When were you inspired?

As we prepare to start up our team again this year, with several major changes in organization planned, I have been reading through several old threads on FIRST philosophy, on competitive spirit vs. inspiration, on Student build vs. Mentor build, etc. Most of these threads are dominated by abstract-thought posts, mostly by long-time Mentors and Engineers. However, one topic that I haven’t seen addressed along these lines very much is stories of when FIRSTers, particularly current or former students, were inspired by FIRST.

So in this thread, you may post stories of when you were inspired. Was it a gradual event, over the course of several years in FLL, FTC, and FRC? Was there a specific moment, like your first regional, seeing a Beatty bot for the first time, or a memorable moment during build season?

For engineers and others who have never been in FIRST as a high-school student, post when you were inspired to help out with FIRST’s goals. Or, if an event completely unrelated to FIRST inspired you to be an engineer, post that.

I’ll start. I joined FLL in fourth grade. Throughout my first three years, I found it very fun, but not life-altering. Then in my fourth year, we went to our first competition, a “scrimmage,” which was actually larger than most state competitions. We saw a team pull off a task that we had been trying and failing to do the entire season in a completely different and spectacular method. On the car ride home, me and another team member started discussing ways to combine their method with ours. We eventually went to my house, where we worked for over 5 hours nonstop to completely redo our original design and program for that task, with it eventually working. As I went to bed that night, I thought “How sweet would it be to do that for a living?” From that moment on, I’ve been inspired.

You know you’ve overdosed on FIRST when you talk about joining it like a religious experience.

Going to Nationals in 2002 (my second year).

I was awestruck by everything. Showing up and seeing what amounted to a small tent city in a parking lot at Disney World, with a massive stadium set up around Einstein, plus all the amazing robots, and people. Particularly seeing the Einstein eliminations… 60 vs 71 and 180 vs 71 were instant classics.

I’m very glad I made it to the last year it was in Orlando. It’s been a completely different experience every year since then. Orlando had so much more atmosphere and camaraderie between teams than Atlanta seems to. You couldn’t go anywhere around the various Disney parks, or other local attractions without running into multiple other teams. Plus the vast majority of teams all stayed at the Disney hotels, so everyone was in a central location and could hang out.

Those were the days…

OK, I am going to violate a rule a little bit here, and re-tell the story of the first FRC competition I ever attended. The competition itself was an amazing experience. But the inspiration came from the effects of that competition on our entire team, and the lasting effects of the lessons we learned there.

The first FIRST competition I ever attended was the Championships in 1996, held at EPCOT in Orlando. This was way back when the entire competition was held on the little stage at the American Adventure Theatre in the U.S.A. pavilion at the back of EPCOT, not the big “Olympic Village” that sprawled all over the parking lot. We had absolutely no idea of what we were getting in to that year. No one on the team had ever seen a FIRST competition, or even a FIRST robot, before. The lead teacher was the only one that was able to go to the kick-off, so literally all we had was a kit of parts, a rule book, and a complete misunderstanding of what we were supposed to do.

We spend six weeks building a thing that vaguely resembled a robot – but only when you looked at it with the lights really low and your eyes all squinty. There wasn’t a straight line or square corner anywhere on it. It was painted with poster paints, and decorated with a big smiley face, with a few business cards stapled on (tape was forbidden!) to provide the required corporate logos. The chains connecting the motors to the drive wheel sprockets stayed on perfectly - as long as we didn’t try to actually move. We then spent the last two days of the build season taking the entire robot apart. You see, that was the first year that FedEx donated shipping the robot. The offer of free shipping was great, but there was a catch. The donation was limited to shipping three standard FedEx boxes of materials. You know, the ones that are 3x4x36 inches or 3x11x16 inches, or just big enough to hold a few pieces of paper. We thought that you HAD to use the donated shipping service – it never occurred to us that we could just pack up the entire robot into a crate and ship the whole thing as a unit, as long as we paid for it (the way virtually every other team did it). So we took the entire robot apart and made a pile of 5000 little tiny pieces, then poured all the parts into the FedEx shipping boxes and sent them on their way.

So we show up at the competition on Thursday morning and walk into the pits, which were in an open-sided tent in the back lot behind the U.S.A. pavilion. Our eyes got as big around as dinner plates as we looked around at all the highly engineered machines and teams decked out in team uniforms and/or styled t-shirts, and realized how completely out-classed we were. We found our pit and looked at the pitiful little pile of FedEx boxes on the floor waiting for us. Next to our pit on one side the Baxter Bomb Squad already had their machine out of the crate and was going through pre-flight tests. On the other side the robot from a certain other unnamed team was sitting under a hand-embroidered dust cover, with a velvet rope stretched across the front of their pit area to keep their students away from the robot. While most other teams spent the entire day practicing, we spent all Thursday re-assembling our little robot and getting all the parts to work again - or in some cases, for the first time.

Meanwhile, that certain other team on the other side of us spent much of the day Thursday watching us struggling to put our robot back together, while theirs sat under its hand-embroidered dust cover. After giggling at our plight, they turned and walked away. But then we got our first exposure to the FIRST standard of gracious professionalism. Four of the engineers and students on the Bomb Squad team loaned us tools and spent most of the day with us in our pit helping us rebuild the robot, for which we were eternally grateful (by the way, that year they built a very cool little custom suction cup out of polycarbonate that worked with the wimpy little 20psi pumps we had, and picked up the 24 inch balls like there was no tomorrow).

As Friday rolled around and we started the double-elimination rounds, we started to get our first taste of the competition. We won several of our matches, not too bad for a rookie team. We also discovered a huge tactical error we had made – not bringing a cart for the robot. The trudge from the pits out into the open area of EPCOT, dodging through tourists, and over to the American Adventures stage was about 150 yards. After about thirteen times of carrying the robot back and forth, we could swear that the robot was gaining significant weight.

Meanwhile, that certain other team on the other side of us spent the entire day very obviously laughing at us as we trudged back and forth carrying the robot, while they gracefully glided their robot around on a custom-built cart. But then late in the day on Friday we were up against them in a match and we won and knocked them into the “losers bracket” of the double-elimination competition. As we were carrying the robot back to the pits, we overhead one of their engineers complaining about “the crappy little robot” that had beaten them (yes, I still remember who they were, and yes, I admit that I can’t help but hold a little bit of a grudge).

That was when we learned a lesson from the folks on the Bomb Squad team and Larry Crawford from Team 120. They all told us not to sweat the occasional rough edges that may show up during a FIRST competition, and instead focus on what was really happening. The students on the team were getting a chance to apply all the theory they had learned in the classroom. They were getting a chance to work with adults as peers, and see how professionals worked. They were getting the opportunity to see other great and soon-to-be-great teams in competition, and hang out with them to make new friends and exchange information. And a whole new generation of technically literate engineers, technologists, scientists, and inventors was being created right in front of us.

With that perspective, we set out to get as much out of the event as possible. We met a whole bunch of up-and-coming new teams like the Baxter Bomb Squad, the X-Cats, Orange Crush, Technokats, Tigerbolt, Wildstang and a young Chief Delphi team. We had the chance to watch several of these teams go on to become some of the best-known teams in FIRST. As a young team, a lot of our focus was on the “competition” part of the program, and we really wanted to get good enough to take on some of the emerging powerhouses of FIRST. Chief Delphi, with their very impressive performances during those early competitions, quickly became a team that a lot of our students wanted to defeat, with the reasoning that “if we are ever good enough to beat them, we can beat anybody.” But in the process, we had a lot of discussions about HOW Chief Delphi got to be as good as they were, and the obvious emphasis they put on simplicity, creativity, quality in their designs, and their whole approach to the FIRST program.

I knew that the students on our team really understood what FIRST was all about when, two years later, our unofficial team motto changed from “we want to BEAT Chief Delphi” to “we want to BE Chief Delphi.” And ever since, the whole focus of our team has been less on the competition itself, and a lot more on the build season and making sure that both students and adults get the most out of the entire experience.

So to all those teams that inspired us during our early years, and helped us figure out how to focus on the most important parts of FIRST, we want to once again give a big “thank you!”



For me, it was probably the competition and Chief Delphi. A public forum really let me connect with other teams in a way that I couldn’t in any other program.
I don’t think it was any one WOW moment although I’ve had a lot of those and they are all inspiring.

thanks, Vivek

Ditto, but for me it was 2007.

I don’t think that I was ever really inspired by FIRST in the sense that most people expect the inspiration mechanism to work. I have always been interested in design and engineering, though FIRST has given me tremendous opportunities to learn about those interests in non-traditional and exciting ways.

I’ve tried to tell this story a bunch of times on these boards and it never quite comes out right and I delete what I’ve written and move on. I’ll try to do better here.

In 2002, I was at the Championship for the third time since starting FIRST in 1999, and though I was in college, I was not mature or useful enough to be a mentor in any capacity. I’d just lead a rookie team through the first, very successful season and managed the design and production of my first robot, but I was feeling around in the dark the entire way. I was young, naive and stupid – whereas now I guess I’m just stupid – and was still in FIRST because I got to play around with someone else’s money. It was still very much about me.

It’s a shame that most of the people in FIRST nowadays weren’t around to see how amazing the events held down at Epcot were. Dave mentioned the “Olympic Village” in his post and that describes it perfectly. We had a wrap party back then, too, but instead of carnival games and inflatables, everyone was invited into Epcot’s Future World West – home to The Land, The Living Seas and the Imagination Pavilion. There was food everywhere, dancing, and we had free run of the attractions in each pavilion.

One of those attractions was Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, a 3D film sponsored by Kodak and part of the Imagination Pavilion. The theater sat 600 people, but before entering, everyone was first loaded into a preshow room and asked to watch a short film, provided by Kodak.

The film used a variation on Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors,"and the room was filled with 600 excited students, parents and mentors that probably had one of the most amazing experiences of their life in the last three days.

Words would pop up on screen, accompanied by pictures – imagination, creativity, inspiration – and everybody went nuts; cheering, screaming, clapping.

I’d never really felt like this was anything more than a neat diversion until that moment. Then, though, I immediately realized that I was surrounded by 600 people that wanted to make the world a better place. These were the people that are going to cure cancer and save the environment and campaign for human rights all over the world.

I’m reasonably intelligent, but I never thought that I’d be among the people doing that important work. It weighs too heavily on me – or maybe I’m just too easily distracted – but that night, in that theater among those people, I realized that the very best I could offer those people and my team is to be a good mentor and leader and give them all the encouragement they need to do the amazing things they’re all meant to do. I’m hard on them; heaven knows I’m hard on everyone, but I’ve become enormously protective of FIRST and of the circumstances that let that experience happen to me.

So, yeah – I guess that’s it. FIRST inspired me to become a pain in the patootie or something. :slight_smile:

For me it was probably attending the robotics boot camp. It was the first time I ever got to see a competition robot. Also being one of the students who got to assemble one of the KoP drive trains and help wire it was very inspiring. Also spending a lot of time since then on Chief Delphi has been a help in furthering my understanding of FIRST. Thanks team 1138 for running the robotics boot camp, Can’t wait until I get to compete.


You know, I thinkt he best thing for new members is the competitions environment. I was truly inspired during our fall competition. Wanting to go out there and compete again, was amazing.

Then, after regionals. There were perspective students in the stands. At least 5 walked up to me and said they were definitely doing this next year. It’s all about competing. winning or losing, competitions are always fun and get the adrenaline pumping.

For me, it was definitely more of a gradual thing.

I joined the team one Thursday in October, and they were like “hey, this Saturday, we’re going to a competition called ‘Bash at the Beach’, wanna come?” I didn’t know anything about what I was agreeing to, but I said I’d go. I was awestruck when I walked in, partly because it wasn’t on a beach, and partly because of all of the robots, the loud music, and the number of excited kids running around. You could literally feel the excitement in the air. They asked me if I wanted to go “on stage”, I had no idea what that meant. I decided the “coach” and “human player” position sounded good, so I was handed “The Game” section of the 2005 handbook to read, giving me a feel for Triple Play. I started to catch on to the game, I loved the strategy in it, and we won the two matches I coached, probably just from coincidence. Our team had won Bash @ the Beach the year before, and a reporter came over to interview us, and he started asking me questions… amazingly I was able to answer them all, in two days I had picked up a lot.

This whole event jump-started the process of the inspiration. Different events throughout the season helped me to grow to understand and appreciate everything that was going on. By a few months into my time on the team, I was considered a “senior member”, though a sophomore and a first year member on the team. Even then, there was more inspiration coming.

After placing 40th of the 40 teams at the Connecticut Regional with one qualification match to go, we were asked to join the alliance made of teams 177 and 176. While winning the regional felt good, by the time we went to the Championship it felt undeserved. I certainly got a new perspective on teamwork, strategy, and success from this experience. I watched 176 paly in our division and win EVERY SINGLE MATCH, I thought that was both incredible and impossible. That definitely inspired me (and I’m sure the rest of the team) in several ways, and it drove us to look at things differently and work harder until we re-created that for ourselves this year.

Two more seasons have passed since then, and I still see myself being inspired and touched at times. I also haved watched many other students grow and be inspired. For me, I think one of the most inspiring things is looking back on how I have grown and changed over my time in FIRST, seeing younger students grow and change in the same way and realizing, “wow, that was me three years ago” is one of the coolest feelings ever; you have an idea of how great this is for them and how much potential they have, and it hasn’t hit them it yet. I also really love doing demos for the other schools in the district, girl scouts, boy scouts, the town, etc. I love telling people about the program and watching their faces, it’s just the greatest thing ever to see the amazement and interest in their eyes, and everything else on their faces. I don’t think the inspiration ever comes all at once, and I don’t think it ever really ends.

Chief Delphi is definitely very inspiring. Checking it every and seeing what people in the FIRST comunity are thinking and doing is inspiring. (does anyone have a number of how many members there are on CD?)

Seeing elite teams duke it out at Nationals, IRI and many of the regionals is great. To me, there is nothing more inspiring than being at and competing at a regional. Second to that just sitting at your computer on a saturday and during the competions and watching soap gameday.

I’m atypical. I was inspired before FIRST even came into existence, while watching a PBS story on Woodie Flowers and his engineering design course (2.007?) at MIT. I found it fascinating, and I felt disappointed that I hadn’t had an opportunity to be part of something like that while I was in school.

Then, some twenty years later, my son entered high school and joined the TechnoKats. My decades-early inspiration resurfaced and I’ve been trying ever since to give more to the program than I get.

I was in the 6th grade and I was at my boyscout meetings and noticed that the older boys (also great friends of mine) where coming to meetings really late. It turned out they where coming back from FIRST. Over the course of my 3 years in middle school I kept hearing all of these stories, so what i was a Freshman in HS (the guys where Seniors) I joined US FIRST Team TRX 145. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. That years i was trained as a TIG Welder (something i enjoy very much). Triple Play inspired me to try my hand at becoming a Welder so I took a years worth of welding classes my 11th grade year. Aim High I sadly could not do FIRST cause I moved. But once I got my license I drove sometimes 30 miles to get to FIRST meetings for Rack 'n Roll and 30 mins back in the snow. One night I even flipped my car, but a week later i was going to meetings again. Rack 'n Roll made me realize that I love the mechanical part of the robot, the motors, gears, and chains. After much thinking I decided that being a pro Welder wasn’t what i really wanted to do. But i loved mechanical stuff, but I also loved cars and custom painted cars. So my senior year I took an Autobody class at school. I liked it, it was fun, but repetitive. Overdrive was my last, fav, and best year. Even though i was not a team leader, I acted as one in the shop, if I wasn’t welding I was making sure things where getting done. I knew that robot inside and out. Most things went smoothly and we even had a week to debug and test, a team first. Since I knew the robot so well I was put in charge of talking to judges after being knocked off the driver team. After a full day of talking to the judges with one of our team leaders, who did most of the coding for our hybrid mode, we walked away with the Rockwell Automation Innovation in Control Award. Even though it was a team effort to get it, some Mentors flat out told me that it was the talking of me and our team leader with the judges, why we won the award. Now that I’m graduated and now 1500 miles away from the team in Florida, where i’m going to school for auto mechanics, I’m eager to join a Orlando area team if time allows me. SO my inspiration was my great friends talking to me about FIRST. But most impotently FIRST has inspired what I wanna do with my life. I thank the FIRST Foundation for everything they have done

Mine was kinda gradual. I don’t think I really *got *it when I joined, but after that I wanted to be able to do what all the other people did and could do. I wanted to prove myself in some way, wanted to make things move and work, to say that I did something. I wanted to show people that I could do all this whole “robotics” thing, show the fun in doing it. I really got attached during the last year, when I believe I learned the most. My inspiration comes from showing people what I do. It’s sort of my drive. And making things. I love to make things move. I can only so much, but it’s enough that it makes me happy.

It was first when my grandfather had my sister,myself and my mom go see the robot for the first time in 1997. That’s when I wanted to keep going back and seeing the progress of everything and keep going to regional’s (especially the NJ regional when it was still in the Rutgers gym). But more than seeing the robot,or anything really dealing with robots, having Mike Sperber as a mentor for essentially 75% of my life now has been a huge inspiration for me with robotics, my educational career, and more or less every other aspect of my life. Without him I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now. He’s really taught me to not think outside the box, but to make a new one, and now even after I’ve left my high school robotics team, he’s there for me and has helped me since going to college just as much, if not more than he did when he was mentoring me in high school.

For me meeting people and sharing stories is what made me realize that this is something I’m going to continue doing. Tim Baird and Mike Sperber have really given me the inspiration and drive to stay with FIRST and be a mentor. And it’s pretty awesome.

Oh, and that one time when I saw my mom cry because we finally won Chairman’s in 2002. That was pretty cool, celebrating with my whole family, and my team. And what’s more inspirational than teen pop sensation Mandy Moore playing right after you win Chairman’s?!?!

Ha…on Mandy…:rolleyes:

My very first kick-off was what really got me hooked; I remember getting sucked in by the excitement in the room, and thinking that I couldn’t wait to be that excited about something.

One of the best moments of my career in FIRST so far, however (and the moment that showed me our team is doing its job), came this year at Chesapeake. My 7-year-old brother had done a school project on Mars a month or so earlier, and I asked Dave if I could introduce him and snap a photo. When I told my brother he was going to meet “the guy in charge of the Mars rovers” as he’d called him, the look on his face was priceless. It was the same look he’d gotten a year earlier, when he’d met a professional basketball player.

That my little brother was as awed by a rocket scientist as by a professional athlete was, to me, the most motivating moment in my experience so far.

I was actually “inspired” before FIRST came into my life. I was inspired through the building events of Science Olympiad. Then, the advisor that I worked with for Science Olympiad told me about FIRST, and myself and another student worked to make it a reality at our high school. I’ve become more and more hooked ever since then, but I’ve been hooked since Science Olympiad.

Well i was put in a class and i loved it then i joined the team and it sucked but i was inspired to make it not suck:yikes: :yikes: :yikes: :yikes: :yikes: