Why do you volunteer? (Positive stories of volunteering for FIRST)

Let’s face it: if someone new to our world visited CD in the past few weeks, they’d likely think volunteering sucks. It doesn’t!

In fact, volunteering brings me (and many of my closest friends), some of the greatest joy. For me, it’s fulfilling work, it can be a lot of fun, and it’s a way to give back to a program that has had such an impact on my life.

I recently shared my thoughts for continuing to participate in the program on another thread, so I won’t belabor the point here. In summary, though: this is my home, these are my people, and I feel an immense sense of fulfilment by volunteering. This program is made or broken on its volunteers – and I like to help think I’m a cog in a machine that makes it run well so much of the time.

So, if you will, please share why you volunteer, the benefits to you, and anything else positive. We could use some positivity!

13 Likes

My favorite volunteering experiences were at events like Madtown Throwdown, Capital City Classic, Chezy Champs, Beach Blitz, and most recently Tidal Tumble.

What do all of these events have in common? They’re all run by a group of volunteers that focus on the team experience. Best people I’ve ever worked with. They get it.

17 Likes

I also shared my story on that thread, so I won’t repeat it all here.

Having said that, why do I volunteer? Probably for the same reason I was a volunteer EMT for a few years, and why I’m always the first to offer to help new people at work when they have questions. At my core, I’m a helper, a teacher. I personally thrive in an environment where I both have some semblance of authority and have the opportunity to share knowledge with others. Being a CSA/FTAA at events meets that criteria perfectly. In line with that, my heart is whole when I see students get excited because they’re able to move past whatever issue was ailing them and are now able to compete.

I volunteer because of the kids

6 Likes

Personally, I volunteer because of the people. I have volunteered for a lot of FLL events and for my first FRC event last weekend, and despite not really knowing anyone going to the competition, I was immediately able to make friends. I also like giving back to this community, because FRC was such a major part of my high school experience, and I love seeing how much energy all the students bring to competition.

I’m originally from Wisconsin and was volunteering for an event in Massachusetts since I am here for school. The greater Boston regional was the highlight of my spring break, and I feel like it kind of helped make up for the fact that I couldn’t make any competitions in 2020 cause COVID.

2 Likes

I volunteer to make things better in any way I can at an event. Also, to meet up with some great volunteers all over the area I work in. It’s mostly for the kids to be able to fully enjoy the events I am at. If they have fun, it’s a win in my book. If the event is happy, I am happy.

3 Likes

I volunteer as a mentor because as an FRC alum, I know first hand the impact effective mentorship can have on students. Nothing is more fulfilling or makes me prouder than seeing a student grow over their years on the team, further their education or pursue a career, and continue to do things with their lives that blow me away year after year after year.

12 Likes

I volunteer to give students and teams even a fraction of the amazing event experiences I got as a student. Being a volunteer my last year as a student showed me just how much work goes into putting on an amazing event for all teams. It’s also my way to give back to FIRST without overextending myself since I’m still in college. I look forward to returning home and getting more in the volunteer scene in the future though!

3 Likes

I got roped in early.

I think my first volunteering event was a pre-ship scrimmage, back in 2003, Field Reset. A couple years later in 2006 I started doing more volunteering (Field Reset and other roles–my dad was an FTA so I did a fair amount of field setup). After I entered college I started inspecting robots (2009/2010 timeframe).

The fun part for me started in fall 2013: the HR for LA asked me to be on the ref crew at the local fall offseason. I wasn’t interested… but I did volunteer to ref at a different regional the next year. 2014 was tough to ref… but I’m still here. As some folks in the rockstar thread have noted, I’m a yellow-shirt ref now, at least most of the time–it doesn’t get any easier but it does get more fun.

And why I’m still there? Well, somebody’s gotta do their best to make sure the questions get answered! I figure that if the student is in the box with a rules question, the best thing to happen is to have someone stop in and discuss with them what the rules say and why. And maybe myself or the ref crew messed up and there’s something we can fix–I ain’t perfect, no matter how much I try.

(And before someone asks: I haven’t needed to close a gate on someone yet. I’ve been close, but they’ve always been close enough–and I’ve tried to have them slow down so they could be safe as soon as I see that they’re present.)

5 Likes

I don’t know

1 Like

I wanted to provide an experience for those attending an event that was something more, that made them feel special and excited to be there. As an emcee we essentially do the same thing over and over again 100’s of times. But to the teams they really only experience it a few times in an event. Putting this into perspective and ramping up an event to be the culmination of celebration of their entire season in just a couple days and even more so a few hours of what is actually remembered can leave a lasting impact far beyond the event.

I only emcee 1 regular season event per year (Vegas this week, used to do 5-7 before FUN) but I do still train emcees and GA’s and try to instill the importance and impact that can be had into those coming onto the microphone for the first time.

8 Likes

I am mostly-retired from mentoring and wanted to keep playing robots. I looked at the volunteer paths that could benefit from my FRC and technical background and volunteered for the first time in FRC this year as a RI (even though I’ve been largely a software guy my whole FRC career). I was actually going to start last year but, y’know.

I was fortunate enough to have an FRC-friend who was already an RI walk me through a couple inspections at a scrimmage a week before my event so I was mostly able to hit the ground running. It also helped that our LRI was awesome and I felt like I was on the same wavelength as him in a lot of matters.

After doing one supervised inspection (which required another inspector to step in to help diagnose a frame short) I was set free into the blue yonder to inspect on my own. The seasoned inspectors immediately took me in as one of the flock and didn’t make me feel silly for seeking second opinions on anything, or asking questions to doublecheck procedures that I was “pretty sure” about from my years past.

I got to meet a lot of teams, help them get their robots on the field after passing them through inspection and then being told that they hadn’t shown up for multiple matches (!!! longer story), then cross my fingers and toes that their bot would drive in teleop (and celebrate shortly with them at their pit afterwards).

I got to experience clean wiring, followed my pen tip through nests of spaghetti, found out I love teams with foam floors after thinking they were silly for 15 years, and more. I also learned a lot about how to approach interacting with teams from my LRI and the other inspectors - I don’t think I necessarily did bad in this regard but I could definitely improve!

It was super fun and I can’t wait to do more next year.

(P.S. Any mentor who thinks their team can survive without them for a Thursday should give RI a try!)

4 Likes

This is quite a long story, so I’ll leave a summary at the end.

It started when I was a toddler watching my dad mod and update his white convertible Mazda Miata. I loved playing with the tools and stealing them to go play with them in my room. Watching my dad work was like a “wow” moment for me in my childhood. I am lucky to still have some memories of it.

In 2007, my dad got diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. During the time he had it, he didn’t stop his passion. He built an engine from scratch for his car, took out the A/C unit for racing gear, and did so many more modifications. It wasn’t until about 2009 timeframe, he got really weak. The doctors said his cancer was refractory (meaning it can’t be cured). In August of 2010, he sadly passed. I never knew what cancer was or that he had it until after he passed. My parents didn’t want to rob me of my childhood. It wasn’t until I saw my mom doing CPR on my dad’s body that switched everything.

I stopped playing with my dad’s tools. Had no interest in STEM. Even failed some classes to tell the truth. It wasn’t until freshman year of high school, one of my friends at the time pulled me over and said, “Krista, come join robotics with me!” I went over to the table during club rush and signed up all because my friends were doing it. There were LEGO mindstorm kits and VEX Robotics. Since I wasn’t with my friends to sign up for which type I wanted to do, I signed up for both. I eventually got bored of the LEGO Mindstorm kits and spent a lot of time on VEX Robotics. Something sparked in me that was amazed at all the tools and parts. I’m a very hands on person so I was excited about the things I could do.

After doing VEX Robotics for two years, in my junior year of high school (2017) I was shown FRC team 3309’s robotics facility. That’s when I got really excited for more possibilities in robotics. I joined in the 2017 season and the mentors on 3309 really took care of me helping me learn how to use certain tools. Going into my senior year, I was on leadership positions for both my VEX and FRC teams. People would know me as the “robotics girl” more or less I also wore I sweatshirt that said “robo girl” on it since freshman year. I was fortunate enough to get a varsity jacket in robotics in my junior year.

Once I graduated high school from the 2018 season, I didn’t want it to end there. Robotics was not only a passion of mine but a way for me to connect to my dad. I started volunteering at Beach Blitz 2018 then to on-season events that were around me in So-Cal.

In total, I now have been volunteering for 4 years and loved every moment of it. You can now find me as a field supervisor, most commonly a FTAA, or somewhere on the field helping in anyway I can at events in So-Cal and some in Nor-Cal.

This past January, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. I found it ironic for though it’s not the same cancer as my dad’s, I’ve had to go through chemotherapy, doctors appointments, labs, tests, and still want to go to robotics competitions. I know people are thinking. “Why in the world are you still volunteering with cancer?!” The answer is this, not only are my friends there, but it’s something that brings me joy. Cancer is known to break you down in anyway it can. Similar to how my dad continued his passion, I’m continuing mine. I am very lucky and fortunate to have a strong group of friends who keep me going (like @jaredhk @Pauline_Tasci @Leap @Andrew_L @Ruth_Nuttall @FletcherS7 @nfhammes , Jeff Spragg, Ryan Neal, Sophia Hahn, Rhiannon Elliott, Brandon Nguyen, and so many more that aren’t a named here) my heart is filled with happiness on days I see them for it’s not everyday that I can. Moral of the story, no matter what has come my way, I can always rely on robotics to lift my spirits.

**TL;DR I got inspiration starting in high school from my dad who sadly passed and made lots of friends throughout the process. I continue to volunteer even with cancer due to robotics being a safe place that boosts my spirits. **

31 Likes

I volunteer as a mentor and at district events.

As a mentor, I get a lot of enjoyment when I see that little light bulb on their heads light up. I challenge students possibly in ways they have not yet been challenged, and they universally come out the other side better for the experience. I know this because they tell me so.

As an event volunteer, I love seeing their faces when they have overcome what they consider a significant or even unsurmountable challenge.

The team that showed up with an assembled kitbot, the electronics piled in the center. No bumpers. Getting kids from several teams to come and help them complete the tasks - not do it for them! - and seeing the joy when the robot moved on the field the first time.

The team with the robot 7" longer than allowed. Gathering several mentors to talk with their mentor, who had refused any help but was not addressing the problem. Those same mentors taking a sawzall to many parts of the robot, and the team in utter disbelief that they were actually going ti drive their robot, on the field, in their second match. It hardly moved, but to them they had just won Einstein.

Tl;dr: kids surmounting hard odds to succeed is fun to see. That’s why I do it.

3 Likes

FIRST started the year I graduated high school. If only it had been around 4 years earlier, or I had been born 4 years later…

I never paid attention to FIRST until the lead mentor for 1506 (which if you don’t know, is a community based team out of Kettering University’s FIRST Center - check it out!!) asked my then 8th grade son if he’d be interested in checking out the team and possibly joining. This was in the Summer of 2015, so we check out Kettering Kickoff that September, and that was it. We were hooked. So much so that when the family wound up moving over an hour away from Kettering, we stayed a part of the team, commuting over 80 miles one way, multiple days a week. It was totally worth it.

Being a part of that team as a mentor and participating in everything was truly amazing. My son learned so much and actually went into engineering at Kettering as a result of being on the team.

My son graduated from the team a few years ago (2019 was his last year) and because of what the program is all about, I wanted to remain active in FIRST. I decided to volunteer as a RI because I want to give back to a program that gave my son and I so much. Now as a RI, I do my very best to help the kids learn and grow, and to be honest, they inspire me more than I inspire them, I’m sure. The students are so creative and being able to help in any way I think is incredibly important.

2 Likes

I mentor and I volunteer. Mentoring is something I do for the kids in the community, and it is serious business - while we have fun, it is more stressful, long term. Volunteering at events is something I do for me.

I see friends, lots of robots, help people and just be. I am at FiM Week 6 Jackson event - and I have lost count of how many cool people are going to be there!

3 Likes

I was a volunteer from 2006ish to 2015, and I did it while I was on the team, because that’s what my mentor, who I greatly trusted, told us to do. I also found it fun while I was doing it, hanging with my friends, running events, doing various roles. I did a lot of scorekeeper roles, for FLL, FVC/FTC, and later on FRC, but I did many other things, I was a JA for CARD, event manager for kickoffs and FTC, I have done safety glass table at World’s, field reset, spare parts, whatever was needed really that wasn’t too overly technical. Once I left my team, having really loved being on the team generally, I volunteered because both it is fun for me, and I love to give back. I had a great experience, I want others to have that great experience. I get along easily with most FIRST people, they’re all good hearted, giving, kind people who I easily understand and who understand me. In 2015 I got hired to do this professionally, so I am no longer a volunteer, but that was why I volunteered. I want to have events that are fun, inspirational to the students, like they were for me, and give kids the same opportunity I had to explore what I like to do. My dream when I joined my team was to be a high rise architect, and the mayor of Seattle, WA - I graduated, got my degree in Architecture, and then using skills I learned I had through the opportunities I had in FIRST, both as a volunteer and a team member, I perform my current job, PDP in Turkiye. When I was in high school, I was terrified of speaking to more than like 3 people at a time, public speaking was an absolute terror, but through the team, I had to speak in public quite a bit here and there, and now I stand up in front of a stadium full of students and love the opportunity to speak to them.

Also, my name, Alex, means Helper of Mankind - so I suppose there is some element of destiny, I’ve always loved to help others. :slight_smile:
I suppose my sister and I both lived up to our names, her name Zoe (my parents wanted kids from A to Z, had 2 kids, and pulled it off :stuck_out_tongue: ) means life, and she’s definitely the life of the party when she’s around :heart:

4 Likes

Having volunteered at FMA events (5 years and counting), and continuing to do so, I’ve found that it’s extremely rewarding to ensure that teams and students get the best possible experience they can at all of their events.

I’ve had the ability to fill a wide range of volunteer roles, and having worked with (and continuing to work with) truly dedicated volunteers, it’s clear from interacting with and communicating with the close-knit community of Mid-Atlantic teams that every single volunteer has had an impact on the experience of people attending these events.

It’s a good feeling to know that there is a supportive and understanding volunteer team no matter where I go :grin:

3 Likes

I volunteer to connect with teams and make sure that they gain a positive experience throughout their competition.

I’ve volunteered with a teammate for Deep Space and he got me interested in doing more volunteer work at competitions (unfortunately couldn’t happen the following two years due to COVID). Before becoming an alumni, I would go into team’s pit area and talk to them for a while about their robot, outreach, etc. Talking to different teams made me more comfortable with the FIRST community.

When I graduated, I was determined to come back to NY from CT, where I am studying Forensic Science, and volunteer at SBPLI/Hofstra. When I came back, I felt like I was back where I belonged. Being the team queuer gave me the opportunity to go back and continue talking to teams and making them feel great all throughout the day. After the competition concluded, a few teams came up to me and thanked me for checking up on their team and their robot making their experience enjoyable.

Becoming a volunteer helps you explore and connect with the FIRST community. It has created a big impact on my life where I can be celebrate the FIRST tradition entering the arena.

3 Likes

Volunteering actually got me more into the program as a student.

When I joined the team in 2015 we had a rockstar programmer that converted our team to C++ right after I had committed to learning LabVIEW. This was okay, because I was learning a new language and starting to program real things for the first time in my life. I wasn’t super committed to the program at that time, and although we had success I wasn’t a large contributor to that.

This changed in 2016 when I started to help teams. LabVIEW, being the main language of choice for rookies and not for veteran teams, was my strong suit and there were many teams that needed help. During my own team’s meetings I would skype with other teams to teach them LabVIEW and help debug issues when they got stuck.

That year during week 2 we went to an event with a lot of rookies that had issues with code. Many of them had no programming mentor and had a tough time with the documentation FIRST gave them. Confounding this, no technical volunteer at the event knew LabVIEW because their teams had moved onto C++ and Java. So I, as a sophomore, went around and assisted 10 different teams that either had no drive code, had issues with actuators, or had issues with autonomous. The amount of joy these kids had when their robot that was essentially a paperweight started moving and working correctly was unbelievable, and kickstarted my involvement with FIRST. In later years even when I was team captain and on drive team you could still find me in another teams pit if they needed help getting their robot moving. That was just as important to me as our own teams success, even if those teams ended up doing better than us.

Since I have graduated from High School I have gone back each year to help out teams that show up to events and inevitably need help. That feeling of accomplishment and joy these kids have when you’re able to turn their season around is incomparable.

4 Likes

I began refereeing this past season because I want to be a friendly face behind the daunting zebra stripes, and I want to help teams understand gameplay better so they can improve for their next matches, events, seasons, what have you. I strive to both prioritize the team experience at every step and be able to take any amount of heat and scrutiny for a call that I made, because as a student, I definitely was often rather salty and in the funk of “I could call that better!” or “does this-or-that ref not regard the teams at all?” So, what better to do other than go out there and do it myself, you know? Oh, also the people I volunteer with are really cool and I’m better for knowing them.

6 Likes