Why did you join FRC and why are you still here?

I’m feeling pretty sentimental right around now, I’m getting throwbacks on my Social Media to games and competitions past. I wanna know why you all, old and new, joined this wonderful competition, and why you’re still here now.

I’ll go first…

I first (haha get it) joined this organization because of a demo that my highschool team had held at my elementary school. Something about making something out of nothing really appealed to me, little did I know the grip that FIRST would have on my life.

Now I’m here to provide students of future generations the opportunities that I had to network, develop soft and hard skills for technical and non technical fields. But most selfishly I’m here for strategy and analysis looking at what others are doing and why, how we can beat them, how we could do it better and discussing different solutions to the many problems put in front of us.


I joined as a mentor my daughters freshman year. I didn’t know what FRC was, but she found out about it somehow, and was SO excited to join the team. During their fall offseason competition, I came into the shop one day to see what it was all about. They never let me leave. Now it’s the third season since she graduated, and I’m one of the lead mentors, along with another mentor who’s son graduated the year before my daughter joined.

I stay for a few main reasons…

  1. I love watching the kids learn and grow and gain confidence. Having new students come in not knowing a socket wrench from an allen key, never having built anything ever before, then watching them grow in skill and confidence until they are designing and building major mechanisms for the robot is very gratifying.
  2. This is a program that gives a high energy, exciting competition experience that a lot of these kids can’t get anywhere else. It’s all the excitement of a football game or basketball game, but for the nerds who often times don’t get to celebrate their skills and talents like that.
  3. The spirit of coopertition at FRC events is something I have never seen before. Watching teams help each other out, just before going to compete against each other teaches the students (and adults) something they don’t get anywhere else and I truly believe that sticks with them and makes them better people in life, no matter where their career might take them.
  4. It’s fun. I enjoy it and it gives me a creative outlet for my nerdy building side, and a reason to use my 3D printer, CNC router, lathe, and other things I wouldn’t know what to do with.

Long winded story about number 3 above, since I’m feeling a bit sentimental myself…

My daughters freshman year was the first time the team used pneumatics. We where at competition and where having troubles, so we put out a call in the pits for help. A few minutes later a young woman with bright pink hair came to out pit with a large tool box and said “Hi, I’m Jackie(?), and I’m here to fix your pneumatics.” This shocked a few of the boys I think. She had them going in short order. I wish I new who she was, or what team she was with, but I was new enough to not know the teams yet.

Fast forward to my daughters Senior year, this was the first time in our time with the team we made it to districts. She was the team captain and mechanical lead. The second morning we had some things to fix on the robot, things she knew the most about. When I got to the pit, she wasn’t there. I asked the other students why they weren’t fixing the robot, they said they weren’t sure what to do and needed her advice. I. found her in another teams pit, up to her elbows in their robot. I reminded her that our robot needed fixing too, to which she replied “They need help fixing their pneumatics, their first match is before ours. Tell the others to do (blah blah blah) I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Sure enough, they got the other teams pneumatics working fine, minutes before their first match, then she came back and finished up fixing our robot before our first match.

This is just one story of many of why I stick with FRC, and believe it is changing students for the better. One more quick story… Just this year at our first competition we had a heck of a fight to get through semi-finals, including some match replays which are always hard. We won, but barely and mostly due to mechanical issues on an opposing robot. As we where all leaving the field, one of the members of the alliance we just beat stopped one of our new students to give them advice on the finals. They couldn’t believe a team we just beat would give us advice on how to play the next matches. I saw the spark in their eye, the realization of coopertition, that it doesn’t have to be all rivalries and hatred for the opponent. That you can instead work together to compete against each other so that you can all learn, grow, be inspired and have fun.


@ExploitSage (my son) decided his sophomore year in high school that it was unacceptable that his school didn’t have an FRC team, so he decided to start one over the summer. I consider myself 3946’s first sponsor because I paid for the original web domain and hosting. I wasn’t able to officially mentor that first year as I took over as my church’s treasurer as build season was starting. But I kept coming earlier and earlier to pick him up, looking, learning, and giving advice (I have a couple of physics degrees). It was a slam dunk that I would be mentoring the next year. I’ve always loved to design and build and informally teach. And my dad was a ham radio enthusiast and electronics tech-turned-engineer, so the smell of hot resin core solder means home as much as baking bread. When @ExploitSage graduated, and his younger siblings (Veronica and @perebear) started high school, I thought I would have to give it up, but to my surprise, both joined the team! By the time they left the team, I was hooked. When the team moved out to a portable building and later to a building just off campus owned by the school board, I became the key mentor, helping design and managing the project during the build season, and planning and coordinating the off season. But unfortunately, some stupidity with the team at the end of 2018 made me leave the team. I’ve been volunteering ever since, mostly inspecting robots, queuing teams, and helping with load-in and load-out. I’ll likely resume mentoring when I retire in a few years.


I was on a business trip early in 1996, traveling with a very senior leader of the company I worked for, as a technical advisor during some discussions about a new opportunity. The customer was a guy named Dean Kamen who owned a company in New Hampshire, and developed medical products. As the meeting was ending, with agreement that the two companies would cooperate on a project in which I would design and prototype some brushless motors for a thing called Fred, Dean turned to my boss’s boss’s boss and said, “Everyone who does business with me has to support FIRST.” Without missing a beat, the executive pointed in my direction and told Dean, “Richard will take care of that, too.” I found myself left behind in Manchester when the rest of my colleagues flew home that night, so I could attend Kickoff the following morning. I came home to St. Louis late Saturday night carrying a kit of parts and a manual as extra checked baggage. Been hooked ever since.


I was brought on board in 2003 when (I think) NASA was trying to recruit four or five schools in our city to create teams, and I was one of the teachers that was approached about it since I taught shop classes. Honestly the 2004 game experience was bad; we built a trash robot with no help and felt like we’d been brought in as a diversity display. I didn’t think I would be involved beyond that year, but going into the 2007 season the new Regional Director connected with us again and convinced us to give it another try. Since then I’ve stayed involved because, even thought there’s an awful lot of “buck” involved, FRC is the best bang for the buck of any program I’ve been in as a service to my students. There are too many success stories for me to count, and I feel honored and privileged to be able to continue to work with these generations of students.


It’s a cheaper and healthier (?) addiction is what I tell all my friends.


Son was one of the team’s founding students as a senior. I joined as a founding mentor. I continue to assist the team each season. I was recruited to volunteer. I continue to do so at various So. Cal FRC events each season. Nice seeing both perspectives, during “robot season”.


Robots. Robots.


Joined: needed an extra curricular

stayed: TBH, idk


My middle school hosted a summer lego robotics course, which my mother signed me up for. After that, they started an FLL team at my middle school. Was then able to join the highschools FRC team. I absolutely loved being on an FRC team, it taught me so much. During college I wasn’t able to do much more than go back and support my old team occasionally.
But now, after college I mentor team and volunteer at competitions. I love teaching/working with kids, and I want to help give other kids the opportunities I had. AKA give back for all thay my mentors did for me in highschool. I plan to continue mentoring teams and volunteering as much as I can.


I thought it would be a good resume builder.

Turns out mentoring youth is pretty cool.


I joined FRC213 (DirtyBirds of Keene, NH) as a freshman nearly 2 decades ago. I was fairly new to the area, shy/awkward, and desperate for social interaction/new friends. Found out about this robotics club that seemed pretty interesting. Fast forward a month or so and I found myself at the school all day on a Saturday for an off-season event they held, and also found myself effectively babysitting the lead coach’s 2 younger kids (walking around while they showed me cool things. I have no idea how old they were at the time). I was already hooked, but I never could’ve guessed how deep those hooks could go. In the 2 months between that event and kickoff, a couple of the older students took the time to sit down and teach me AutoCAD (yeah, the boxy wireframe version… none of this fancy 3D parametric stuff, and certainly nothing web-based that can run on a phone in my pocket). Even better, the build season started, and I was asked to CAD a part for the bot, which then got machined and put on the final bot! Needless to say, this organization, and especially this team, was exactly what I needed at this point in my life.

Since then, I moved out of state again and into a school that had a team, albeit a MUCH less experienced one. That experience was obviously much different, but even better in many ways. I met some excellent mentors (and even still in contact with a couple), gained my interest in software, and met a few life-long friends. I stayed to mentor that team for a year after graduating, but my senior year included a “core” team of 4 students (3 seniors and 1 junior), but they folded after that year.

After that, I pretty much stayed in FRC to continue chasing that high I had enjoyed for 4 years. Throughout college years, I mentored a variety of teams and started volunteering at events. My second year as a volunteer, I think I did 5 or 6 events (including the last year of champs in Atlanta). I’m currently officially on the roster for 2 teams (secondary coach for one), support numerous others in the area as needed, and am quite active here on CD supporting the community at large. I continue to volunteer and will receive my 15-year pin next season. I’m currently at my second of 3 back-to-back events (NYRO->NYTR->PACA), and have volunteer assignments for 4 more after this week. I frequently volunteer as a CSA and/or FTAA, but sometimes fill other roles as well (RI or whatever else may be needed). More often than not, if I’m traveling with my team, I’ll end up volunteering at the event unofficially anyway.

So why do I stay? Because clearly I’m clinically insane


Don’t underestimate the option to reactivate far more time consuming and expensive hobbies.


why am i still here?


me2 me2

I joined because I needed an extracurricular, liked building things, and a few of my friends were already on the team so it wasn’t a totally alien social circle.

I’ve stuck around because I continue to learn things from the program and because people seem to like the tools I make, and because I like teaching.


I was a student on my high school team (204) from 2001-2002. When I went to college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I got involved as a college mentor in which my Intro to Engineering Design class focused around design and build of a FIRST robot in collaboration with the local team (1493). Through my various college projects and ultimately my aerospace internships in CA, I became dedicated to helping spread the excitement of STEM to local high school kids.
In 2012, I helped start several teams in my area who wanted to form a team but had no experience. I helped 3 teams get started in a single year (4123, 4276, 4619) and ultimately my passion for aerospace engineering coupled nicely with my passion for mentoring technical projects. I have been heavily involved in the FIRST community ever since that time, mentoring different teams as my work locations have changed over the years. I suppose my end goal is seeing the students ultimately decide they want to become engineers too and follow my footsteps in the aerospace industry, and several of them have already. Of course, working on a FIRST robot also continues to teach me things as well – not just on the technical side, but also in people management, how to better convey ideas and how to build younger people which ultimately has improved my recent roles in my own company. FIRST is a huge time commitment – 600+ hours per year easily, but it’s well worth it!


I blame it all on my daughter’s 3rd grade teacher. She told my wife, “I really think B should do this LEGO robotics thing.” The next year they had a FLL team.

When she graduated from FLL we thought, hey maybe we should volunteer. So we were “gatekeepers” at the state FLL tournament, proud of the fact that we kept the technical judges on time!

When we went to her first FRC event, we found that sitting in the stands was kind of boring, especially on practice day. So we started volunteering at FRC too.

4 years of FLL and 4 years of FRC later, I kept going. I love to see what the kids come up with, both in FLL and FRC. And I tell myself that maybe it keeps me young?


I joined because I didn’t know any better.

I stay because I can’t think of anything better.


My fraternity brother blackmailed me into joining.

My niece and nephew convinced me to come back after 4 years of minimal involvement when they got to high school and joined my old team.

Friends, fun, family and an famous streak has kept me at least peripherally involved for 20 years.