What is your FIRST story?
My local FRC Team, Alpha Omega Robotics (470) from Ypsilanti, MI would host a demo every year at our community heritage festival and that was my first exposure while in elementary school. In 7th grade I was hanging out with an older friend and he took me to one of 470’s Saturday build sessions. As I took in the information they presented me I started contributing to the conversation more and more until I was more interested in it than my friend was. I asked the mentors to let me join on a trial basis and they obliged..
That year was 2008 and we finished last at the Great Lakes Invitational in our hometown, but I didn’t care - I was hooked. I spent time as the team’s chassis lead, but after 5 years I decided to leave the team when I was a senior due to time conflicts; however, I continued volunteering at events on the team’s behalf because I knew I wanted to keep FIRST in my life. I field reset for two years and was told innumerable times that I should be an MC or Announce, so this past year I tried it out at the Southfield District in Michigan. I worked with a wonderful man named Brian Graham as my MC and he helped keep me collected as we muddled through Week 1 of Recycle Rush. I really tried to be as professional as possible while weaving in my snarky, sassy, and silly personality into my commentary. People ended up liking it, and since Michigan expanded their districts this past year, I kept getting asked to fill in for events.
I ended this season hosting the award ceremony at the Michigan State Championship in Dave Verbrugge’s place, which was a huge honor, and this offseason I also got invited to do some announcing at IRI. If you were to have told me 6 months ago that’s where I’d be I would have called you crazy, but when you try to approach things with a spirit of excellence and take your opportunity and run with it, crazy things will happen.
Overall, what is the best part of the FIRST community?
It’s easily the generosity. Everyone gives so much time, money, and energy on every level. When I was asked if I was going to IRI this year on twitter I responded I couldn’t because I had no place to stay. Within an hour I had 5 people offering to help me out.
What is an improvement that you’d like to see in the FIRST community?
Our current volunteer culture is one where I feel we’re not sure why we’re volunteering. Are we doing it for us? Are we doing it for the kids? Are we doing it because we’re running away from broken home lives and FIRST gives us a place to be for 4 months which provides us free meals and t-shirts? Am I volunteering because I just got through an awful breakup with my previous relationship and am emotionally dependent on the positive social interactions that Game Announcing provides me? (Here’s a hint, the last one was about me! *winky face*)
Article Number 347 on the topics that are not to be spoken about in the realm of FIRST is that almost everyone involved has issues within their personal lives too. As mentors, the time commitment running a team requires is ridiculous, and we all clap up these mentors who have been giving up so much of their life for FIRST like it’s a wonderful thing and we fail to acknowledge how unhealthy it is that these people are often neglecting the rest of their lives for this activity.
Now I can bring these up, I can use my platform and say these are issues, but I don’t have solutions, and as a 20 year old kid that’s just trying to get out of his parent’s basement, I haven’t the slightest clue where to find them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start MCing?
Understand that you’re not a clown, you’re a brand ambassador. Understand that you serve the faces in the crowd AND the faces behind the glass. Your job is to facilitate an environment where memories will be made for the spectators and the students. Especially for younger GA’s and MC’s, if you’re good at what you do, you will receive praise and positive feedback, but you can’t let it go to your head. I’ll be the first to admit I wrestled with my pride all season long, but in the end no one’s giving me a blue banner. Take pride in the memories you help create, in the connections you make, and be humble in everything you do.
A good thing to remember is that every move you make, every step you take, they’ll be watching you. Think of yourself as a game presentation consultant. Does screaming into the mic make the game and brand of FIRST look better? No? Don’t do it. Does impersonating Beavis and Butthead for a match make the game and brand of FIRST look better? No? Don’t do it.
Lastly, you need to make sure you’re paying attention to your DJ (or whoever’s running the soundboard) at all times. Everyone’s been to events where the man on the mic can’t be heard or is blowing out your eardrums. Only so much can be done at the soundboard to prevent this problem and the DJ can’t rip the mic out of your hand mid match and tell you to tone it up or down a bit. If you glance at the DJ every 15 seconds it’s much easier to pick up the messages he’s putting down, and that makes everyone happier.
With the shift to two champs coming up, what is your advice for teams to make the best of it?
Honestly though, Christopher George Latore Wallace, or “The Notorious B.I.G.” as some people like to call him, once said “Mo money, mo problems!” and Joel Aaron Hurd, or “@HurdFIRST” as some people like to call him has often said “Mo points, mo fun!” (in regards to matches) so I’m going to take a page out of those great men’s books and say my philosophy on this issue is “Mo champs, mo party.”
When I was a wee lad in my second year of FRC, I got to experience the move from regionals to the district system in 2009. It was met with a lot of trepidation from everyone, but it saved a bunch of teams from having to close shop, mine included. Nowadays I can’t imagine Michigan robotics any other way. I feel like the same thing is going to happen with the multiple championships. We’re all going to get there and it’s going to be the same huge party it always is, there’s just gonna be another party a few hundred miles away at a different time to boot.
It’s okay to be scared of change. The emotional attachment everyone has is a testament to the environment that FIRST is able to create, and no one wants to lose that. At the same time, no one wins the jackpot without taking risks. If we want to see FIRST continue to grow, we have to have some growing pains. It’s proof we’re heading in the right direction.
Would you encourage young women to get involved with FIRST? Why?
Yes. Why? Well let me just give you the same reasons I tell young men. It’s a great environment to gain lifelong skills and friends while preparing yourself to be a young professional. Also it looks great on college applications and blobety blah blah blah! Just because you’re a female doesn’t mean you need to be pandered to with special reasoning like make up and unicorns. If you care about your future, no matter how you see, FIRST will help the future you envision for yourself materialize.
JUST DO IT!
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