Science

How one of the world’s biggest STEM programs is preparing students for life outside the classroom

Summary List PlacementLearning in the post-pandemic world must stretch beyond traditional academics by focusing on a gap that has been failing students and future professionals for far too long — the disconnect between education and employability in the U.S.  Today's top employers need workers with well-rounded capabilities, from problem-solving to technology skills to the ability to exercise empathy and work across diverse teams.  So, what can be done to support and develop students with the skills needed to thrive in the workplace?  Enter: FIRST, the global nonprofit robotics community that knows every student, regardless of their career interests, will require transferable skills to succeed not...

FIRST teams

Summary List Placement

Learning in the post-pandemic world must stretch beyond traditional academics by focusing on a gap that has been failing students and future professionals for far too long — the disconnect between education and employability in the U.S

Today’s top employers need workers with well-rounded capabilities, from problem-solving to technology skills to the ability to exercise empathy and work across diverse teams. 

So, what can be done to support and develop students with the skills needed to thrive in the workplace? 

Enter: FIRST, the global nonprofit robotics community that knows every student, regardless of their career interests, will require transferable skills to succeed not only in the classroom or workplace, but also in life.

More than just a STEM program

Founded by famed inventor Dean Kamen in 1989, mentor-guided FIRST programs foster a love of science and technology in pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school students worldwide. The organization has served millions of students since its founding. While the core FIRST  mission focuses on igniting interest in STEM amongst young people, there are ample opportunities for all students within its robotics teams that span a bevy of interests such as marketing, fundraising, finance, and more. 

So, whether you dream of becoming a rocket scientist, an auto mechanic or a graphic designer, the combination of STEM learning with the fun of traditional sports helps FIRST participants develop 21st-century skills applicable for any path.

FIRST team 2

And, FIRST has the statistics to prove it, too. FIRST alumni, mentors and participants report the program strengthened their post-high school success. Specifically, 74% are more prepared for college courses and 83% are more confident in leadership roles. 

FIRST really taught me what it means to be a team player in every way,” says Adrienne Cibulka, a high school student and member of FIRST team “R2 Jesu.”

“I quickly learned that being on a FIRST team was more than a gold star for an aspiring engineer, but instead, it was a space where I could make a real difference.” 

Innovative skills that make an impact 

Hands-on learning experiences allow students to gain and apply knowledge in real-world scenarios, which is why FIRST ties relevant themes like transportation, health, and fitness, into its robotics challenges.

“From persevering through failure to learning how to work in a team, FIRST is a community where it’s safe, and even encouraged, to learn from mistakes,” says Donald Bossi, co-chair of the FIRST board of directors. “Our program helps young people see that the difference they can make is tangible, and it inspires and empowers students to use what they’ve learned to change the world.” 

Even in the hybrid year of 2020, FIRST teams found methods that allowed them to put their skills to work for the greater good. 

For example, members of the “Iron Mosquitoes” from Minnesota repurposed an old robot that shot T-shirts into the crowd at school events into one that safely delivered groceries to members of their community, serving three local towns at the peak of COVID-19.  

In Michigan, team “Frog Force” solved its community’s personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage by manufacturing and distributing face shields, all thanks to a network of volunteers and the team’s own experience with 3D printing. 

It goes to show, FIRST students can take the critical life skills obtained through the program — teamwork, resiliency in the face of failure, and the ability to overcome adversity, to name a few — and apply these outside the program and far into their future. 

“I joined robotics to learn how to design and build a robot, but my proudest moment was helping the community,” Andrew Wang of “Frog Force” says. “I’ve made an impact as a high schooler that I never thought I would make.” 

FIRST is not only creating problem-solvers in science and technology, but leaders within their communities, workforce, and the world. The organization invites parents and professionals to learn more about the 2021-2022 robotics season and how to get more students involved. In addition to starting or joining a team, there are also countless opportunities for working professionals to help local groups throughout the year.  

Wang urges anyone considering joining a FIRST team to do so because, in the words of founder Dean Kamen, it will be “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.” 

Learn more about FIRST and how to get involved by visiting www.firstinspires.org.

This post was created by Insider Studios with FIRST. 

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