YOUNG VOICES: FIRST program builds more than just robots

2013-05-20T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: FIRST program builds more than just robotsBy Katie Goodrich nwitimes.com
May 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As the world becomes more connected, secrets become harder to keep. However, my generation has a secret: FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

According to founder Dean Kamen, FIRST is the best kept secret. With 303,000 students from across the globe, FIRST is a large community, yet most people still do not know about this amazing program.

FIRST began in 1989 and has grown continuously. The organization strives to engage youth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and encourage careers in those fields. In order to achieve this goal, FIRST sets up a sporting competition. Students build robots to compete in a game every year. Working alongside mentors, the students learn life lessons like problem solving and teamwork.

The program has four levels. Junior FIRST LEGO League, FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition include students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Each level competes with a robot ranging from a small LEGO robot to one weighing 150 pounds.

In addition to competing with the robot, teams volunteer and give back to their communities. FIRST instills the importance of community service into the youth by recognizing teams that do outstanding deeds for their area. Knowing the significance of communication, FIRST also promotes strong presentation skills and clearly articulating an idea.

This program not only exposes kids to science and technology, but also to pertinent lessons. FIRST teaches young people about the principle of gracious professionalism. This idea incorporates good sportsmanship and respect. Gracious professionals act with poise whether victorious or not. By telling students about gracious professionalism, FIRST teaches them how to carry themselves in college and in their careers.

FIRST changes lives. The program exposes young people to science and technology, it teaches students about the importance of community service and volunteerism, and it shows kids how to be professional. The program encourages students to attend college. To go the distance, FIRST has a scholarship program that awarded students over $16 million this year.

I was on my FIRST LEGO League team in elementary school, and I am a member of Team Hammond Robotics, which competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition. I am a well-rounded individual because of my involvement, which helped as I applied for college and scholarships. Since I know the benefits of involvement, I want more people to participate.

At world championships this year, will.i.am, a rapper from the Black-Eyed Peas, received the Make It Loud Award, which recognizes individuals who go above and beyond to spread the word of FIRST. Morgan Freeman also filmed a commercial for FIRST. Join their ranks.

Be an advocate for future generations. Help make the message loud; go to www.usfirst.org.

Katie Goodrich, of Hammond, is a senior at Gavit High School. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's.

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