Why do you love FIRST?

I understand a general knowledge of why people love FIRST. But I want your full story, why do you love FIRST.?

you make robots that fight other robots

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Sniped me

The people.

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Alright, this is a long story. Buckle up.

The year is 2013. The game? Ultimate Ascent. And my father started teaching at a new school a few years ago. One day. He came home wearing a shirt. Despite me being in Kindergarten, I remember the shirt vividly. It was a black shirt with red, white, and blue frisbees on it coming out of the logo in the center. I asked “what is that shirt?” He responded “this is from robotics, I just became the coach for my school team.” Me being the inquisitive kindergartener I was, I started asking if I could go watch his robot in action. Soon, trips to the Javits Center became a yearly event to go watch his team play. By 2014, I was going to their Saturday robotics meetings every week to watch them build and learn more about their robot and the game. In 2015 I started an initiative to get a robotics team at my elementary school because I thought it was so cool. 2016 was the first year that I actually watched the kickoff event live and I absolutely loved it. 2016 was also the first year my elementary school had a robotics team. Additionally, in 2016 my districts HS team went to worlds. 2017 was an incredible year. As a rookie FLL team, we won the presentation award at our competition. My dads team also absolutely popped off with strategy and upset the whole competition to win a regional as the 8th seed alliance. 2018 was my second “official” year in FIRST and with my fellow 5th grade friends we won the Champions award and went to the FLL championship (local) where we won the project award. 2019-2020 were covid years so not much happened but 2021 I started another FLL team at my middle school where in our rookie year we won the project award, being the first team that wasn’t my original elementary school team to win the award in 5 years. 2022 was my first year in FRC and it fully lived up to my expectations of greatness. I also started an FLL team at all 4 other elementary schools and the other middle school in the district allowing others to experience robotics. 2023 was a large learning point on what not to do in building a robot (not gonna elaborate further). And lastly, in 2024 I became captain for my team, rewrote our dysfunctional design process, redefined the leadership staff, improved communication, created better and newer subteams, along with other changes. This led to a Dean’s List nomination for myself and dual Finalist placing at both of my teams regionals.

So yeah, thats my story. My love for FRC and FIRST in general was greatly shaped at a young age and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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I haven’t loved FIRST since kickoff 2011 when they told me if I didn’t support FTC I wasn’t a true FIRSTer.

I love my students and fellow mentors. I love Indiana FIRST. I love all my FRC friends that I have met over 20 years.

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Truthfully, it has helped me get through some really hard times in life when I was going through high school. I was bullied very heavily and no club really accepted me until I joined FIRST.

The community around it is so accepting, refreshing, and just right up my alley in terms of people I want to be around. To me, it really feels like a second family, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

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I love FIRST because, as cliche as it sounds, I have truly seen the impact it can have on the lives of the student participants. It’s real.

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Altruistic, non-athletic and competitive activity.

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Many reasons but this is the key to me. Students have to articulate ideas to adults that may hire them.

Life skills stuff.

The robotics part is cool too.

David

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All the amazing human being, the environment, and the spirit!

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360 in Portland, 2006 Aim High

I’ve been impacted a lot by being on a FIRST team, it made me a much better human being. The above photo was from my freshman year, 2006. We had a lot of fun together.

This photo is from my first year in Türkiye, managing the program. The impact is real. I’ve felt it myself, I’ve seen so many amazing kids go through it. I watch them grow up and continue on to amazing things.

edit: I also wanted to mention, FIRST is one of the few places where I’m more or less comfortable striking up a conversation with strangers sitting at the same table as me. We all have enough in common that I can overcome my social anxiety often, and talk to new people, and that’s something I really like. - The community is amazing.

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It’s all about the people for me. I love spending time with my students, the mentors are my closest friends, and the other teams and volunteers are a joy to work with. The robots are fun too.

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The people and the community - I’ve been involved with FIRST since I was 16 and our Physics teacher came in and told us about this meeting he had attended about a robotics competition that was going to be at VCU in the spring. (Note: I went to a government and international studies magnet school as a science nerd). A bunch of us kids met after school, roped in said Physics teacher and one of the moms, and I took charge of the meeting so we actually got something done. I became the de facto head of the team for two years until I graduated. I went to a university that hosted a competition during spring break each year - I volunteered every year and helped run the event, meeting so many amazing (now FMA) people, and volunteered at many FLL events.

Then I got married and had kids and stepped back for a few years. When my oldest was 4, I volunteered a judge at a local FLL competition. It was like putting on a favorite sweatshirt - and the cherry on top was my kid coming to see the competition and running up to me and saying “Mommy, can I do this next year?” Said kid is now 12 and going into 7th grade. She’s going into her 8th season of FLL (3 of Jr/Explore, 5 of Challenge), she watches FMA FRC live streams every season, went to Seneca this year for a few hours (until my younger one got overwhelmed), and went to Worlds this year with her FLL team that won the southern NJ region.

She always comments about how I know so many people - I remind her I’ve been in this community for 25 years. And some of the people I know have been doing this just as long. She’s gotten to meet many of my FIRST friends - and she and her FLL team got to meet the current team from my alma mater who also were at Worlds this year and for me that was an amazing moment.

Her little sister, my 5 year old, is starting FLL Explore in the fall as well (my husband is coaching that team, I’ve been our oldest’s coach every year and I’m president of the club we do FLL through). My husband calls FIRST competitions my happy place - he’s volunteered with me when we were in college because he knew how much those exhausting but so fulfilling days meant to me.

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This might be becoming cliche, but I still think it’s just so incredible that a group of teenagers will dedicate everything they have to innovation and coopertition. I really do think that being part of FRC has made me a better person as well as taught me STEM skills, and it’s fantastic seeing that process occur in other people. At first (pun intended), I didn’t think I had enough time for robotics. But then I was at a club fair, and I saw the robot on the table and time slowed down. It was like some sort of meet cute moment— I walked back and signed up. Because robots are just so cool. And despite the many jobs I do on my team, I still don’t directly work on the robot! Which goes to say that robots are so so cool and I don’t trust anyone who disagrees with that, but the one thing that might be cooler is the whole organization and community that has formed around striving to be better.

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I love FIRST because how much it and being on my team has done for me.

Before I was on my team, it would be common for me to not say anything during the school day, never talked, answered questions, or much of anything. But now I’m at least somewhat comfortable talking to people, especially people I have never interacted with before.

It’s also been getting me through the tough time I have been going through, it has given me an outlet for the stress and emotions that would build up during the day by allowing me to be near friends, build stuff and preventing me from just going home, throwing my bag down and just being alone for the remainder of the day.

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