We are deep into competition season over at my house. My husband, who is a phenomenal human being, is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) coordinator at a local non-profit afterschool program.
He coaches FIRST Robotics teams and Destination Imagination teams from September all the way through April, and this turns me into a soccer mom … only minus the soccer. (A robo-mom? That’s not a thing. It sounds weird.)
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an amazing organization that aims to change our culture into a society that celebrates science and technology and serves to inspire our future leaders.
Mentors foster a sense of belonging, self-confidence, leadership skills, healthy communication skills, and knowledge that can be applied to all facets of their lives. Through the magic of Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition®, youth compete fiercely while remaining kind and respectful. They embrace cooperation despite the fact that they are simultaneously competing against one another. Go to any FIRST Robotics competition and you will actively see team members make friends with their rivals. Witness and be amazed as teams volunteer to help other teams having a rough time. Stand in awe as youth exchange knowledge with one another openly and freely out in the hallways between matches. It’s moving to watch.
A great example came from this past weekend’s FIRST Robotics Competition Game – FIRST®POWER UPSM. The FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) team is a high school level team which has built a five-foot-tall robot weighing in at around 200 pounds in only six weeks.
During the initial match, our team’s robot unexpectedly did not move at all. It just sat there. The kids tried desperately to get it to do something before the end of the round, but nothing happened. Robots break all the time and it can be soul crushing to watch it happen in the middle of a match. A neighbor team jumped right in after the match to help our kids go through the code, line by line, to find the error. That’s heartwarming and amazing to know that all around are people eager to help and ensure that everyone has a good time. You see it everywhere. Teams give parts to others in need, they trade stories and share ideas, they encourage one another to do well, and they cheer each other on.
Of course, this year I was walking around with a tiny Dinosaur on my chest rather than in my torso, and the biggest joke told all weekend long was directed at my daughter. “When are they going to let you drive?”
So I made it happen, even if it’s only in comic form. She’ll get an opportunity to participate once she’s six and can join the FIRST LEGO League Jr. team. The kids did well for the rest of the weekend despite any ups and downs. They’re proud of what they’ve accomplished just as we are all proud of them. But it isn’t over. We still have another long weekend of battling robots coming up.
To learn more about FIRST, to find a team in your area, or to start a team, go to firstinspires.org
To read more Geekasaurus (ALL the comics), go to geeksaurus.net