can arrange a meetup.

As far as mechanical/manufacturing skills–well, I mean, that’s something to put in there, though I wouldn’t say that students learn aerospace-grade work. (Despite my best efforts–former technician, now not in that industry.) They do learn the core concepts, and can build on those to be more useful sooner.

I would focus more on the soft skills: Thinking, following procedures, troubleshooting why stuff doesn’t work, keeping cool under pressure, compliance with specifications (glares at teams that don’t read the Manual).

Designwise, pushing the envelope safely, designing structures both strong and lightweight, possibly some composite work.

Aerospace and aviation is a very large field. If you think you can narrow it down a bit, I might be able to push a little harder on one side or another (or ping appropriate people that I know work in those areas).


While I can’t provide direct aviation/aerospace advice because my career has mostly been in ocean acoustics, FIRST-acquired skills are useful in any STEM or STEM support career (thinking marketers and writers for tech firms here, likely lots of others).
In my graduate school years majoring in physics (1984-86), I taught an introductory physics laboratory. Most of the students were totally unprepared to draw a force diagram, understand dimensional analysis, or figure out what information provided was useful and what was incidental. I certainly believe that I sent the alumni of 3946 to college much more prepared than most of the freshmen I encountered in the 80’s.
From a general marketability standpoint, the FRC alumni I’ve caught up with all credited their FRC years with useful skills. My own children, an Information Security Engineer, a flood and fire remediation team lead, and a balance technician for HVAC and water systems, all use skills they developed in FRC on a daily basis to solve both routine and unusual challenges. There’s no question that in each case they had to learn their craft (as did I after a Masters in Physics, and yes, over 30 years into it, I’m learning more stuff on a regular basis. And OBTW, stuff I learned about planetary gearboxes from mentoring FRC came in very useful in a product I delivered Monday of this week. No ****.)
The bottom line is that FRC doesn’t provide skills SPECIFIC to any field, but it does provide general technical skills and problem solving skills that are certain to be useful in solving a wide variety of problems.


You could consider mentioning the support the U.S. Air Force gives FIRST. Clearly they see the tie-in!

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I know little about professional engineering and less about the aerospace industry. However, building on the soft skills concept, working under the design constraints of adhearing to a timeline, adhearing to spec standards, prototyping and iterating, and building and maintaining mobile workshops may all come into play.

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FIRST has integrated a lot of concepts that are applicable to any company that manufacturers complex machines (airplanes are some of the most complex machines out there).

If the sponsor is a manufacturer, these will be relevant / tangible to them:

  • CAD
  • working within cost constraints
  • working within weight constraints
  • working within schedule constraints
  • optimizing a mechanism for a task
  • operator interface (what we call human factors in aerospace)
  • automating driver tasks (autopilot)
  • maintenance (routine, preventative and AOG urgent)
  • sub teams with specialties that ultimately need to be integrated
  • vision systems (most avionics systems have synthetic vision capabilities these days)
  • IMUs
  • open ended problem solving

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