FIRST Alumni Spotlight: Milka Piszczek

Oct 11, 2016 Written by Milka Piszczek, FIRST Alum

FIRST Alumni Spotlight: Milka Piszczek

2017 Spotlight 1

Milka PiszczekWhat did Milka do after becoming a FIRST Alum: Milka Piszczek is currently attending MIT and studying 6-7 Computer Science and Molecular Biology; before that she was a FIRST VISTA in Maryland from 2014-2015. She has also just completed a summer with FIRST Strategic Partner Booz Allen Hamilton as a Summer Games Intern.

What did an average day at Booz Allen Hamilton look like for Milka: At Booz Allen Hamilton, Summer Games interns are put into teams of 5 to 7 and given a real-world problem work on. The teams later pitch their ideas and progress to a panel of BAH leaders and compete for the Challenge Cup. (Sound familiar? FIRST for adults, where you get paid!!)

Our team was developing a prototype of a comprehensive navigation system for blind people which would combine data from a body-worn 3D camera as well as an integrated GPS to create precise walking directions. We would have a team meeting in the morning and self-schedule the rest of our day. I am a bit of a jack of all trades - this meant that I did a variety of things: from researching current technologies for the blind, to developing our partnership with the National Federation of the Blind and searching for grants, to finding and testing GPS hardware and designing and 3D printing a case for it. Toward the end of the summer, I was very involved in crafting our presentation.

The entire experience reminded me a lot of all the things I loved about FIRST. In particular, it reminded me how much I love working really hard on something with a team, and then competing together. We also won the Challenge Cup, which was incredible :)

Are you interested in becoming a Summer Games Intern like Milka?

Email your resume and cover letter to

What do your future plans hold? I want to work with people and work to improve people’s lives. I am currently a 6-7 major – which in real-world speak is a joint major in Computer Science and Molecular Biology. This leaves lots of options open: from medical school (where I would like to study to become an obstetrician/gynecologist) to working on computational biology at a university or pharmaceutical company – through going to graduate school for public health or working in healthcare consulting.

How has your FIRST experience impacted your post-graduation life?  FIRST taught me to dream big and to dream realistically. I learned that developing a strategy and working hard with a good team of people can lead to incredible things. From helping me find an awesome internship to providing a network of kind and supportive adults, FIRST continues to impact my life. Also, the skills from FIRST, especially public speaking, networking, and the ability to learn all types of things on the fly has been incredibly helpful.

How have you continued to be involved in FIRST since becoming an Alum? I spent a year as a FIRST VISTA (Americorps Volunteer in Service to America) as a gap year before starting college. This meant I got to give back to FIRST for a year of mentoring and supporting teams in undeserved communities capacity-building projects which hopefully improved the Maryland FIRST community at large. I am still in touch with the current members of the team I was on in high school and try to help out as I can. This year I'm hoping to volunteer at some local Boston competitions.

Are you interested in becoming a FIRST VISTA like Milka?

Apply online

You have made and kept great FIRST friends – any advice to current Participants on how to do that? Unsurprising, walking to the library after school carrying your robot every day for several months out of each year really brings you together. So do long hours staying up preparing for competitions and hours long rides to qualifiers and outreach events. While all my friends are pretty amazing and thus super-busy, we try to keep in touch, and when we do meet up there's always lots to talk about.

Finally, what is your favorite FIRST memory? I was walking through the Stata Center at MIT and Woodie Flowers was just sitting there having coffee. I walked past him two or three times mentally confirming it was actually him before I walked up to him - he gave some really sweet advice and it was just a surreal experience.


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