Rachel asked me if I’d write about my personal FIRST experience for the blog – and I’m more than happy to! I will try my hardest to keep it to the TL;DR version, because I’m not sure how well 22-and-some-change years of FIRSTer life is going to translate into text. So let’s start from the beginning.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Libby Kamen. (Yes, that Kamen. Dean is my uncle.) My father, Dean’s big brother, was a big part of a lot of DEKA’s big projects – for example, the wearable insulin pump was originally designed for my father’s oncology patients! Their medical & technical knowledge always wove together on different endeavors, so I grew up around technology and science, even before I knew much about it.
I got to see much of DEKA’s growth up close, into the iBot wheelchair, the Segway technology, and now the Slingshot water purification system. In fact, as DEKA was developing the technology for the iBot, I was learning to walk – and as a result, a lot of my early struggles with movement are on video, so the DEKA engineers could study the development of walking, standing, and balance.
As I got old enough to volunteer ‘on my own’ (as in, without a parent constantly over my shoulder), I’d wander around competitions by myself and just talk to teams. Since I was a younger student, teams were more than happy to explain their robots to me. I quickly fell in love with robotics – it wasn’t just my family’s thing anymore, it was mine. By the time I got to high school, it was apparent that I needed to do this FRC thing for myself. So I started Team 1923, The MidKnight Inventors. (At least, that’s our name now. We went through a bit of a re-branding in 2008.) I had the full support of my family – after all, it was FIRST! – and the team was born.
In 2009, the team grew from the original 4 to a whopping 24, and we won our first regional. That was the year we finally locked down our build & strategy process, rather than just floundering all build season, and it totally paid off. As I left for college I knew they’d be able to maintain the program, and I promised them I’d never be far.
During my time at Clarkson, I worked with the FIRST program there as well. I loved getting a different perspective on how a team might run, and interacting with alumni from other regions. FIRST is celebrated at Clarkson, with FIRST alumni dorms and college credit for mentoring – it became a real melting pot for students from different teams & regions to come together and share their ideas. 229 was run by a lot of the best practices we’ve learned from each other, and I definitely still carry those lessons with me.
I began college as a Mechanical Engineering student, but like some of the other bloggers you’ve read from so far, I had my passions elsewhere too. After trying a few internships, I decided to combine everything I love together into one degree – so I finished Clarkson with my BS in Communications & Media, with a concentration in Engineering Technology. It’s a little bit confusing, from the outside but I got to take my first two years of engineering curriculum and help translate technical concepts through media & writing. My adviser called me ‘the translator’.
I’m now pursuing a Master’s degree in Marketing & Technological Innovation – so, essentially the same deal. I’m also just beginning a job where I get to do – you guessed it! FIRST stuff. I’ll be working with United Therapeutics to sponsor & mentor teams, as well as connect its employees with volunteering opportunities. I look forward to getting to use my experience with FIRST and its community to help better serve the teams around UniTher’s offices, and to make the events we attend as volunteers that much more fun. And, as always, I’ll be a MidKnight Inventor for 2015.
This blog post was written by one of our alumni partners - Libby Kamen. To find out more about her - check out our FIRST Ladies Partners page! If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, get your spot on the schedule now! Click here to pick a date.