“Societies get the best of what they celebrate.”
The first time I heard Dr. Woodie Flowers, professor at MIT and one of the founders of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), say those words, I sat for a moment and let it sink in.
We celebrate fame and fortune. We celebrate sport. And we celebrate winning.
But what about a fun competition where you gain a valuable skill? Where a reward is employable skills and the experience that comes from building something from nothing?
If you were the type of kid who took things apart just to see how they worked, or put together awesome new inventions from things you found around the house, you know what I'm talking about.
Building something from nothing is a big deal. And for today's young innovators, the upside of technology is that it's easier to find information that expands their knowledge and creativity.
And that's the downside, too. Technology brings negative influences closer to home.
As an adult, you know what I'm talking about. Look how easy it is to start a little research, and before you know it, you've wasted a few hours on social media, watching YouTube and following random links.
For me, the antidote to distraction is FIRST, where the focus is on STEM education and leadership development achieved through the energy and excitement of competition.
Just as important is the element of cooperation. In one round, you might compete with a team, and in the next, you might compete against them.
But the expectation remains the same: you must play fair, be respectful, and support one another. It's ‘coopertition.' It happens in the business world. And it happens in FIRST.
Here's what else FIRST builds:
Rockwell Automation is committed to making a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work. To learn more about our efforts to support STEM education, please see our Corporate Responsibility Report.
Just like sports, FIRST has a championship. Next year, it's in Houston April 19-22 and St. Louis April 26-29. Uniting the excitement of sport with science and technology, these events celebrate a season of intense preparation and matches with one final inspiring experience.
While the foundation of the event is competition, that's not the focus. This is where students from so many different backgrounds revel in making new friends, sharing ideas, solving problems on the spot, and getting excited over technology.
It's teamwork at its best – showing respect for others while all working toward a goal – and isn't that what we're hoping to create in our future workforce?
At events, I hear students – from every type of background – say that because of their experience with FIRST, they would consider a career in STEM.
That's great news. FIRST is helping to create a strong pipeline of STEM talent by getting youth interested.
The younger we start, the more aware students will become, and the better our world will be for it. And that's certainly something to celebrate.