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I loved “Blood, Sweat, and Gears,” which reminded me of the time I spent mentoring Friendship Edison Collegiate Academy in Northeast during its first year in the FIRST Robotics Competition.
Roosevelt’s experience was much like my own in 2004: Burned motors, broken pieces, immobilized robots, and well-intentioned yet inexperienced students were plentiful, but pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a bright outlook for next year were also abundant when the competition ended.
The thing that continues to fill me with inspiration is the motivation to pursue careers in engineering and technology that was imparted to each student. It was gratifying to see students go from improperly crimping electrical connectors to diagnosing troublesome circuits in the pits at the end of the season.
The student I worked closely with to lead the programming team now attends Temple University in Philadelphia as a computer-science student. And though it’s hard to say if FIRST’s competition was the decisive factor in his choice of study or even the choice to go to college, it certainly demystified the process of writing code and probably planted the idea of making a career of it in his head.
I hope you’ll publish this letter so your readers know the “big picture” value of this competition. And for anyone who read your story and saw it as a challenge they’d like to become a part of, I hope they’ll call their local school and get involved for 2007. It was an experience I wouldn’t have traded for anything!