First of all, you get to build a robot. How many schools still have gymnastics teams? How many schools still offer driver education programs where the students actually get to drive? The fact is — fewer and fewer schools offer programs that are impacted by liability insurance. FIRST is a pleasant exception. Kids get to work in sophisticated machine shops, drilling aluminum, sawing steel, soldering, welding and riveting. At the same time, they are taught the importance of safety. That’s what makes it possible. That and the adult mentors that bring real-world experience into the schools. In fact, NASA has a mobile machine shop on site at the arena with their own crew of mentors. Wow!
That’s just the beginning. Here at the Western Regional competition in San Diego a student traveling from Pennsylvania is a fine example of some of the other possibilities FIRST has to offer. This particular student is part of the build team that works in the pits and with the machine shop. She also was an ambassador. Ambassadors are students that help promote the sport of robotics to people of all ages. They take elementary school visitors down into the pits for a close-up experience with the robots, as well as, taking adult VIPs on tours. An Admiral from the Navy, the Mayor of the city and CEO s from some of the largest corporations get to interact one-on-one with the ambassadors. How many kids get this kind of career exposure?
Who knows what other possibilities will present themselves at a FIRST event. Today, the student from Pennsylvania finished touring the VIPs and then was interviewed for fifteen minutes on the radio. TV stations were filming and writers were writing about her. How many kids get opportunities like this? How much would a parent pay for such a chance?
Should you get a chance to thank Dean Kamen, the sponsors, the mentors or the students, it would be worth your while. Just consider the wealth of their investment in our future?