As the World Championships draws to a close, all eyes are on the robots. Earlier this week, students and mentors alike were scouring Chief Delphi, doing pre-scouting and match up predictions, engrossed in every last detail of the machines we have worked so hard to build and compete with this season. But what I find far more impressive than the bots are the people that made them.
No matter how exciting build season can be, it’s an extremely labor-intensive, and sometimes mentally exhausting, six weeks. Students juggle standardized testing, school grades, and extracurricular activities, and mentors and volunteers balance careers and family life, all while meeting regularly (frankly, sometimes longer than we would like) to collectively create something from nothing but a short video and a rule book. Throughout the build and competition seasons, teams regularly argue and reconcile, cycling through hordes of ideas to find the design they think will be the most competitive, only to redesign and modify constantly as they compete with it and learn more about its strengths and its flaws.
It is—at once—thrilling, invaluable, and exhausting.
Because of this, FIRST teams are inherently filled with some of the most driven, genuine people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. FIRST-ers are incredibly diverse—each year I see more and more meshing of introverts and extroverts, integration of art in technology, and a growing acceptance and even a celebration of the differences that define our teams and our community. Throughout the year, I see friends and teammates learning, expanding as they are exposed to new ideas and faced with challenges they don’t know how to respond to. Students and mentors alike learn how to adjust their communication skills to fit the audience and the situation, how to listen and acknowledge opposing ideas despite their premonitions, and how to deal with repeated and upsetting failure. Through working intimately with the same group of people, they learn ideal team dynamics and how to nurture interpersonal relationships. We are learning so much more than the technical skills of engineering and entrepreneurship—we are becoming good people through genuine care and respect for our teammates.
As the competition season winds to a close, it is too easy to forget the other challenges we've overcome—the ones there aren't awards for. A better measure of success may very well be not the performance of the robot at competition, or even the shiny hardware brought home, but rather the character of each and every member of the team and their readiness to support each other regardless of the outcome. If that was truly the measurement of success, FIRST teams around the globe would undoubtedly break the scales.
FRC Team 1318
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