At a glance, FIRST (that’s For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) may seem like it’s all about robots and power tools. Though this would be ideal, it’s so much more than that.
Dean Kamen, the inventor of products such as the Segway PT and the dialysis machine, is the founder of FIRST. He founded the organization in 1989 in order to inspire young minds to enter the science field and become the next generation of innovators. The organization is the home behind programs such as the FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and more.
The FIRST Robotics Competition alone reaches over 200,000 students worldwide, double that if you include all of the other programs FIRST provides. Each year they donate over $14 million in scholarships to college-bound alumni. Supported by a large alliance of corporations, and can continue doing this for many years to come.
As a member of FIRST, you’ll often hear terms like “gracious professionalism” and “coopertition” thrown around a lot. Gracious professionalism, coined by FIRSTofficial Woodie Flowers, is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.
Coopertition produces innovation. In FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.
To learn more about FIRST, visit their website at www.usfirst.org.