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FIRST Robotics – Life-Changing, Enriching, Scholarship Prepping
FIRST Robotics and all of the lessons learned as being part of a team have blessed my family in more ways than I can count.
[This post was originally written in 2016, but read to the end, and don’t miss the 2023 update. It will be worth it, I promise!]
My family and I recently returned from the most incredible weekend that we’ve had for as long as I can remember.
We weren’t on vacation, visiting family, or enjoying an amazing theme park. No, we were at our very first FIRST Robotics competition!
In case you are unfamiliar with FIRST Robotics, here is what it is in a nutshell:
FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is an international high school robotics competition.
Each year, teams of high school students and mentors work during a six-week period to build game-playing robots that weigh up to 120 pounds (54 kg). -Wikipedia
Because this was our very first year involved in FIRST (my youngest son is a high school freshman and interested in a career in engineering), my husband and I thought it would be good for him to put down his video game controller and join a local team that had recently formed in our area.
His high school did not have a FIRST Robotics team, so we took a leap of faith and joined this new team, hoping he would get bit by the very strong FIRST Robotics bug that we heard was swarming around young future engineers.
At our very first meeting, where we were warmly welcomed with incredibly open arms, we became a part of the St. Clair County Michigan 4H FRC Team 5926, otherwise known as, The MooBotics.
The MooBotics is made up of homeschooled students and those without a high school team.
After six weeks of designing, strategizing, marketing, and building; we were ready for our first competition at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan.
During the build process, there were a few FIRST Robotics terms that were unfamiliar to me, yet kept coming up in conversations with our team leaders and team captain.
The one that struck me as most interesting was “Gracious Professionalism”. Gracious professionalism is the concept of helping other teams, even if they are competing against your team.
The official definition is:
“A way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community”.
I didn’t really understand what gracious professionalism was until I started witnessing it firsthand, even before our first competition. Here are just a few ways in which gracious professionalism was evident in our team, on and off the playing field:
- I was blown away one morning when our team leader, high school junior Samuel Walker, spent two hours on a Saturday morning (before spending six hours at our meeting) helping another FIRST team who was having trouble with their robot, even though that team would eventually compete against ours.
- I saw gracious professionalism during the competition when another team (who we were about to face on the field) told us about a minor problem with our robot that might have gotten us a warning or worse, disqualification.
- I felt gracious professionalism at the competition when I sat in the stands and witnessed the intense excitement and encouragement that all the teams showed to EVERY team and not just their own.
- I heard true stories of gracious professionalism at the competition when teams would offer to help other teams go the extra mile in loaning out tools and robot parts, and expressed unwavering kindness and uplifting words to every team, regardless of where the team was from or their current standings in the game.
- I saw gracious professionalism in action when exhausted teens volunteered to stay after the competition was over to clean up the “pit” area (where all teams set up to house and work on their robot), playing field, and stands.
I could go on and on about gracious professionalism and how many times I witnessed it in action at the competition, but I think you get the idea.
As a parent, I was immediately drawn to this way of treating others and cannot say enough about how it is a real, tangible, and obvious part of the whole FIRST Robotics program.
What does FIRST Robotics have to do with college scholarships?
That answer is easy.
There are millions of scholarship dollars available for students who have participated in a FIRST Robotics program. In addition, the lessons and life skills learned by the students during the build process and while competing are priceless.
Off of the top of my scholarship-loving head, I can visualize these values and lessons that my son experienced in the last few months as a direct result of his FIRST Robotics team membership:
All of these will help students when it comes time to write their scholarship essays.
Real-life experiences and details pertaining to future careers that are brought into scholarship essays are extremely valued by scholarship judges.
Even as a high school freshman, my son is on his way into a favorable position when the time comes for him to actively apply for college scholarships.
BE SURE TO READ: Scholarship Prep – What to do NOW to Increase Success LATER
As a parent, I am happy to report that YES, my son was bitten by the FIRST Robotics bug and has come so far in the last few months!
He is coming out of his shell and even stepped up to the plate as team Safety Captain, giving live safety demonstrations to his team.
The FIRST Robotics schedule is a tough one, but he was able to keep up his grades in school and has formed solid friendships with all of his team members.
This blog post is much longer than my usual postings, but if you have hung on and read to here, then you are about to be awarded with some very exciting news:
OUR LITTLE 4-H FIRST ROBOTICS TEAM CAME IN 1ST PLACE!
Yes, the MooBotics, along with our incredible team alliance partners, the Brighton TechnoDogs and the Volatile Chaos Inhibitors, won the whole competition.
This was so much more than any of us ever dreamed could be possible! Under the direction of our amazingly talented Team Captain Samuel Walker, and his parents Don and Pamela, who were instrumental in forming the team, WE DID IT!
We were also awarded the Rookie All-Star Award, which is a HUGE deal in FIRST Robotics, and will be traveling to the Michigan state meet next month to compete again. WOOHOO!!! (and MOOOOO!!!!)
Is your student interested in robots, engineering, or on a FIRST Robotics team?
There are FIRST programs for elementary, middle school, and high school students, so I encourage you to check them out here, and don’t be afraid to give your student a little push out of their comfort zone if they are unsure.
My family has only been a part of FIRST for a few months, but we have gained a new family, life-changing experiences, and a passion for gracious professionalism that will stay with us forever.
Check out the scholarship opportunities available for FIRST Robotics team members here:
UPDATE: It’s been many years since I wrote this post and shared my family’s experience with my son’s FIRST Robotics team. As I am updating for 2023, he is now a senior in college and was team captain for two years before he graduated from high school in 2019.
This leadership experience opened doors to him that we never thought possible, including being admitted into his top choice university, despite a 13% chance of getting in when using his grades and test scores.
I am still completely in love with the FIRST Robotics program and credit it with getting my video game-loving (and pretty much anti-social) son to step out of his comfort zone. As a result, he has become a well-liked and respected young man with an extremely bright future as a computer programmer.
On a side note, our team made the decision to leave the umbrella of 4-H (they wanted to keep 17% of our raised funds) and become an independent team, DaMOOse FRC Team 5926. (We kept the MOO!)
Monica Matthews is the author of How to Win College Scholarships. She helped her own son win over $100,000 in college scholarships and now shares her expertise with other parents and their students. She truly has “been there, done that” in regard to helping parents and students navigate the scholarship process.
Her method of helping students in finding college scholarships, writing unique and compelling scholarship essays, creating amazing scholarship application packets, and more have taught desperate parents to help their own students win thousands of scholarship dollars. She teaches them how to apply S.M.A.R.T. with outstanding results.
Monica’s scholarship tips have been featured on many prominent websites, and she has been dubbed the “Go-To” expert on college scholarships.