Once you graduate high school, your FIRST experience is over, right? Not quite. FIRST maintains a strong impact on students’ lives, even after they have graduated from the program. FIRST robotics allows students to prosper in college both mechanically and technically, but also allows them to connect with the STEM community through principal values such as gracious professionalism. Marlbots alums Nina Fischer ‘22 and Jordan Ellis ‘22 discussed how their experiences on an FTC team have shaped their current college careers.
The FTC program is an opportunity to introduce students to the world of engineering and robotics. Participation on a team allows students to learn about every aspect of engineering from the design process to fabrication. Nina explained how joining an FTC team sparked her own passion for engineering as well as enabled her to develop skills she would use in college courses, such as computer-aided design, 3-D printing, and laser cutting. Jordan built onto this idea, stating that FTC provided a springboard for their future pursuit of engineering in college. For example, they joined a collegiate motorsports team, and they have been able to apply knowledge gained from the Marlbots to the motorsports team. Their previous work in documenting the design process and drawing of the robot for the Marlbots has enabled them to successfully perform these tasks on their collegiate team. This past knowledge from FIRST has allowed them to succeed as a member of the team as well as the larger engineering community.
Nina and Jordan also revealed how participating on the Marlbots, a team of girls and gender minorities, allowed them to thrive in the college engineering space, which can be very daunting. The Marlbots team fosters inclusion and prioritizes every team member’s voice, allowing members to feel supported and uplifted by one another. Jordan referenced how this environment of support is still helping their confidence now in college:“I know that I can trust myself and even when I make mistakes, I can work around those.” Nina also explained that being on a team of gender minorities and girls before heading to college to study a male-dominated field bolstered her trust in herself and prepared her for this environment: “Marlbots is a safe space that sets you up for the real world.”
Gracious professionalism, a founding ideal of FIRST, has also significantly influenced graduates’ interactions with the larger STEM community in college. Both Nina and Jordan explained that many college engineering students participated in FIRST teams during high school, and that this shared experience provided a basis for camaraderie and respect. FIRST provides a space where every student has an equal opportunity to be heard, as well as be a leader and learn from others. Outreach within and as outside of the STEM community allows for the fostering of a learning culture and the formation of deep connections through both learning from and helping others. Nina stated that from FIRST “everyone takes away the mindset that they want to help and they want to spread their knowledge”, and that this mindset becomes “universal” throughout the engineering community as these ideas spread. Furthermore, this mindset impacts the life of every past or present FIRST participant, as Nina continued to explain that despite the competitive environment, “you can learn from each other, and that will make you a better engineer.” Jordan summed up this idea of FIRST, stating, “It truly is more than robots”.
This blog was submitted by Victoria P. of Marlbots, FTC team 3526. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
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