For my entire life, I have had the niche to imagine, design, and build. As a child I got paper and tape for Christmas, and would eventually wreck my room while creating story high marble machines and bridge structures. As I got older I upgraded to LEGO Mindstorms kits, scrap wood, and Popsicle sticks. Eventually leading to the use of Vex and Tetrix parts, during my 1st robotics season in 2008. In 2011, our team won the Maryland state championship and went to the world championship for FTC “Get Over It!”. At this point in my life I had already figured out that this was my real passion. The harmonizing combination of creativity and STEM that was engineering design captured me.
Each season of FIRST Robotics beyond that I grew a little more, did a little more, and learned a little more. I had created and led young rookie teams, captained nearly every division of my robotics team, and even introduced new activities such as CAD design, spirit, and company sponsored outreach. Today, I am a full time mechanical engineering student and a junior in high school attending multiple engineering specific classes in school, I am the captain of my FTC robotics team which competes 10 times a year, meets 2-4 times a week, and devotes 3,000+ hours towards outreach. I work 20-50 hours a week at the lab on projects for the Missile Defense Agency on the Aegis Standard Missile III. I am a boy scout, and my eagle project, called Thrive, has the task of researching and procuring technology that can help children, veterans, and the elderly.
Why am I telling you all of this? To help you understand that engineering is my life. Its what I do, how I do, it raised me, and it is my passion. I have 7 years under my belt of working in engineering groups, whether they be amateur or professional. 7 years networking and experiencing around friends, peers, and industry leaders. In these 7 years I have picked up my own perspective on a few things: The key to success, the key to education, and the false idea that genders affects one's involvement in an industry.
The mind is a superbly powerful thing. It creates our reality, and can even alter other people's feelings. If there is one thing I have noticed, it’s that the biggest benefit to our success is also the biggest barrier, confidence. You probably heard it first from Watty Piper, the author of “The Little Engine that Could”. The little engine kept trying and trying to get up that hill, he worked his hardest to attain his goal. Why? “I think I can I think I can”, these are words of confidence. Confidence drove the engine up the hill, confidence can drive you up any ladder. If you believe in yourself, you can do ANYTHING. The instant you start believing you cannot succeed, you lost the most important part of the battle. This also applies to self esteem, where the perspective you place on yourself is then taken up by people around you. If you keep telling yourself you aren't good enough, then the rest of the world will have no other perspective of you. Do your best to have confidence in who you are, and what you do. If you believe, if you think you can, then you can! Do not let anyone discourage you. For me, and probably many people, the key to success starts with confidence.
The next thing that has kept me going all these years is passion. You have heard it a million times; If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I work nearly 50 hours a week at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab during the summer, every hour unpaid. Everyone always asks why I dedicate so much time to work I'm not getting paid for, and the answer is simple: I am not working. I love what I do at the lab, and I am happy to say I I am doing the kind of work I would do as a mechanical engineer! I have experienced it first hand, where our love for what we do not only drives our determination, but relinquishes the negative connotation to the word “work”. Homework, school work, chores, essays, we have always seen work as something to avoid. If you want this to change, pursue what you love, not what pays, and you will be much happier knowing you are getting paid to do what you enjoy.
I am a strong believer in project based learning. You can cram as many tests, textbooks, vocab cards, Powerpoints, lectures, labs, and homework papers into my head as you dearly please but it can never surpass the educational quality of a program like FIRST Robotics. Many people are driven by competition, some more than others. In addition to me being driven by competition, I am encouraged to act the most when I the outcome of my work is palpable. In school, the only palpable outcome is a test. Sadly, we don't find tests very interesting. In addition, the purpose of educating us is so we can learn. At the rate we learn, the outcome of our education cannot be seen for decades past our graduation! We honestly have small attention spans, so the key to staying determined is keeping a visible goal. While working on a project, the outcome is clear. Solve a problem, win an award, build a robot, make a car, the goal is visible and we just want to keep reaching if it is right there.
I see all this buzz about women in engineering, and there's a very distinct reason why it upsets me. All I can ask myself is, why is this an issue? Why is it that we cannot look past our genders to see that we are all engineers? Why does nobody realize the only difference between a male engineer, and a female engineer, is that one is male and one is female! Many young girls were raised with the idea that engineering was for men. The boy scouts did the lashings, while the girls did the sewing. The boys built with LEGOs while the girls played with dolls. The boys wear clothes with large pockets to hold tools, while the girls where pretty, aesthetic clothing. I hope soon that our society begins to eliminate the differences in gender and race, so that boy and girls can be exposed to all the amazing careers and opportunities in our world. Please start this movement. Get involved with anything, and everything. Find your passion! It does not matter who you are, what gender you are, what race you are, all that matters is you love what you do and you believe you can do it! I see girls in STEM all the time.
In robotics, at the lab, and I see no difference besides the fact that these women deserve more respect for fighting to do what is not common. Luckily, I do not see a lot of gender discrimination in the professional world. But, I see it in FIRST, and it kills me. FIRST robotics students are here to change the world, and we are going to do this together. Boy, or girl, we all love what we do, and we all have the same potential to do something amazing. Some of my best friends are girls involved with STEM. These people are the smartest, and most successful people of their class, and are clearly determined to succeed. It makes no difference that they are female.
Thank you for listening.. I tend to ramble! Take what I said to heart, remember to find your passion and pursue it to no end. Help change the world, help let our generation be the one that grows the most because we removed the idea of gender separation. Oh, and join FIRST robotics. (:
This blog was written by Connor Tinker, of FTC team 3113. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.