FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. It is a robotics community for young people partnering with volunteers, parents, educators and sponsors. It is a non profit organization that was founded by an inventor (Dean Kamen) in 1989. In my opinion, it is a FANTASTIC way to promote STEM and help students get connected to a wide variety of careers in the STEM world. On top of all that? It is so much fun!
My husband and I first started out relationship with FIRST quite by accident. We were newlyweds and just hanging around a mall in Gwinnett County, Georgia. We saw signs that said robot competition and we immediately thought about Battlebots. Do you remember that show? We were excited to think we might get to see this LIVE! There was no entry fee, we grabbed a hot dog and a drink and sat in the stands in anticipation.
Well, there WERE robots but they were not battling. Instead, they were having a Coopertition – that is a trademarked word meaning they are kind and respectful during competition. It sounds crazy, but it works and we rarely saw anyone getting angry (except a rogue parent now and then). We were sucked in and watched for hours. I got goosebumps watching geeky high school kids get FIRED up about their robots.
After that initial introduction, we sought out FIRST competitions and tried to go to as many as we could. We would cheer and high five and was always asked, which is your kid? We would blush and admit we did not have a kid on the field. They thought that was terrific. When I was pregnant I would point to my belly and said, maybe someday. Neither of my girls seemed interested until out of the blue, my eldest, after not being a part of any of the earlier versions, came to us and said, “Uhm, so the Girl Scouts have this Robotics team thing and they need people and I think I am interested.” It was so hard not to jump up and down and scream. I played it cool and said, ” Oh, really? okay neat. I think we can make that happen”. Then, I went to the bathroom and did a happy dance.
Gadget Girls, who changed their name to Holographic, was a PERFECT fit for my daughter. https://holographicfrc.com It was an all girls’ team and even though they were from all different schools, they were united by the Girl Scout Code. I am so happy and grateful she got that experience. It was a special thrill to see her be a part of a team she had admired since she was a Daisy Scout. I think it really helped her to gain social confidence as well. Now, she is a part of ROBODOGS FRC Team 435. They are THE original team of Raleigh. They were at first affiliated with Southeast Raleigh Magnet School until about 5 years ago when they went independent. Now, any Wake County student can be a part of this team. I knew this was the right activity for my beautiful, intelligent and awkward kiddo when she came home and said, “I think I found my people”. LOL
Because of the Covid pandemic they did not get to meet in person for many months, but they did virtual meetings and had a virtual competition of sorts. They have been cautiously meeting in smaller groups as they became immunized. I am proud to say the whole team and all the adults involved are 100% immunized! This weekend she is competing with the team for the first time in an off season event called THOR. Unfortunately it is hot as Hades in NC and they are stuck in the old DORTON Arena at the fairgrounds – NO AC!
What I have most enjoyed is seeing how my daughter has flourished. At first she was mortified to have to talk to anyone and she was really unsure of herself. This year, I can see her SWAGGER with confidence and I am loving it! I can tell she is in her element, she knows what is going on and even pointed out the “new kid”. LOL
I am dreading sitting in that hot, stuffy arena but nothing will keep me away because I want my daughter to know she is supported in her endeavors. Ghads, I love that kid!