It was just the second week of school, and I had mustered up all my courage to venture to the nether regions of our school known as the basement to attend the first meeting of the newly forming FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team. When I walked into room one, the newly proclaimed FIRST headquarters, I looked around with apprehension, and I noticed that I did not recognize a single face in the room. Nervously, I took a seat, and Mr. Mothersele, the advisor for the program began describing the program. FIRST is a national engineering competition in which partnerships are formed between local businesses and high schools to design and build a robot-like machine from identical kits of parts supplied by FIRST. The team has about six weeks to build the machine which must be able to compete in a timed sporting event. As soon as I saw the video of the students working and competing with the robots, I was hooked. The program seemed tailored to my interest in math in science and to my competitive spirit. I couldn’t resist the opportunity.
As a shy and relatively inexperienced freshman, I signed up for the program as the only underclassmen on the team of ten students. I bumbled along, learning about design and how to use the machines. I made my full share of mistakes and then some, but by the end of the program, I was gaining some real experience. Although our robot did not fare very well in the competition our first year, my learning process was underway, and I knew that I had found my place.
The second year of the competition, I was only one of two returning students. I took an active role in recruiting new students, and our membership doubled. It was a complete role reversal for me because all of a sudden I was the experienced team member. We finished fifth out of forty teams at the regional competition, and at the national tournament, we placed in the top third.
This past year, was the golden year of my FIRST career. In September, I was voted team captain. It was my job to ensure that our team was well organized and that we stayed on task. Our team advanced to the semifinals, where we lost to the eventual National Champion. We finished fourth overall, and it was an incredible success story. Over the summer, I continued to work at school with our instructor to plan for the upcoming year. Next year, I will be team captain again, and we are prepared to continue our success.
I have come a long way from the timid freshman who nervously stepped into the FIRST room. As a result of my FIRST experience, I feel comfortable presenting my ideas clearly and convincingly to a large diverse audience. I have grown confidence in my own resourcefulness and problem solving ability. FIRST has taught me to trust my judgment in critical situations.
Working with a diverse group of people having a variety of skills strengthened my team working abilities. To be successful, our team had to consider everyone’s ideas to produce a winning strategy. During the first two years, I gained the experience and skills necessary to assume the leadership position of team captain. As team captain, I set group goals and formulated strategies to achieve these goals.
As a result of this experience I can work effectively on significant long range projects with highly focused goals. I can both work constructively as a team member and provide leadership among my peers. I developed my ability to communicate and coordinate my ideas in the corporate environment. The skills that I have gained are those needed to work in an entrepreneurial business environment which I have selected as my career objective.