FIRST has had a huge impact on many of its participants; if you are willing to share your story with us and have it included on our website, send a picture and your testimonial to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I switched high schools with two years left, I didn’t know what to expect and never could have guessed at the experiences that I would have. Becoming a member of Team 188 was one of those unplanned events that changes everything, and an opportunity for which I am extremely grateful. The energy and excitement of my team mates at the start of a new season was infectious. The sense of working in a team, meeting challenges creatively and collaboratively, created a fantastic environment. The support, encouragement, and dedication of the teachers, volunteers and parents ensured a positive experience. I soon found myself surrounded by new friends. The events were something else! Celebrations of hard work and effort, they drive people to achieve with encouragement, and best of all they were fun! Everyone I met not only wanted their team to do the best, they wanted the best for those around them as well. Being surrounded by people who are engaged, interested, and willing to recognise and learn from the achievements of others is an experience I will never forget. FIRST helped encourage me to seek out challenge and opportunity. While an engineering student at the University of Toronto I joined the solar car team, and I got to race across the States. After graduation I moved overseas for work, and have lived in several countries, but whenever I am home I am involved in FIRST, getting involved in setting up a regional in my hometown, and volunteering and being a head referee at events. It’s been over ten years since I graduated, and I can say that being a part of FIRST is a hugely rewarding experience that stays with you.
I was first introduced to FIRST Robotics in 2004 when GM Canada sponsored our high school and created the robotics team later named Theory 6 (Team 1241). Being in grade 12 at the time, our inspiring rookie year left me with a lasting interest for robotics and engineering. Upon graduating from high school, I was accepted to the University of Waterloo Mechatronics Engineering program and won the UW/FIRST Mechatronics Engineering Entrance Scholarship. In the winter of 2005, while working at GM St. Catharines, I mentored and coached Team 1503, Spartonics, in two regional competitions as well as the championships. The 2006 year marked my return to my own high school and Theory 6, where we made yet another trip to the championships in Atlanta. For the next four years I was sidelined from FIRST Robotics due to an ever increasing list of other priorities, before finally returning once again to Theory 6 in 2011. In 2009 I graduated from the University of Waterloo, with a Bachelors of Applied Science in Mechatronics Engineering. Upon graduation I secured a new grad engineering trainee position at Ontario Power Generation, where I currently design modifications to robotic inspection equipment for nuclear reactors.
Despite knowing I wanted to be an engineer from the days of building LEGO towers as a kid, my experiences in FIRST Robotics have, and continue to, shape my life. I joined my middle school’s first ever FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team in grade 7. We ended up qualifying for Provincials. I was hooked. The logical progression was to join my high school’s robotics team (FRC 1334 Red Devil Robotics), where I held various positions including Mechanical Lead and Team Captain. What people often fail to realize when they hear about a robotics competition is just how much more there is to it than ‘the robot’. A well-rounded team, with strong business, fundraising, media and outreach departments is a necessity. Working alongside professional mentors was an experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. While you are bound to amass a wealth of technical knowledge, it’s the soft skills like time management, leadership and problem solving that I’ve found were the most universally applicable. I credit my involvement in FIRST robotics for my full tuition scholarship to McMaster University (Mechanical Engineering) and my summer jobs with a global consulting engineering firm, Hatch. At university, I began mentoring FRC 4039 MakeShift Robotics, a newly formed high school team close to the campus. Since high school, I’ve either mentored or judged FLL. It is incredible to see the diverse solutions to a common challenge and the enthusiasm of the students for science and technology. FIRST would not exist if it weren’t for the incredible mentors, dedicated volunteers, and generous sponsors. Participating in this program has opened so many doors for me and given me the challenges and opportunities to grow as a person – I don’t know where I’d be without it. I look forward to continuing to give back to this amazing organization in the future.
It’s interesting how decisions which seem very small at the time can have a great influence on your life in the long run. When starting off in FIRST just over 8 years ago I had absolutely no idea what kind of journey I was about to begin. Of course there were moments of both triumph and disaster, but I for one cannot imagine my life without FIRST Robotics. It has influenced me in every way, from choosing a career path, to forming my personal character and identity. I began being involved with FIRST LEGO League in grade 7. At that point I was dead set on pursuing a career in archaeology, and had absolutely no interest in science or engineering. Over the next two years I became engulfed in robotics. I was exposed to engineering and design, teamwork, leadership, and a healthy dose of competition. In grade 9 I joined Team 610, and the rest is history. During the four years of high school I lived and breathed FRC. This unique environment gave me an opportunity to grow and develop as a person on many different levels. It challenged me intellectually, through designing and manufacturing components and creating game strategies during competition. At the same time I learned critical time management and decision-making skills that I use to this day. It was the hardest and most exhausting fun out there, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. After high school I pursued mechanical engineering at Queen’s University, and am now beginning my final year of study. I continued my involvement with FRC for two years, and even had the opportunity to come back to St. Louis while mentoring a local rookie team. To this day, I am excited to see new faces appear within the FRC community. FIRST is a program which brings out the absolute best in people, and I will never forget the valuable lessons it has taught me.
There are few things in my life that I can say have so thoroughly impacted me that I can’t imagine the kind of person who I would be and what my life would be like without it. Ever since I initially became involved in FIRST Robotics, opportunities have continuously been opening themselves up to me; opportunities to learn, opportunities to see the world from a new perspective, and fundamentally, opportunities to grow beyond what I even thought was possible for me. Oddly enough, when I was first asked if I wanted to be a part of this program as a member of a FIRST LEGO League robotics team, I said no. At the time, I thought that engineering really just wasn’t my cup of tea, let alone that I would be any good at it. Thankfully, I had some friends and family who thought otherwise and pushed me into being a part of this team anyway, and I haven’t been able to get enough of the contagious learning and unique environment that come along with it since. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to continue learning by starting FRC team 4476 the W.A.F.F.L.E.S., volunteering at events, and by mentoring FLL and Jr. FLL teams in FLL by mentoring teams. I was originally just happy to be able to learn about some of the more technical skills through my FLL and FRC teams – it was hard not to get excited about the fact that we were building and programming actual robots and that I could be a part of it. The hands-on skills that I have gotten the chance to develop through FIRST will unquestionably help me as I move forward, especially as I go off to university next year. Being able to see how science, technology, engineering, and math can be applied in the real world has been very valuable to me and has shown me that it really was something I had an interest in. Aside from showing me that engineering and problem-solving are things that I want to pursue further in school, I don’t doubt that FIRST was one of the leading reasons why I was able to get into my first choice program at the University of Waterloo. Being a part of FIRST continues to create more opportunities for me to explore and learn about the things that I find most interesting in the world, and I very much look forward to seeing how it will unfold in the future. Perhaps more importantly than the hands-on experience that I’ve been privileged enough to have through FIRST, I’ve been able to develop skills that are useful to me regardless of what path I choose to follow and I see the benefits of these skills in my everyday life. I’ve seen personal growth in skills like teamwork and team building skills, presentation skills, time management skills, leadership skills, problem solving skills, communication skills, and a whole slew of other skills that I am still learning that I am developing. It’s taught me how to learn, and how to ask questions, and has ultimately set me up with the skills I need to learn more from the world and to be able to apply them to as many aspects of my life as I can. Although all of these skills are wonderful to have, I’ve come to discover that the most important thing that I’ve gained from my experience with FIRST is that I’ve been given a real opportunity to learn about myself. FIRST gave me the chance to learn about what my strengths and weaknesses are and to act on that new knowledge about myself. Fundamentally, being involved with FIRST has inspired me because I have been able to see that I really am capable of doing things that I never would have thought that I could, and once you start to prove that you are capable of more than you thought, you start to wonder what else you could accomplish if you worked harder. FIRST has done for me exactly as it name promises; I have been inspired to learn more not just about science, technology, engineering , and math, but also to learn more about how I can help work towards solving some of the world’s problems and how I can learn more about myself. I see more and more with each robot that I help build, each team that I am a part of, and each new challenge that I face, that FIRST has equipped me with the tools and the inspiration I need to test my personal boundaries and make a difference.
Hi, my name is Rhiannon, although many know me by my nickname, Rhino! I am a first year student at Redeemer University, majoring in Environmental Science, minoring in biology and this is my FIRST story. In grade 10, I transferred to a brand new school that was just built. With that came many opportunities, new friends, new teachers, and most importantly, new involvement opportunities and clubs. I saw poster in my school advertising a robotics club and decided to check it out. After learning more about the program and realizing how incredibly cool it sounded I signed up…man I had no idea what I was getting into. As a rookie team, team 4094 – the Cyberwolves, we really had no clue what we were doing. We built our robot in an old library and used a lot of corrugated plastic, some box tubing, a magic carpet, and a hockey net and in the end we ended up with a moving robot. I have to admit it was not the best robot out there, but the thing that got me was amount of teamwork, trust, and friendship present within the team. We worked hard towards a common goal and we had an amazing time doing so! I had gotten so involved, and had dedicated so much time into that machine, that when we got to our first regional and realized we needed a team captain I was nominated right then and there. It was a feeling of great honor and accomplishment and I loved every minute of being on that team. I will never forget that year, as it introduced me to a world I would have otherwise never entered and greatly impacted my life. Grade 11 rolled around and it was time to start recruiting for the 2013 season. We lost all teacher and school support that year and were told we could not have a team. I was crushed and tried everything I could to have a team at my school but all had failed, until I met the lead mentor for Team 2013 – Cybergnomes, Trevor. After talking for hours on the phone with him and in person we had come to the agreement to assimilate my team into theirs. Best decision of my life, I love my gnomies dearly! Trevor recounts this next memory with joy. When I first entered the build space, which was held at his business, JT’s Snowmobile, I saw all the machinery. There was the lathe, mill, bandsaw, and various other machines. I couldn’t help but exclaim “OH MY, BIG SCARY MACHINES!”. I was terrified! By the end of that season I was ‘Queen of the Lathe’ and made almost every axle, bushing, and standoff on that robot. Although we never came out with a victory, we did make it to the semi finals in the regional level. We were extremely proud of our robot that year as it could climb to the 30-point level, which not many teams could do! It was an amazing learning experience and I picked up skills I never would have dreamed of having. An example of this comes from my experience in the pit during the competitions, as I was the pit boss; organization was my specialty. Organization was never my strong suit until that season when I was responsible for pit cleanliness, safety, and making sure we had all the right spare parts and tools! All in all it was an amazing year, and the team was beginning to make a name for ourselves, it was an understatement to say we were excited for next season. “AND THIS YEARS GAME AERIAL ASSIST”, here we have it, my 3rd and final year, it was bittersweet. The team built an amazing robot that we were all extremely proud of! We had a feeling this was going to be our year! After the robot was built, scouting preparation began in order to prepare for competition. I took on the role of lead scout and strategist at competitions that year. It was so much fun as I was able to think logically in the game situation and determine the best way to approach each match strategy wise. It was in this year that we won our first every regional. The feeling when your team wins that final match is a feeling full of pride and accomplishment, you can’t help but think, “man, we did it, we finally did it after all these years”. The Cybergnomes had been participating in FIRST for 8 years and it was such an accomplishment for me and the other teammates to be the ones that made Cybergnome history! That was the best moment of my life. I absolutely will never forget that feeling as I hold that memory so close to my heart. I tell everyone about it all the time; my dorm mates are getting bored of that story! Championships were another huge highlight; it was possibly the most exciting and stressful time of the season! Seeing our mentor’s faces at competition, and their expressions of pure joy and happiness, made it worth it. It made us gnomes feel as though we had accomplished something great! Walking in the arena and hearing the music, seeing the amazing robots, and seeing everyone pumped up and ready for action was what my team was living for. Our moment had come. Everything that we had worked so hard on for the past eight years had paid off! In the end of it all we ended up semi finalists in the Curie division, and the finalists from our field went on to win the championship! Although we didn’t win, it was such a great experience and very memorable, we were so thrilled to do as good as we had done. That feeling of pride and accomplishment is something you never forget! Through my 3 years in FIRST I gained countless new skills from all the positions I held, such as mechanical, public speaking, fundraising, business, strategy, design, organization and most importantly, time management! In addition to this I made lasting friendships and irreplaceable memories both inside and outside of robotics with my teammates. I learned what it felt like to work hard and feel proud of something I had accomplished, which is one of the best feelings in the world. As a team we showed that your hard work does indeed pay off. FIRST robotics may have been the best thing to ever happen to me. It has provided with me with the necessary skill set to be able to succeed in university and in life. FIRST is still such an integral part of my life and I look forward to mentoring the Cybergnomes and possibly a team here near my university! FIRST is amazing and I would most definitely not be where I am today if I had not participated in this program. It is most definitely the hardest fun you will ever have, but it is the best kind of fun! I love FIRST and would not trade those 3 special years for the world!
I joined FIRST in October 2007, when I was encouraged by a teacher to join FIRST Team 1305. I was brought into Mrs. Nancy Dewar-Stenning’s office and then went to my first meeting. When I joined the team I was a shy student who would barely talk, only small short word answers, but because of FIRST I was able to grow immensely. The first event I attended was a practice FTC event, and while travelling down south with these people I barely knew, I learnt that I was with a caring group of individuals. I still remember the mentors encouraging me to work on the machines, and although I did work on the machines my first two years on the team, they were not my favourite. I feel I truly found my calling in FIRST through all of the other aspects of the team. Through FIRST I was given experience in writing business plans, essays, and much more! Through FIRST and the mentors I was able to come out of my shell. Since graduating from FIRST Team 1305, I have graduated from Nipissing University Bachelor of Commerce program. I was able to truly realize the impact FIRST had on my life, when in my fourth year strategies culminating project, the professor could tell that I had training. FIRST puts students a step ahead of their colleagues, whether it is through their hands on engineering skills, or their communication skills. With the experience and contacts I gained through FIRST, I was able to obtain full time employment within my field after university, as the Marketing and Product Development Intern for the Nipissing District Development Screen (ndds.ca). I cannot thank FIRST and FIRST Team 1305 enough for everything they have done. FIRST truly is much more than a robot, it is a life changing experience.
I was introduced to FIRST in 2006 when I attended the Waterloo Regional as an elementary school student and have been hooked ever since. As I entered Orchard Park Secondary School in Stoney Creek in fall of 2006, I became a founding member of FRC Team 2056. Through the team’s development, I became the student lead of programming, managed the pit crew, and was a core member of the build season crew. After four years of design and manufacturing iteration and inspiration that FIRST has taught me, I was motivated to pursue robotics and the engineering field. After my secondary school graduation in 2010, I was accepted to the University of Waterloo Mechatronics Engineering program and additionally attained the UW/FIRST Mechatronics Scholarship. In my first co-op term in the winter of 2011, I’ve had the great opportunity to work for FIRST Canada providing event support to the Canadian regionals as well as supporting the new rookie teams starting up in 2011. I’ve extensively been mentoring the rookies at St. David Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo (FRC Team 3683) throughout this build season. As I continue with my studies at the University of Waterloo, I absolutely know that I will continue to be involved in the FIRST Robotics program.
I first stumbled into the world of FIRST Robotics as a naive 11th grader, all the way back in 1995. Back then, the competition was in its previous incarnation as FIRST Canada, and Woburn CI, in partnership with Celestica, was participating in its inaugural year. With a full complement of extra-curricular activities already, my involvement with the team was minimal: I wrote a tiny bit for the documentation binder, and mostly added my voice to the cheering crowd on the day of the competition. The excitement of seeing robots built from scratch duke it out right before my eyes was addictive, and I knew that I had to be a part of it in the years to come. For the next two years, I spent countless hours with my friends and mentors unwittingly learning the fundamentals of engineering. From design, budgeting, construction, and improvising solutions, we were able to see a project through its complete life cycle; no small feat for a group of high school students! My involvement with FIRST Canada lead me to study Engineering Science at the University of Toronto, and even helped me land my first engineering summer job after my first year of studies. Celestica, who had partnered with our team, offered me a position for the summer, and I got the chance to apply many of the skills I had developed through FIRST, even co-authoring my first publication. I graduated with honours from Engineering Science in 2001, and I went on to do a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, specifically in the field of stem cell bioengineering. This led me to a job as a project manager for the Canadian Stem Cell Network, coordinating the work of researchers across Canada. After a year with the Network, I moved to the Cell Therapy Program at the Princess Margaret Hospital, where I was responsible for the manufacturing of cell products under GMP conditions for use in clinical trials, as well as much of the management of the trials themselves. A few years ago, I returned to the FIRST family as a technical judge for the Toronto Regional Competition. I felt as though I had come full circle, and was now giving back to something that had inspired me in my youth, and continued to inspire me as I felt the enthusiasm of each student that spoke to me about their creation. Igniting the spark of imagination and creation in our youth is so important for the future, and that is why I firmly believe in the goals of the FIRST program, and hope to be a part of the FIRST family for years to come.
FIRST Robotics has had a massive impact on my life, it is difficult to put into words. From the moment I joined FIRST Team 1305, I knew that I was in the right place. After coming home from my first FRC regional in 2011, I could not stop talking about the electricity of what I had experienced. Since then the team has helped to boost my self confidence, improved my leadership skills, as well as helped me to figure out exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. There are so many different things that you are exposed to on a FIRST Team, I think it is the best way to help answer difficult questions like that for young people.
I was literally dragged into FIRST, and I do mean literally. In grade 10 my high school started a FIRST robotics team. I heard it on the announcements, thought it was cool, and then just left it. My sister was the one who wanted to check it out. She thought I was crazy that I hadn’t given it much thought. The next meeting she heard about I was literally dragged from my lunch to the meeting. That has forever changed my life. In grade 10 I was thinking engineering in university, but only because I was good at math and science. FIRST changed that and helped to focus my choices in engineering. My team, 3710 from Frontenac Secondary School, was a rookie team and fairly small. This meant we, the students, got to do EVERYTHING. Construction; wood? Aluminium? Steel? The students did it in the school shop. Wiring? Soldering? Mechanical design? CAD design? We did that. I was a Captain that year, as well as my next two years. Of course I stuck with it, because after so much fun, how can you not? As we got new team members, we became the teachers just as the mentors taught us. FIRST not only taught me the hands on skills that I will forever value, but different kinds of leadership and working with all different kinds of people. Through the robotics community in Kingston, I was introduced to the W.A.F.F.L.E.S., another FRC team in the community. They gave me some fantastic opportunities at the end of my grade 11 year. This included refereeing at the Kingston FLL tournament, and then Volunteering at the Eastern Ontario Provincial FLL tournament. This all lead up to university, where I am now. I had been thinking mechanical engineering since grade 10 but being in charge of electrical on 3710 for three years was something of which I couldn’t let go. But at the same time…..I enjoyed mechanical too; I didn’t learn just electrical on my FIRST team…so I found a program that offered me both, Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo. I have still continued my involvement of FIRST while attending university; I was the On-Site Volunteer Coordinator of the Western Provincial FLL tournament, and worked to organize some events for both the FLL and FRC community in the region. While on Co-Op up in Sudbury, I volunteered as a Robot Inspector at the North Bay Regional FRC Competition. I will continue to be involved in FIRST, in whatever way I can. If I don’t I’m sure my sister, the Arts student, will drag me back in some way, even if I may be “taller” than her now. But I can’t see that being needed. FIRST continues to inspire, and challenge me, providing opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute … and not just in engineering.
FIRST has been an important part of my life since I first heard about it almost 10 years ago. I started team 771 with my friend Shanan Walsh at St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School, a small all-girls school. When we started, we had a few hand tools and a small project room to work in. The power of FIRST was such that, despite these humble beginnings, we were inspired and excited to overcome these challenges and compete in the competition. Having FIRST at our school inspired many of us to choose engineering as a career path by showing us an exhilarating and challenging side we might not have otherwise seen. I now work as a consulting engineer in Edmonton, AB. Today, I still love to see the impact FIRST has on kids by helping organize the FLL Alberta provincial competition, and hope to help continue grow FIRST programs out in Western Canada.
FIRST has been an important part of my life since I first heard about it almost 10 years ago. I started team 771 with my friend Shanan Walsh at St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School, a small all-girls school. When we started, we had a few hand tools and a small project room to work in. The power of FIRST was such that, despite these humble beginnings, we were inspired and excited to overcome these challenges and compete in the competition. Having FIRST at our school inspired many of us to choose engineering as a career path by showing us an exhilarating and challenging side we might not have otherwise seen. I now work as a consulting engineer in Edmonton, AB. Today, I still love to see the impact FIRST has on kids by helping organize the FLL Alberta provincial competition, and hope to help continue grow FIRST programs out in Western Canada.
When I first moved to Canada in Grade 11, I remember being invited by an amiable student with an impressive afro to join his friends in “frolicking through the snow the Canadian way.” That memorable welcome was followed with an invitation to his robotics team. It wasn’t something I’d normally be interested in, but I was looking for a way to get involved in my new community, so I thought why not? It would be a challenge and it sounded fun. FIRST Robotics was more than I bargained for and exceeded my highest expectations. Team meetings became something I looked forward to, despite my lack of expertise. In a little over a year, Team 4476 provided me with a wide range of opportunities, from chairman’s to fundraising, scouting, and machining parts. I joined the team with no prior mechanical knowledge, but after a few humbling attempts I adopted the correct terms for the tools “ribbiter” (riveter) and “caliber” (caliper). I discovered that a jigsaw was not just a type of puzzle, but a powertool that I was capable of using. Most importantly, I learned to take advantage of learning situations by asking questions, working with others, and stretching outside my comfort zone. I was able to witness the payoff of hard work when our second year team’s alliance won a regional, and I was able to experience the joy of participating in someone else’s learning experience through volunteering at an FLL tournament. I found the FIRST community to be a unique learning environment, containing both the benefits of a close-knit team and the inspiration of an expansive network of students. As an international high school student in Canada, I appreciated the international presence of FIRST and seeing the collaboration of bright minds from all across the world. My community team provided me with a way to get to know and work with students from all across my new city. I met some of my closest friends in Canada through robotics and they proved to be a reliable support system for school, helping me to graduate with honors from classes that were difficult for me. Seeing the practical application of math and physics in robotics gave me new meaning to my studies. FIRST rejuvenated my interest in STEM, and I am now pursuing a major in science this fall at Wheaton College in Illinois. Now, I look forward to volunteering at FIRST events in the Chicago area. The practical and collaborative skills I’ve acquired through the program will follow me no matter where I go. I encourage new students no matter their skill-level and background, to give FIRST Robotics a try. The potential is borderless.
I joined FRC Team 296, The Northern Knights, from Loyola High School in Montreal, Quebec, as a Grade 9 student in 2001. I could not have possibly imagined then the incredible path this decision has set me on ever since. I was exposed to design and manufacturing technologies and computer programming, and got to work with and learn from engineers and tradespeople. My FIRST experience helped me achieve my goal of being accepted into the University of Waterloo, and even resulted in my receiving a scholarship. I credit my time in FIRST with getting me amazing co-op jobs with companies such as Google, Sony and General Motors. By continuing on as a mentor, first with Team 296, then with Team 1503, I have been able to give back to the program, but also have gained project management and communication skills that have served me well in school and the industry. This year, I will be graduating with a degree in Mechatronics Engineering and moving to Silicon Valley in California to work for a software company — but my involvement in FRC certainly won’t be ending.
Taking part in FIRST Robotics truly changed my life. In my senior year of high school I joined my high school’s FRC team, Team Dave 3683, because it seemed like an interesting way to expand my skill set. I had been considering studying engineering after high school but did not have any engineering related design skills to give me a taste of what studying engineering would actually be like. When I joined the robotics team I literally knew nothing about what it took to build a robot, including never using basic tools, like a socket wrench or a drill. When build season came around, I started coming out to robotics meetings about twice a week, because I did not have a great understanding about what was going on during these sessions, even though build sessions were happening every day. It was then that I met a few mentors from the University of Waterloo that really encouraged me and involved me in the entire build process. They were so patient and they would spend hours with me going over all aspects of robot building and design, from electronics, to mechanical design, to metal machining and fabrication, and using power tools. In fact one mentor made all the difference when it came to involving me and bringing me up to speed with the team. Philip Wang, a 4th year Systems Design Engineering student at the University of Waterloo, spent the most hours working with me, and really ignited the spark for me to consider studying engineering. Coincidentally enough, at the time I had already applied and been accepted to various universities, all for math and science programs, except for one engineering program, which was Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Because of the amazing experience I had been having through my involvement with FIRST, I knew without a doubt I could picture myself doing something related to engineering in the future. It was because of my involvement with FIRST that I chose to accept the offer from the University of Waterloo and pursue Systems Design Engineering. Now about a year later, I decided it was my turn to be a university to mentor to more high school students on Team Dave. I knew first hand the major impact FIRST mentors had on me that I wanted to give the same learning opportunity to other high school students. Thankfully being on a coop term allowed me to dedicate a lot of time to being a mentor for the 2012 build season. I worked with an amazing group of dedicated and enthusiastic high school students every day to build this years robot. And at the end of the build season it was so apparent to me the huge impact that our mentor team made on our high school participants. All of them had learned so much and had come so far, and you could see the impact that FIRST made not only on their academic plans, but in all aspects of their life. The most amazing part for me was to chat with the parents of many students and for them to reiterate that the they saw an amazing change in their son or daughter. This experience made learning exciting, fast paced and inclusive, and gave the students a chance to be creative while learning so many useful and important skills. I love that I get the chance to inspire high school students through FIRST in the same way that it greatly changed and affected my life. I plan to be involved with FIRST for a long time, its just way too awesome to not have in my life!
It’s so weird to be writing a testimonial after three seasons of memorizing them, but here it goes. I am currently home for the summer working at North Bay’s largest daily newspaper, The North Bay Nugget, and about to enter into my second year of journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. I am also taking minors in political science and women’s and gender studies. At my employment at The Nugget, I always get to cover the Team 1305 stories because they know I won’t screw up the sometimes intimidating acronyms or jargon that comes with the robotics world. My knowledge of technology also helped me when the Swiss Space Systems announcement was made in North Bay – I knew what they were talking about because I spent a lot of the World Championships talking to the people at the NASA booth. To anyone that gave me strange looks when I said I was a robotics captain going into journalism – you need people who know what they’re writing about to be able to report on it accurately. Last year I also wrote for the Charlatan (the newspaper) and volunteered as an ambassador at the first-ever North Bay Regional. I was busy in school, but found it extremely easy to handle compared to robotics. I’ve often wondered why I stayed with Team 1305. I am not a person who can fix anything, I find power tools and machines terrifying (a fear I can handle now because of robotics, but still a fear), and according to an online quiz I took during build season last year, I’m not a nerd. I dreamed of doing many extra curricular activities competitively… being on a competitive robotics team was never even close to being on that list. Honestly, I think it was the family aspect I had because Grade 11 was a very dark period in my life. My “friends” had ditched me literally for no reason at all, I didn’t have any classes with anyone I really knew, and I felt like a complete outcast at my school. I regularly worried about who I was going to eat lunch with, who I was going to do a group project with, and if school would get better. Sure I was a good student, but I was the loneliest person in the classroom. In a school of 1000 students, I had two people I could half call my friends. Robotics was somewhere I was accepted. People wanted me there, and my talents were appreciated. The friends there were genuine, and we even ended up hanging out outside of robotics. I felt like I belonged there, and I can’t even begin to thank this team enough for that. I think that’s why I’ve given Team 1305 everything I could. I don’t know where I would be without them. For my grade 12 year I was elected captain, the first female captain in 6 years. Grade 12 was also a challenge, but a challenge in the most fantastic way possible. I worked on projects I was passionate about with teammates and mentors who had my back through anything. Sure, being captain of Team 1305 was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. I learned how to be a leader, or at least learned how to be a better one. Eventually, the year of my hard work culminated in winning the Dean’s List Finalist Award at the Western Canadian FRC Regional. It is my proudest accomplishment, and I wear the red sweater FIRST Canada sent me all the time (and to exams). If I’m having a bad day I wear that sweater, because I know that if I can be a finalist, I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. What does robotics teach you? It teaches you whatever you want it to. It may be technical skills, talking to people, how to manage a team, or even how to make homemade pasta from scratch. I think the most important thing Team 1305 has taught me is perseverance. Like with anything, sometimes robotics gets stressful. Sometimes I didn’t think we would make the essay deadline, or the robot wouldn’t be ready in time for its first match. I learned that there was only so much one person could do, and to push through the tough parts of the season. That is a lesson I keep with me while I study, have a disagreement with a friend, or complete a task at my work I don’t like. I can push through the hard parts, and I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Currently I’m looking at starting a blog called The Homeless Project, which seeks to share the stories of homeless people. I am also looking into volunteering with our community’s soup kitchen, The Gathering Place. I haven’t decided if I will mentor a team this year, but plan to at least be a Chairman’s and business consultant for Ottawa-area teams.
Being a part of FIRST has been an incredible experience. For the past 8 seasons, 3 as a student and 5 as a mentor, I have had the opportunity to be a member of FIRST Team 1241 – THEORY6 at Rick Hansen Secondary School in Mississauga. Growing from a small team of only 25 students, the robotics program at Rick Hansen SS has now grown to inspire more than 100 students every year. After graduating from the Rick Hansen Robotics program, I decided to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering & Management at UOIT with a specialization in Mechatronics. Five years later as a new graduate entering the work force, I can testify that my FIRST experiences have definitely given me a vast variety of experiences that many of my peers have missed. Being a FIRST alumnus, mentoring and volunteering have become second nature. FIRST has given me the opportunity to become involved in FLL alongside my FRC roles. With UOIT hosting both the FLL Eastern Ontario Provincial Championships and the FRC Greater Toronto East Regional Competition, I have been able to continue to develop myself, especially in time management and communication by balancing my educational responsibilities alongside my robotics ones. Additionally, I have the opportunity to mentor students to pursue post-secondary degrees in STEM and to inspire them to get more involved in helping others. Ultimately, the greatest thing about FIRST is that the program doesn’t drive people to build robots; instead it builds people who are capable of excelling in whatever they choose to do.
I graduated from Trafalgar Castle School in 2006 having spent 2 years on the school’s FIRST Robotics team 1547 “Where’s Waldo?” I am currently in my 4th year at the University of Toronto in Mechanical Engineering specializing in Bioengineering and Mechatronics. Currently, I am completing a biomechatronics thesis working on a humanoid robot. Additionally, I have been involved in class design competitions; recently my product design team won 1st place and $2500 in our course design project. Between the 3rd and 4th year of my program, I completed a 16-month Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship at Sentinelle Medical, a medical device company. Post-graduation in spring 2011, I will be returning to the University of Toronto’s Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering to complete a master’s degree in Clinical Engineering. In my spare time, I enjoy playing ping-pong, taking dance classes, and playing piano.
My story with FIRST started during my last year of high school, my fellow classmate talked me into joining our local robotics team; The Cybergnomes, Team 2013. I wasn’t too sure what to expect when joining the FRC team, but honestly, it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had. My role on the team was to keep our fans and sponsors updated with what was happening with the team, by keeping our website and social media pages up to date. I also played the role of a scouter, as well as being the Gnome at our competitions. I gained many new skills that I hadn’t encountered before from being on the team, and also stepped outside my bubble. From participating in presentations and fundraising, I can now talk to people easily without hesitation. I had never ran a website before, but with the help of robotics, I learned how to run and manage it easily. But it didn’t stop there. I also played the role as a book keeper. The role that I played as book keeper consisted of making a ton of spreadsheets that had everything from sponsor information, to team member contact information, as well as hours that each student put into the season to keep everything organized. It was a time demanding role, but I was ready for the challenge. January 4th of 2014 is when the real fun began; build season. After watching the kick-off broadcast, all of the Cybergnomes then headed back to JT Snowmobile; the shop that the team spends numerous hours building our robot out of, which is not only our biggest sponsor, but the business of our lead mentor. Lots of ideas and talking happening for hours on end, whiteboard covered. Then that’s when it started kicking in what robotics was really about. By the end of the night, we had started building our prototype for our robot; The RatTrapp. The competition season had to be my favourite thing about robotics. The energy, the music, the people, and the places just amazed me! The first ever competition I had been to was the GTR East competition. Sure, I had watched some of the competitions online the year before, but being there, in person; it’s a completely different experience. I loved the rush it gave me when I was cheering on my team, while they were out on the field. I couldn’t wait for our next competition. We attended 3 Regional Competitions which were GTR East, North Bay, as well as the Western Canada Regional which was out in Calgary, Alberta. I had never left Ontario before, and robotics gave me that opportunity to see different places. Later did I realize that Calgary wasn’t the furthest I was going. The Cybergnomes ended up winning the Western Canada Regional with the alliance partners of 4334; Alberta Tech Alliance, and 4719; The Bulldogs which then took us to the Championships down in St. Louis, Missouri. In the history of our team, we had never won a Regional, so ultimately it was a new experience for everyone. Having the opportunity to go to the Championships, of course we accepted the offer! Walking into the dome, seeing everything surrounding me; the people, the mascots, all the fields, and hearing the music, I then realized that this was happening, the biggest moment in the history of our team. We fought our hardest with The RatTrapp, and we ended up making it to the semi-finals in our division; the Currie Division. We were proud to had made it that far with it being our first time ever at the Championships. Another thing I enjoyed about Championships had to be RoboProm. All the guys from our team wore orange tuxedo shirts, while the girls from our team dressed up in dresses. Championships overall was such a great experience, and I hope that one day I’ll have that opportunity to be there again. I really regret not joining the team sooner, but I’m happy that I did join for my grade 12 year of high school. It was the most memorable year of high school that I’ve ever experienced. Now, I have graduated high school, and I’m currently attending Durham College for Culinary Management. I know a lot of you may be asking; “Why not something that has to do with robotics?” Well, from my experience on the team, I take away the people skills, and the organizational skills needed to be successful in the management world, but had fun while gaining those skills. I made a great amount of new friends, and made a great impact on my life.
When I stepped into my very first Team 188 Woburn Robotics meeting held back in 2003, I had no idea that FIRST would be responsible for some of my greatest memories, challenges and achievements for the next decade and a half. As a high school sophomore, I had heard about the long history of Team 188 and always knew that I had wanted to be a part of something as exciting as building a robot. However, I also knew that I was not mechanically or mathematically talented enough to contribute to such a team. Or at least, I thought I did. Without hyperbole, what began originally as an every-day after school program quickly blossomed into what I consider to be among the most influential activities that has shaped my professional career and my life thus far. FIRST is a program like none other. Combining the competitive aspects of organized sports with a reach and accessibility that goes far beyond physical abilities, FIRST pushes students to be the best that they can be while providing them with an unparalleled mentor network to ensure continued success. For STEM or non-STEM students, FIRST creates opportunities for students to challenge their pre-conceived limits in an environment that motivates them like no other school project or activity. For example, as a non-STEM student, I found incredible value in learning and seeing physics and mathematics play out in a practical and applicable manner, while I built confidence and entrepreneurial skills in leading and organizing a team, soliciting sponsors and preparing written and oral submissions. FIRST offers a unique role for students of every background and motivation to participate in, making them feel as if they are contributing to something meaningful, while also pushing them outside of their own comfort zones to discover more about themselves. The skills, relationships and abilities I developed participating in FIRST helped me to secure a position with Procter & Gamble as a national sales and marketing manager, responsible for two franchises worth over $100 million in revenue out of my undergraduate degree. At the same time, FIRST’s impact on my second career as a corporate lawyer is indelible and irreplaceable due to the inter-personal skills I developed leading a team. FIRST is a program that stands out on any resume and encourages and invites questions, while eliciting a desire to learn more from interested parents and students. To this day, I list starting a FIRST Robotics Team as my proudest personal achievement, more than 10 years after I started with Team 188.
My FIRST experience came early in my high school career and like many others I was quickly hooked. Looking back now I am grateful for the tremendous opportunity to represent Woburn CI/Team 188 on multiple occasions and particularly at the Championship event at Epcot Center. I can vividly remember watching the closing festivities on Einstein as the monorail whizzed by and how surreal the entire atmosphere was. Though that was a moment I definitely won’t forget, it was the journey to Disney that was even more magical. It is hard to put into words how much I learned, the quality of the people I met, and the selflessness and graciousness of our mentors. Like most students, I had limited know-how when it came to building robots and it was FIRST that gave me my first hands-on experience and literally taught me the nuts and bolts of how things work. Unlike most students however, a funny thing happened along the way and I didn’t see myself having a career in engineering. While some may consider this an example where FIRST didn’t have its desire impact, I would argue the opposite; FIRST represents much more beyond strictly engineering. FIRST more broadly teaches you how to think, problem solve,and find out-of-the-box solutions for the most challenging of problems and to do so in a setting where teamwork, leadership, and communication is just as important as the initial thought itself. These are the skills I took away from FIRST. I have since completed business degrees at Queen’s University and the University of Pennsylvania/Wharton and currently work at a hedge fund in NYC. Though my path has clearly veered to the business side of things, the skills and thinking I developed through FIRST are still being used and built on. Furthermore, despite not choosing engineering as a career, the FIRST bug has not abated, as I have been involved often over the past decade with the GTA regional as a head referee and volunteer.
In Grade 9, I was the kind of student that teachers hate; I was uninterested in learning, bored, and disruptive. My parents convinced me to join FIRST, and even though I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to the team, it contributed a lot to me. I became heavily involved with Team 188 for the next three years of high-school, and during university I was a student mentor for Teams 188, 1114, 1503 and 1680. From Grade 9 onwards, FIRST Robotics gave me a team of role models to learn from. The older students taught me that hard work can be fun, and the overall experience taught me that learning and challenging yourself makes life more fun; not less. FIRST continued to challenge me year after year. It got me interested in other school teams, it got me engaged at school, and it helped me better understand my own strengths and weaknesses. I did my undergrad in engineering at the University of Waterloo, and I started my own company when I graduated – two things that I couldn’t have done without the experiences and confidence that I gained from FIRST. I’m currently the chief software architect at IGLOO Software, and though I’m not building robots for a living, I know that FIRST played a big role in preparing me for my career.
My first experience with FIRST was in Grade 10. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and looking back on it now – 10 years later – it remains my fondest memory of high-school. FIRST opened up a whole new world for me. It allowed me to play with tools and machines that were completely foreign to me. It taught me how to design, build, and operate a one hundred eighty pound Wall-E. Importantly, it gave me lifelong friends and the confidence to take on new and daunting challenges. It also gave me my husband Peter. While completing my undergrad in Biochemistry at the University of Toronto, I returned to Woburn Collegiate to mentor Team 188. I also founded and coordinated the LEGO League robotics program at Woburn Jr. Public School with the help of a great group of Team 188 students. During this new chapter of my involvement with FIRST, I greatly honed my leadership and communication skills. I began to see challenges as opportunities, and learned that the more you give FIRST, the more it gives you. Although my career path has now veered from science into business (I’m completing my MBA at Wilfrid Laurier University), I still routinely rely on the skills and experiences I obtained through my involvement in FIRST. That’s the neat part; FIRST is a gift that keeps on giving. It gives far more than an interest in science and technology – it gives the skills and experiences to succeed in life. I hope that one day I can repay the gift.
It all started for me in 2004 at the back of a math classroom on the second floor of Woburn C.I. with talk of strategy, scouting, and writing essays. What piqued my interest then I do not know, but I do know is that I will be eternally grateful for finding FIRST on that afternoon. I remained heavily involved with Team 188 for the next three years with several aspects of the team. I will remember my time on the team most for the camaraderie it fostered in addition to the unique environment in which teamwork, time management, and decision-making skills were tested and honed. I was challenged like never before, but invaluable mentors, a community that cooperated as it competed, and a thoroughly intriguing program provided me with the enthusiasm and confidence to step up and embrace these challenges. FIRST has been called the hardest fun out there and I would certainly find it hard to argue with that. Following my time on Team 188, I chose to pursue Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto. In addition to my practical experience, the softer skills (effective communication, strong critical thinking, and creative problem-solving) that I applied while on the team proved pivotal in adapting to, and succeeding in, the team-focused university environment. University did not mean the end of FIRST for me. I felt compelled to give back to the program that had helped me develop and mature as a person and returned to mentor Team 188 as an alumnus. Few things are as rewarding as helping others to learn and grow by passing on your experiences and I have no doubt that I will continue to mentor for as long as I can. This year I will finish off an internship with Procter & Gamble and serve as Team 188’s drive team coach before returning to school to finish my final year of study before graduation. These achievements, like so many other elements of my life, have been deeply impacted by FIRST and I hope to do all I can to ensure that it continues to do so.
In hindsight, my high school experience would feel incomplete without the FIRST Robotics programme. It is my opinion that through involvement in FIRST Robotics one can gain breadths of experience and developmental opportunity matched by few other high school activities. Look beyond the obvious educational benefits of brainstorming, designing, building, testing, redesigning and maintaining a robot. What is often missed is that all of this takes place in an authentic environment for learning about team dynamics, accountability, budgeting, management, logistics, marketing, fundraising and public relations. Since its inception, my high school’s robotics team has been fortunate to have outstandingly supportive teachers and industrial mentors that recognize the value of engaging the students in all of these aspects. It is opportunities like these that give recent graduates the tools to draft and execute plans for postgraduate success. I want to stress that immersion in FIRST Robotics is an exceptional catalyst for a career in any technical profession, and that team membership (and the developmental benefits derived thereof) is not limited to those with interests in engineering or technology. My own path since high school led to postgraduate studies in applied mathematics and scientific computing; other alumni from my school’s FIRST robotics cohort have embarked on careers in fields as diverse as business consulting, international development, film, education, entrepreneurship and optometry.
I was first introduced to FIRST in 2002 when I followed my brother along to the inaugural Canadian Regional and cheered along as team 610 won the regional. Since then FIRST has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life; from inspiring me to learn about science and technology as a young high school student, to prepare me for studying Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s University, and to being able to teach and mentor high school students with our Team 2809 K-Botics. I caught the FIRST bug early in high school and spent a large portion of my time learning about mechanical design, CAD design, team strategy, programing, and manufacturing as a student leader of Team 610, Crescent Robotics. This prepared me better then anything else could have to study Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s University. In my first year I quickly realized I couldn’t stay away from FIRST for very long and joined up with other FIRST alumni from teams 610, 1114, and 771 to start Team 2809 K-Botics in Kingston. We have also since started the Queen’s Engineering Society FIRST Robotics Club where we raise funds to support all the FIRST programs in Kingston area. With K-Botics I have learned how rewarding being a mentor for a FIRST Robotics team can be, by passing on my passion for science and technology. This year I will be graduating from Mechanical Engineering and pursuing a career in the Technology space, my direct mentorship of team 2809 may end but my involvement with FIRST Robotics certainly won’t.
I joined FIRST in 2009 with Team 2200, MMRambotics, when I was in my first year of high school. We were just a small group of students who wanted to do something cool. I had no idea what FIRST was about or how big FIRST was. That all changed after my first competition, we had made it to the finals and it was an amazing learning experience. Over the next three years the team grew and so did our skills. FIRST enabled me to find something that I am passionate about which I could make a career out of. I am currently studying Biomedical Engineering Technology at Durham College in Oshawa. I also mentor MMRambotics in my free time.
My earliest introduction to FIRST was back when I was in grade eight, at a demonstration of my soon to be high school’s FRC team. Since then I have been a student on FRC team 1310 for four years, volunteered at multiple FLL events, and have gone on to be a mentor on FRC team 4476. Looking back I can definitively say that my time in FIRST has helped me grow into the person I am today. Through the fantastic hands on technical experience I gained, I was inspired in my choice of post-secondary education. Before my time in FRC I hadn’t even considered studying engineering, but now I’m attending Queens University for Mechanical Engineering, and I can’t see myself studying anything else. FIRST also helped to teach me some great skills, from the more obvious technical skills like design and manufacturing; to time management, presentation skills, and greatly increased confidence in my public speaking. Probably the best thing about all the skills I’ve learned through FIRST is the fact that they have all been extremely useful to me at many different instances already, especially during my time at University. Even so, my time in FIRST is so much more than just the fantastic things I learned, the fun I had, or even the opportunities it opened up for me. I’ve met most of my best friends through FIRST, and I have been provided with a fantastic community of people to meet and work with. Something I should stress though is that FIRST isn’t all hard work and learning, it is really a lot of fun as well. From the exhilarating competitions, to the long hours spent during build season, to helping out at events, it’s always a great time. So I have to say, my time in FIRST is something I wouldn’t trade for anything, and I hope to still be a part of FIRST for years to come.
“Why?” “How?” For as long as I can remember I found myself asking those two, seemingly, simple questions whether it was in school or at home. Often the response was just a shrug of the shoulders or a smile that meant I was too young to understand. That was not good enough, not nearly good enough! I decided in middle school that I want to know the answers to as many why and how that my little brain could come up with, but naturally, my first thought was “well how am I going to know those answers?” One of my teachers saw this curiosity in me and asked me to come out to the school’s first ever FLL team, which he described to me as a way to develop skills helping to not just put my curiosity to ease but magnify it even more. Every decision that I have made since that day has been in part, if not more so, impacted by my experience with FIRST. My home high school was not reputed as a leader in education and so when it came time to decide which school I wanted to go to, the decision came down to whether or not the school had anything even remotely like FIRST. To my amazement Woburn Collegiate Institute was just initiating a program that would enrich students in the fields of Science, Math and Technology, they called it the SMT Program. The application process for this program was independent to the regular admittance process because they wanted the students with a passion to grow in STEM education. After getting accepted into the SMT program I found out about Team 188 Woburn Robotics and enlisted to be one of their new recruits. There were no auditions, no trials, there was simply the opportunity to learn from the most inspiring people I have met to date. Once high school was done I picked a university that sponsors FIRST by hosting an FRC regional on campus knowing that any institution that offered students the chance to witness such a great event would indeed be one worth investing time and money. I am in my final year of studies for my Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering, but have opted to take a 16 month paid internship in a related job. What’s more is that the internship is also something that FIRST, and my high school robotics team mentors have helped me obtain. In fact my employer is so happy with his investment hiring FIRST students like myself he is willing to give more FIRSTers the same opportunity I received. From simple childhood curiosities to an almost graduate of engineering with relevant work experience, not to mention all of the skills like problem solving, creative design, time management, project management and so many more are all thanks to FIRST. Without FIRST, post-secondary education was not even something I was considering I just wanted to join the workforce, thankfully after FIRST I am much better suited to face the real world and its challenges. I continue to give back to my team, the team that paved a path in the direction of my final destination, and even as a mentor I continue to grow as an individual.
FIRST has changed my life. It has developed who I am today. It has changed the way I think and interpret things. It’s so contagious that I can feel the coopertition pour into the rest of my life. For four years FIRST and my FIRST Robotics Competition team have given me countless opportunities. FIRST Canada helps to connect young minds to each other and real world applications. They have given me the opportunity to take on leadership roles and they support programs I love. Before FIRST, I wanted to be a singer. I always liked math and science but I never had an outlet for it. The minute Team 3161 came to my school I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I went to my highschool for robotics and it was easily the best decision I could have made. Over my time on Team 3161 I have been a Team Captain, a Captain’s Advisor, lead mechanical design, an event planner, a coordinator, a budget manager, and friends with many different people. I have become a two time Dean’s List Finalist, and it was the greatest feeling to be recognized for working so hard. Despite living on my own, going through my parents divorce, losing my sister, and battling both depression and anxiety, FIRST has given me the two things I needed, an outlet and an opportunity. There is no way I could say I would be as strong as I am today without FIRST and Team 3161. It really is the hardest fun you’ll ever have.
When people ask me what was the best experience I had during high school, I instantly tell them it was my involvement in FIRST. I began as a student of FIRST Team 1310 Runnymede Robotics and I now mentor FIRST Team 4476 W.A.F.F.L.E.S. in Kingston. I was first introduced to FIRST by a local demonstration by Team 1310 in 2008. I then decided to attend Runnymede Collegiate Institute for high school and joined the team in 2009. This was a decision made without knowing exactly what I was getting into but I took a leap of faith and this turned out to be one of the most important decisions of my life. In 2013 I took the reigns as being one of the team’s co-captains and helped lead the team through a difficult year due to teacher job action. The lessons learned during this year and years previous were incredibly valuable, with most of my experience in mechanical systems and team administration. I am now attending Queen’s University in the Faculty of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering. I will be entering my second year in the fall of 2014 for school and my second year as mentor on team 4476. Being part of the W.A.F.F.L.E.S. has exposed me to many new skills and experiences different from my original team. Being part of FIRST in university was an integral part of my first year and I particularly enjoyed working with a group of such dedicated students and mentors. I have truly enjoyed every experience I have had as a student and I expect that I will participate as a mentor providing excellent learning experiences for students in the present and the future. The values that FIRST instills, including gracious professionalism and coopertition have served me well in robotics and everyday life.
If you had told 10 year old me that I would grow up to want to build robots for the rest of my life, I would have laughed in your face. When I was younger, I was painfully shy and had no confidence in myself but FIRST Robotics was a serious game changer. I started competing in FIRST LEGO League in 2008 because my older brother was joining a team as well so I figured I wouldn’t be completely alone. Needless to say I wasn’t completely confident in my building and programming skills coming into FLL. However, when I began working out designs and project ideas with my team, my fears of fitting in and being accepted disappeared. Before I knew it, I was going in to work on the robot and project every chance I had, which paid off at our first regional competition where we won first place. From this point onwards, I became hooked on FIRST. As I continued competing in FLL up until 2011, I developed my presentation skills to the point where I was excited to present my ideas and designs to anyone who would listen. I learned how to effectively work in teams and, as I became a senior member, lead my team. Now that I had a taste for robotics, I couldn’t wait to join the FIRST Robotics Competition team at my high school, 3161 Tronic Titans. Having so much experience in FLL, I helped my FRC team primarily with making LEGO robotics readily available to children in our community. I wanted to share my passion with other aspiring engineers through mentoring multiple LEGO robotics teams and volunteering at LEGO robotics competitions across Ontario.
The FIRST Robotics Competition is one of the greatest, most rewarding and involving experiences any youth or adult can become involved with in their lifetime. I originally heard about the program through a friend of my family. His son had been a part of the local team since his freshman year in high school, and he spoke nothing but good things about it. So when I began looking for things I could do to get involved with school in my first year, I knew that robotics was the way to go. A couple of weeks later, I was officially welcomed to FRC Team 772, The Sabre Bytes as a member of the mechanical/design section. The team started work in October, much sooner than the actual season, because there is much to be learned. Going in, I only had basic construction knowledge from helping my father with projects around the house. With help from a few dedicated mentors and the older members of our organization, the members of my section were taught how to design in Solidworks as well as use many of the machines in our metal shop; they were preparing us for the hardest six weeks of our lives. I still remember that January afternoon like it was yesterday. We were challenged by the founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen, to design, build and program a robot to play soccer on a field that had two huge humps running across it. I was shocked and a little bit confused as to how we could possibly do this. Another member of my section began bouncing ideas off of me, looking to me to help improve his ideas. This continued for a number of hours that day, not knowing that for the next four years he would be my design partner and best friend. The next school day we went to our robotics meeting. Everyone had ideas, many of them similar to ours. This made me more confident in my ideas and I did something I had been unable to do for the previous few years; I spoke up and had my ideas heard. That for me, was the moment I knew I was hooked to this program. That same year was the first time I organized my team’s participation in Science Rendezvous. Though it was challenging for me as I had never done something on that large of a scale before. It was a huge boost for all the members of the team and it allowed us to bond as a team, even more than we already had during the season. The next year I became much more involved with the team, and with that involvement came a much greater dedication to my schoolwork, especially my maths and sciences. I had already picked a job in the STEM fields of study for after high school, but FIRST made me strive even more to attain my goal. In my third year on the team, I was made the leader of the electrical section. Up until that point I had no knowledge of electricity, routing wires or creating circuit diagrams other than from what I had been taught in physics. But, with great challenge comes great opportunity, and this was the greatest challenge I had to face in my four years as a member of the team. I spent most of my time either learning new ways to organize wires and control systems, teaching the new members of my section those methods, or working hand in hand with the mechanical section to make sure that, for the first time, we would have a robot with a pre-designed electrical board that could just be up and replaced with a few bolts. The game that year was called Rebound Rumble and was based on basketball. The more prevalent theme that year was that of cooperation between opponents, as there was a bridge in the middle which was balanced at the end of the match by one robot on each alliance as a sign of good sportsmanship. During our first competition of that season, we came out the undefeated champions, a first for our team in our eleven year history. This led to my participation in many talks with local industry members, organizing presentations for the general public at many different venues and it also led to some expansion in the local area. By the next year, three more teams had formed at local high-schools. My fourth year was a very different experience compared to my previous years. With the new teams came a need for new mentors. This was when I got my first taste at mentoring, and it felt amazing, knowing that I was doing what the engineers and the programmers and designers were doing. It made me feel like I was a part of something much larger than I had already thought was huge. That year was also very stressful, not because the game challenge was extremely difficult but because it was my senior year, and I had to make decisions as to what I was going to take as a form of post-secondary education. I chose aerospace engineering, because my work with local industry had encouraged me to take leaps into developing areas, and I also chose to specialize in avionics and control systems because of the amount of fun and interest I had developed as the leader of the electrical section. In November of 2013, I was accepted into Aerospace Engineering specializing in avionics and control systems at Carleton University, and that is where I completed my first year of post-secondary education. I have continued to follow my passion, joining the Carleton Robotics Club as a member and one of the lead designers of our newest quadcopter project. I continued my involvement in FIRST by mentoring Team 2994, The Astechz from Kanata, dedicating an hour long transit ride three times a week to give the members of their team the best mentorship I could deliver. FIRST Robotics Competition may seem like it is all about the robots as it says in the name, but as an alumni and continued volunteer with the program, I can say that that is incorrect. FIRST develops the youth of today into inspired, outgoing, confident and self-driven members of the future. I never would have chosen to specialize in avionics if I didn’t have the opportunity to experience firsthand what I would be doing. The fields of STEM are growing internationally, and all of my professors have said the same thing to me; we need more students to go into these fields, otherwise we will not be able to compete in the global economy. FIRST is the best program I know that can help in solving this issue and truthfully, I recommend it to every student I come upon, because it changed my life and I know others who feel the same. In conclusion, FIRST was and still is the greatest experience of my life, and I’m not sure where I would’ve ended up without it.
My enthusiasm for STEM can be attributed to my involvement in the organization FIRST. By participating in programs such as FIRST Lego League and the FIRST Robotics Competition, I have learned how to design and complete a project according to a strict timeline and budget. FRC is particularly challenging because your team has to design and build a robot for competition in less than six weeks. Being a part of an FRC team has been extremely rewarding because I have learned many soft skills such as effective communication, as well as many hard skills such as CAD, by working alongside our adult mentors, who are professional engineers. In my fifth year participating in FRC, I became co-captain of my team, SWAT 771. Organizing the fifty girls on my team was difficult at first; however, through this position of leadership I gained a broader perspective of the many aspects of running a functioning team. Before I was co-captain my role on the team was strictly mechanical; I was in charge of building the robot chassis and function. When I became co-captain my responsibilities on the team expanded; I became involved in everything from managing finances and collecting sponsors to mentoring young girls in the Lego League program. The exposure I have gained by participating in these various aspects of the FIRST program has made me realize that engineering, especially designing innovative solutions to complex problems, is my niche and is what I would like to pursue. Next year I will be studying engineering at the California Institute of Technology. Because of FIRST, I am willing to commit to the demands of the field of engineering, and am looking forward to the challenges I will face throughout university and ultimately my career as an engineer.
As a member of FIRST Robotics Team 1241 – Theory6, an integral component of my high school experience, I grew to develop a clear understanding of my academic interests and goals. I explored a large facet of the mechanical engineering concentration, working with product designs and their iterations through 2D & 3D drawing softwares such as AutoCad & Autodesk Inventor, subsequently fabricating these designs in the Tool & Die shop using CNC & Manual Machines. The FIRST program impelled me to think of creative yet simple solutions to solve the most challenging problems. Following this, my interest in several engineering technologies began to grow, and I became eager to explore my involvement with it, hoping to identify plausible solutions to growing problems worldwide. Today, as a high school senior, I’m on the edge debating where to pursue my interests. North America provides an endless array of opportunities, with all their respective strength and features. My top choices include studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto, a globally renowned program, as well as Mechatronics at UWaterloo. Simultaneously, while exploring options in the United States, I’ve identified several universities with very elite engineering programs. I’ve applied to programs at University of Michigan, Cornell U, Duke U, as well as Carnegie Mellon. Recently, I was overjoyed to hear that I had been accepted to Purdue University, whose mechanical engineering field is globally renowned. They even host their own FRC Regional, the Boilermaker Regional! FIRST Robotics has played a big part in helping me gain a clear understanding of where I want to go, and what I perceived myself to be studying in the next five years. I explored all aspects of the program, and finally settled down and pursued the one that inspired me the most. As I plan the next major step of my life, I hope to attend an institution that will help me thrive professionally, academically as well as personally.
During my first year at Rick Hansen Secondary School, I was introduced to FIRST robotics team THEORY6 (Team 1241) by my technology teacher, Mr. Hobbins. I received the opportunity to volunteer at a local regional competition at the Hershey Center and was immediately hooked. I joined the team in grade 10 and as they say, the rest was history. I learned how to use almost all the manufacturing equipment in our Tool & Die shop including lathes and CNC Mills, as well as solve a wide range of problems pertaining to mechanical and electro-mechanical systems. Robotics made me realise that I needed to take the initiative and attempt to learn as much as I could outside of the typical classroom setting. I learned how to use a wide range of CAD/CAM softwares and how to use the design process to create simple solutions to complex problems. I was able to learn how to be a quick decision maker when there were disasters on the field and how to come up with out of the box solutions to problems in the pit. FIRST really helped pave a strong foundation for my professional career. FIRST taught me that being ‘good enough’ is never good enough, that I need to work through the long nights and try to solve the complex problems so I could not only better myself, but better the world around me. It let me realize that my wildest thoughts could come true as long as I believed in myself and kept pushing towards my goal. I thank FIRST for making me so ambitious and making me realise the end is just the beginning. Since graduating from Rick Hansen, I have pursued a degree in Mechanical Engineering & Management at McMaster University. I was able to hone my engineering skills at a young age and it has allowed me to excel as an engineering student. I loved the sense of belonging and appreciation I received from my mentors, so I decided to stay involved with FIRST and Mentor a team of my own. I am now a crucial member of team 1285, The Big Bang, and help guide students through solving a wide range of problems. I never would have guessed that the simple decision to join this organization would have had this much of an impact on me.
My name is Parker Smith, I am currently a grade 12 student and a senior rookie on team 4525 Renaissance Robotics. I am going to tell you my story of how I got involved with FIRST and what FIRST has done for me. I was a typical Canadian kid who absolutely loved the game of hockey, wanting nothing more than to fulfill my dream of playing in the National Hockey League. I had put everything that I had into playing hockey, spending endless hours in the gym, the driveway and on the ice doing everything in my power to reach my goal. I began to make some progress as I made the minor midget Elgin Middlesex Chiefs AAA hockey team when I was in grade 10. We had an amazing year being ranked in and out of the top ten in the province all season, ending up at the yearend OHL Cup tournament showcasing the best teams in Ontario and surrounding area. It was the best year of hockey that I have had, and things could not have been going any better for me. Shortly into my next season, I was hit from behind during practice by my own teammate; causing me to suffer a major concussion. I missed six weeks of hockey and two weeks of school, which was considered to be a reasonable recovery time. Just two weeks after I returned, in December of 2015, I received another blow to the head giving me my second concussion in just two months and I did not know it at the time but that was the moment that my hockey career came to an end. After that hit, I spent the better part of six weeks at my house with just my family members and the weekly visits from my friends. Upon my return to school, I needed a hat to cut the glare from the lights, custom glasses to help my eyes with focusing, along with only three classes instead of four and many other accommodations set in place by the doctors. I could handle all of this, however, the real heartbreaker was sitting across from the doctor and finding out that I would never be able to play the game of hockey ever again. My dream was over and I was crushed. As I returned to school in September for my grade 12 year, it was my first year ever that I was not playing hockey. There were no sports available to me without a risk of hitting my head and receiving another concussion. I was then presented with the opportunity to join our robotics team. I was very hesitant at first, wondering if I would be able to contribute as much as I would like because I was coming in so late, or if I just would not have enough knowledge because all of my friends have been on the team for 3 years now. But, the mentors and my peers were very encouraging to me and I took a chance. I ended up participating in our outreach programs at our local libraries with younger kids, having one of my graphics published into our card game and an FIRST Canada colouring book, I helped build and design our robot, was our pilot in this year’s game, and was a part of our Chairman’s presentation. All of this was great, but for me the most important thing that robotics has given to me was the chance to be a part of a team once again, and to compete for something as a group. Without FIRST, I may not have ever had a chance to compete and have fun as a member of a team ever again and for that, I could not be more thankful.
I was first introduced with FIRST back in 2006/07, during my grade 9 year. I had no idea what FIRST was, so I joined FRC team 1006, Fast Eddie Robotics. By the second week of the build season, I had already learned how to use a lathe, and a vertical mill. I was on the team for 3 years, and then when I was in grade 12 we didn’t have a team, so I ended up over hauling an older robot and got it working. Since I graduated, I’ve been volunteering, and mentoring the team, when we have a team. FIRST has helped me become who I am today. FIRST has given me more self confidence, and a greater knowledge of how things work, and how to make parts. Before being with FIRST, I would have never thought of dying my hair different colours, and getting up and dancing in a crowd. Now I can easily create a pneumatics system, and machine parts. I have also met many great people with FIRST. FIRST has helped me for the best.
I hold a BSc (Honors Specialization in Genetics from Western University) and Masters of Science in Biotechnology at Johns Hopkins University. I am currently conducting research at Wilmer Eye Institute’s Stem Cell Research Lab at Johns Hopkins Hospital but was a student on Rick Hansen’s FRC Team 1241 for 4 years and a mentor for 2 years. Since then, I’ve been a mentor on Western Engineering’s FIRST Robotics Club (WEFIRST) for 3 years. FIRST and FRC teaches you a wide array of skills that will assist you in any field you chose to pursue. I use the project management, communication and leadership skills on a daily basis. The opportunities I have been given all stem from my involvement in FIRST. I was informed that my participation in FIRST was instrumental in my admission decision at Johns Hopkins University and my hiring decision at the Stem Cell Research Lab
I joined FIRST team 1075, the Sinclair Sprockets, early in grade nine. I had no experience with robotics and no idea what I was setting myself up for. I quickly learned basic machinery and wiring. With only a few students, the oldest in grade 10, I was selected as a backup driver. When I was in grade 10, I started teaching newer students what I knew, while refining my knowledge. I got to be really talented with electronics, so I became the team electrician. I was in the auto shop where we build our robots more often than I was at home. I also picked up TIG welding that year, and was designated a main driver until the end of high school. In grades 11 and 12, I had demonstrated exceptional leadership and robotic knowledge. Therefore, I was selected as one of our build leaders. When I first started, I thought FIRST would just be an after school club like any other. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did I develop mechanical and electrical skills, I developed leadership and teamwork abilities. I also became more sure of myself and what I wanted to do in life. Currently, I go to McMaster University for Materials Engineering, something I never would have thought would happen in grade nine. I also recieved a fantastic co-op oppertunity from Marwood, one of team 1075′s sponsors. I now mentor team 4039, MakeSHIFT robotics in Hamilton, and visit 1075 whenever I can. Joining FIRST was by far my best decision during high school.
My name is Nima Tahami, I’m a student at the University of Waterloo and the Co-Founder of ShiftRide, a peer-to-peer car sharing platform based out of the Velocity Garage incubator. ShiftRide allows people to rent cars from car owners nearby, while we provide insurance, roadside assistance, and support. At ShiftRide, our mission is to give everyone access to a car, without the high costs and hassles of owning one. My journey in entrepreneurship started back when I was younger, as I was always interested in building new things. Back in high school, I became very passionate about developing and publishing mobile games. In my first year at St. Robert’s Catholic High School, I used to always walk by this Computer Science class that I had heard of. One day, I finally decided to walk in and learn more about this class from my former teacher, Mr. Keenan. Right away, I added Computer Science to my courses for the following year. Through taking the class, I met many new friends and learned new things which eventually inspired me to start developing games for the iPhone. When I first heard about First Robotics from friends who signed up for the club, I was amazed by the challenge of building a competitive robot, but I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to get involved. After talking with Mr. Keenan, I found out that the team is interested in developing and publishing their own mobile game for the competition. I found this to be a great opportunity for me to get involved and use my skills to create something exciting. So I joined as the head of the mobile development group of our First Robotics team, team 4001, and led a team of talented students who were also interested in making an awesome game for the competitions. We got started and worked hard to meet our deadline. The game was starting to come together and we gave it to other students to try it out. It was actually fun, a lot of people loved it and so we decided to publish it on the Apple App Store. Although we had tight deadlines to meet, it was through First Robotics that we really realized the power of a team of people coming together and getting things done, making the impossible becomes possible. To this day, I use so much of what I learned being part of the app development group at our First Robotics team. If I could sum the experience up in one sentence, I would simply say: being part of First Robotics taught me that big innovation comes from small consistent contributions from a group of individuals who have a mission, which is how we push things forward. I definitely encourage students to try out clubs such as First Robotics, as it’s through these experiences and people you meet in the program that helps you find your passion.
My involvement with FIRST Robotics started the first week of grade nine. I went to the school’s tech shop and asked if we have a robotic club. That’s when I was introduced to Mr. Chierry. He told me he was working on a robot arm and he taught me how to do some wiring. After a couple of weeks our school started its first FIRST Robotics team! I participated in the tryouts but didn’t make it to the building team. Yet I still hang around and tried to help in anyway that I can. That year we won a regional and we went to the world championship. From that year FIRST became my second family, (although during build season I would spend more time with them than my own family!) Over the next four years, I have been working in our team’s chairman, design, building, safety, sewing, swag, and business team. As you can imagine, I learned a variety of different skills! For four years, my life consisted of participating in various competitions, staying late after school, attending Saturday building days, and eating Mr. Keenan’s cooking. In the ride back home from my graduation, my mom said “Well, at least next year at university you don’t have to go to school on weekends to work on your robot!” I laughed and replied “Mom, once you are in FIRST you are in it for life!” FIRST not only gives you an opportunity to learn and grow next to a group of wonderful people, it also changes you. The biggest change was the level of selflessness I saw in everyone involved with the program. Grown adults, who work non-stop to organize events, have to teach teenagers (not the best age group of humans to deal with!). I was very puzzled by this, because in today’s society this amount of devotion is not seen. Many students are in university to get a degree instead of to learn. Many people go to their jobs every morning to get a paycheque. One day, I was watching my mentor, Mr. Chierry dealing with, you know, us “teenagers”, and I wondered, “Why on earth would he do that? Wouldn’t he rather be at home with his family watching TV, and relaxing?” I asked him, “Sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but don’t you have a life? Like why are you doing this?” He replied “I am sure that one day one of you guys will do something amazing that you wouldn’t be able to do without this experience, and that’s enough for me. Also, I believe that you have to pay it forward. I have had people in my life who guided me as I am now guiding you, and I hope that you too will mentor others… that’s how you can make the world a better place.” So I think working side by side with people who have this mind, inspires you the best you can be for the sake of yourself and others. FIRST also come in handy in university in many different ways. When I started university, I was considered for the Lassonde Scholarship. One of York’s most prestigious awards. For my first interview, I had to talk about a recent project that I was very passionate about. That summer, I finished working on my team’s robotic year book. What I am proud of is not the yearbook itself, but the memories and stories behind each and every page that I got the to share and make with some of the most incredible, smart, and selfless people whom I had the honour of calling my mentors, team mates, and friends.
In 2006, my elementary school LEGO robotics club (not FIRST affiliated) took a trip to the Waterloo Regional. A year later, I was back as a grade 9 student on a rookie team. Over the next four amazing years, I had the amazing pleasure of growing with team 2056, from Orchard Park Secondary School in Stoney Creek, from rookies to a veteran and confident presence in FIRST. While initially attracted by the robots, I really found my niche working on my team’s visual identity and awards submissions. Because of my involvement in FIRST, I taught myself to use Flash and Photoshop. I learned how to build a website from the ground up. I strengthened my essay writing skills to the point where classmates began asking me to edit their papers. From 2010 to 2014, I was a student at Queen’s University, with a major in Film and Media Studies. I began to mentor a local team, 3710 the Cyberfalcons from Frontenac Secondary School in Kingston. The mentoring experience is an absolutely amazing one. I thought that as a “teacher” I would simply “give back” to the program and not get anything else from it. I was dead wrong, and my mentoring career is in many ways even more fulfilling than my student one. I get to watch the school’s best and brightest come together and do amazing things and grow as people. Better yet, I get to pretend that their growth is in some way, shape, or form because of my actions and mentorship. FIRST hasn’t changed my life; it’s defined it. From 2007 to now, and in the future, FIRST has been the rock that I’ve chosen to build my life on. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In my last year of high school I was in charge of software. This was my very first experience with leading a design team. When I went to University I joined a team that designed, built and raced performance cars. Like with FIRST I learned a lot from this team and I eventually put my leadership experience to use. I was the Powertrain Leader in my 3rd and 4th year at University. My 4th year at University was a co-op year. The skills and experiences I gained from FIRST allowed me to secure one of the most sought after positions. I worked as an engineering intern for 16 months at MDA Corporation. The interpersonal and organizational skills I developed during FIRST facilitated my success at MDA. Yesterday I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer from the University of Toronto. Throughout my education I have found success, in part, because FIRST taught me to go beyond my classroom and course syllabus. Now, as a mentor, I have learned the reward of sharing my knowledge and inspiration with others. What FIRST provides is inspiration. What FIRST provides is opportunity. I am fortunate to have been part of FIRST. I aim to share the opportunity with as many as possible.
I am a 4th year Mechanical Engineering Student at the University of Waterloo. During my time here I’ve had work term placements for the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT), CAMI Automotive, Deluxe Film Laboratories, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., and currently at Hatch Associates. During my four year involvement with Woburn Robotics (Team 188), I have been the VP and the Drivetrain Lead of the team, learning much about 3D Parametric Design and Machining Skills. All of which helped me land many of my co-op placements because they needed someone who can both design and machine mechanisms. Designing a robot definitely helps you become a better engineer because you can better judge what is feasible in a design (material selection and amount of materials) as well as different approaches to fulfill a task, both creatively and efficiently.
During the rookie year of 2056 I was the tag along little sister, scouting, cheering and taking in every moment, knowing that one day I would officially be on the team. Seven years later I am proud and in turn sad to be a graduating member of a successful world class team! Over the past four years as an official member of Team 2056, FIRST robotics has had a long lasting impact on the development of my skills and life. One of my most valuable experiences on this team for me was becoming a lead spokesperson in the pits, meeting and interacting with new people on a personal and professional level. Describing the attributes of our phenomenal machines and team has improved my confidence and ability to speak to the public. As well, participating in this program has developed a strong understanding of the value and importance of teamwork and responsibility. Wiring the robot, machining parts and piecing together robot assemblies I have an increased understanding of mechanisms and have gained countless technical skills. Expanding my knowledge of science and technology, my experience on Team 2056 has led me to pursue Biomedical Engineering in my post-secondary studies combining my passion for the medical field and a development of my enthusiasm for STEM. As a result of my experience on this team, I have had the chance to learn from and be mentored by many diverse and accomplished people. Passing along this knowledge when I can, I look forward to my opportunity to continue to do so when I return as an alumni next year. This unique opportunity of FIRST has inspired me as I live, eat and breathe robotics from kickoff until I recuperate from the World Championships in April.