STEM is certainly having an impact on kids today and it's amazing how many programs are being offered through schools and community centers. Back in my day, only a handful of us hung out in garages trying to build everything from robots to gaming systems. Seems those garages have spread all over the world now.
I'm sitting here watching the FIRST Midwest Regional in Chicago as I type this to you. I've been involved in FIRST Robotics since 2007 as a parent, mentor and now a friend of Team 1732 Hilltopper Robotics. This program has not failed to impress me over the years.
Our FRC team has grown from a handful of boys (Marquette University HS is an all boys school) to a co-ed team (we've partnered with Divine Savior Holy Angel) of over 60 students. Students not only learn how to work together to brainstorm, design and build a working robot in 6 short weeks, but also how to fund raise, market and promote the program and their team. As with many teams, ours is solely run by adult volunteers who give up the evening and Saturday free time to mentor the teams. This is how much we believe in the importance of the program. Watching the growth over these few years for FIRST has been amazing.
Our team also participate in community outreach including running two FIRST Lego League Tournaments for our area grade school teams. No matter the age the excitement that the kids show proves that STEM is fun and this generation 'gets it'. It's not an inexpensive sport and none of us could do it without companies such as yours who donate to the program.
Thank you for your donation. I encourage you attend a regional or the championship if you can. Talk to the teams----they all love to tell their stories. Your ROI will be immeasurable.
Great to hear of DN's support of FIRST. I have been a mentor since 2006 - this is my ninth year. I got involved as many do, with their kids. After my kids graduated, I stayed on to help. Not only is it a fun thing to do, I see it as my responsiblity to pass along the things I have been fortunate to learn over the years. To me, its a no brainer. I don't see it as how I CAN be involed, but how can I NOT afford to participate in programs like this.
You asked for comments about FIRST involvement. I have been a FIRST FRC team mentor since 2007. I would have started earlier if I knew then how much fun it is to be involved. The first two years I got involved because my son was interested. Being on the robotics team helped him decide to go into Mechanical Engineering. He has since graduated and is working as a Mechanical Engineer and has commented several times how that hands-on experience has helped him in his career. I have related similar comments to my management and colleagues from my own personal experience as a team mentor. I have continued to learn about different technologies and how to adapt them to my work life that I otherwise would not have had the exposure to if not for my involvement in FIRST. I am a technical person and enjoy working with technology. However, FIRST is not just about technology, although it is a big part. A FIRST FRC team functions like a business. There are opportunities for skills of many types on the team from marketing, business, management, trades, human resources, and on and on. Some businesses wisely encourage FIRST team mentorship as a training tool for their engineers, project leaders and managers. It's a great way to learn or polish many skills that are needed on the job. Tooling and machine shops would be wise to partner with FIRST teams to encourage interest with, and have access to potential future employees that have the skills needed to fill high demand jobs. I hope that having a partnership with a major industry publication like Design News will increase awareness of this very valuable activity.
While I commend Design News for helping get children, (especially the less fortunate) to get involved in STEM, the problem needs to be addressed at the sources.
First and foremost is the reduced respect for the engineering profession that is allowed to be practiced by corporations. Even Steve jobs infamously colluded with competitors to subvert the marketplace so that they could keep their best people at reduced cost. We are long passed the days when a fair days work meant a fair days pay. The executive suites are filled with people who make more money in the time it takes Windows to load on their computer in the morning than an increasing majority of others who, may not have the ambition to be the next Steve Jobs, but certainly work just as hard, if not more so. This is a sickness that the media in large part refuses to expose because after all, they themselves are forced to submit to this same sort of anti-competitive, monopolist manipulations of the wealthy and powerful.
Second, engineers are to blame themselves. Their understanding of economics, the history of labor, and basic civics is laughable. I've heard the most ridiculous and anecdotal nonsense from otherwise intelligent engineers who consistently use ideology as a prerequisite to their understanding of most anything and everything. It's actually ironic that many can analyze engineering problems, but have no intellectual rigor when it comes to others. I'm referring to those who have demonstrably forgotten that science, and more importantly Nature doesn't care what the hell they believe in; or even claim to believe in.
Lastly, I could probably come up with more avenues of attack which would lead to a more progressive world, consistent with more people capable of STEM; however what would be the point. If given an opportunity to read this, the many ideologues would immediately look to paste a label on what I'm saying rather than actually investigate what I'm saying.
Charles, well stated. Many would-be engineers are now pursuing careers in data analytics and quantitative analysis (which pay much more). The financial rewards for these majors are usually much greater than a standard engineer's salary.
Yes, Greg, many students are aware of today's job market, and for that reason some of the kids who would otherwise be capable of graduating in engineering never even try. Many East Coast schools (i.e., Ivy League) have large numbers of economics graduates who go on to make three or four times as much as engineers by choosing investment banking. Many of these students have strong math backgrounds, which might otherwise serve them well in an engineering curriculum. But why should they do that when they can make so much more in investment banking?
I have been mentoring my son's FIRST teams for several years now. I spent 6 years mentoring their FIRST Lego League, one year in FRC (the big bots), and the past 3 years in FTC (smaller bots based on Tetrix building kits). Every year has been exciting, not just for me, but for all the kids on the teams. My older son's robot was actually sent up to New Hampshire to get its picture taken with Dean Kamen. By mentoring, I am learning a tremendous amount about robotics myself, not to mention learning a lot about this new genertion of Tekkies!
What I like best about these teams is that there are many students who do not fit into "typical" school spirit activities (e.g. sports, music/drama, politics). These kids shine making things and making them go. And these kids are many times the best technical members of the teams. I think 30 years ago we would have called them nerds, and they made many of the best engineers. And by representing their school, they grow in the respect they get from the community.
I especially like the FTC challenges, as the season is longer and less stressful than the FRC challenges. Plus, the kids are far more "hands-on" in these teams than they would be in the FRC teams, which only allows 6 weeks from start of challenge to working robot. There is a lot more building and rebuilding going on wiht FTC.
The biggest challenge in any FIRST activity is getting the resources together, not just for the teams, but for the hosts of the various competitions and scrimmages. Your generous donation is really appreciated.
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