Volunteer Stories

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Every FIRST® volunteer has a story. We want to hear yours.
Tweet it, Snap it, Instagram it, post it on Facebook, make a short video on your phone, or just send us a good, old-fashioned email.
Tell us why you volunteer with FIRST, your favorite FIRST volunteer memory, or what inspires you to be a FIRST volunteer.

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Kasey TrossKasey Tross - FIRST volunteer

Hi, I'm Kasey Tross and this is my FIRST story!

About eighteen months ago, I found myself wearing safety glasses and a bright red t-shirt with the words "FIRST Tech Challenge" on the front, and "VOLUNTEER" on the back.

Someone came up to me and asked, "Should we bring our robot with us to judging?"
Me: "I don't know…"
Them: "What do they do in judging?"
Me: "I don't know..."

Truth be told, I didn't even know what I was doing in that red shirt. I had never even been to a FIRST Tech Challenge competition before and I hadn't the slightest idea what would happen there, except that it involved robots. The only reason I was there was because my son had joined a robotics team - the Library Bots, Team 7278 - a few months before and I was trying to be supportive.

Fortunately, I found another group of red-shirted volunteers in a hallway gathered around a young woman (also wearing safety glasses) holding a walkie talkie and looking very official. She started talking to us about judging and "the pit" and "Kamen" and "Flowers" and finally I tentatively raised my hand and said, almost in a whisper, "Um…this is my first time. What are you talking about?" At which point the entire group let out something like a little squeal of delight and I found myself engulfed in a group hug with lots of pats on the back. They ensured me they'd help me and I'd figure it out as I went along.

And figure it out I did.

First, I figured out that my son had landed amongst his kind. At last, he found a place where he fit in and was not the only one who didn't care how he looked in those delightful safety glasses.

I figured out that FIRST is a place where everyone helps everyone. In fact, it's the nicest competition I've ever been to. Forgot a tool? Ask the next team over, they'll lend you theirs. Robot acting wonky? Ask an official, they'll help you troubleshoot. If you have any inclinations toward cutthroat competition, you better check them at the door, because at FIRST it's all about "Coopertition® "- cooperative competition. Your rival in one round might be your ally in the next, so it's smiles and handshakes all around at the beginning and end of every match and everything in between.

I also figured out that FIRST is about much more than a working robot. In fact, your team's robot could turn out to be a total dud, and you could still move on to the next level in competition. How? Your team could demonstrate exceptional Gracious Professionalism® (the handshakes and smiles and tool-sharing), or uniquely creative innovation, or you could be working to spread the message of FIRST in your community in the off-season. In FIRST, everything you do is a part of the process, and everything you do matters, both on and off the playing field. FIRST is about creating not only great engineers, but great people.
Finally, I found out that FIRST is really about fun. From the crazy getups some teams wear to the impromptu dance party before the awards ceremony, if you're not having fun, you're not really getting the whole experience.
So at the end of that long day, when I hugged my beaming son - careful not to disturb the medal hanging around his neck - and I finally took off that red shirt, I was careful to fold it and tuck it into my bag, because I knew that while it was the first time I'd worn it, it most definitely wasn't going to be the last.
Thanks for the opportunity to share my story!
Kasey Tross, a proud FIRST mom (and now mentor)
Kasey is a FIRST volunteer and a team parent and mentor for FIRST Tech Challenge team 7278, the LibraryBots, in Virginia, USA.


MK Baldwinmk baldwin - first volunteer

I've been volunteering as a FIRST® LEGO® League referee since the 2006 season. I began to referee at the FIRST World Festival/FIRST Championship when it was in Atlanta, and volunteered at the final two years of the Atlanta event. For the past several years, I've been the Head Referee in South Carolina and active on the South Carolina FIRST LEGO League steering committee.

Volunteering at events around the country, I have made a number of great friends.  My fellow volunteers have become like a family to me. We travel together and have a great time when we are gathered together! When we discovered we had similar interests, we decided to try vacationing together. Our trips have included going to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, various gardens and science centers, a local air show, and watching Bill Nye, the Science Guy – live! We are a family scattered across the country, yet we now stay in touch and visit when we have the chance.

At the 2017 FIRST Championship, I volunteered in both Houston, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri, and I am already registered to do it again in 2018! I enjoy refereeing at the FIRST World Festival/FIRST Championship because I love seeing the high caliber teams and their high energy. I am motivated by the stories of the teams and individuals – learning about how they have overcome obstacles to get there. It also helps me to have stories to tell others that I meet as I encourage them to participate in FIRST programs.

My advice to others: volunteer and be a part of shaping our future! If you have ever been depressed by the news, then volunteer to help FIRST LEGO League kids. They are upbeat, smart, and willing to try… AND they have FUN!

Samantha LipscombSam Lipscomb - FIRST volunteer

My name is Sam Lipscomb and I’m currently a volunteer for FIRST. I volunteer at events across the FIRST New England district. As a high school student, I couldn't get enough of FIRST® Robotics Competition and was looking for ways to attend more regional events. I started as a crowd control volunteer at the New Jersey Regional in 2005, and since then I have volunteered in almost every position at more than 80 regular season FIRST® Robotics Competition events — as well as many off-season events. I personally love to volunteer on the field as a field supervisor. I also enjoy volunteering in a queuing or judge position where I get to meet with all of the teams, and as a volunteer coordinator to help make sure that events run as smoothly as possible. I even got my parents to volunteer at my annual district event. The funniest thing I've ever done while volunteering was emceeing a FIRST® LEGO® League tournament in a polar bear onesie for the ANIMAL ALLIESSM 2016-2017 season.

I continue to volunteer 14 seasons later because I know what an amazing experience being part of a FIRST team was for me as a student. The competitions and events are the culmination of months of hard work; a stage for the students and their creations to shine. One of the most memorable experiences I've had volunteering, was inviting a student who was about to graduate to come and volunteer with me at the Connecticut Regional. He was so happy to learn how to wire a field, work with the key volunteers, and aid in the success of the event, and now — years later — is a FIRST technical advisor in another region. Spreading the volunteer love so that students know they can stay involved as alumni is always a great feeling.

Spending time at events with current students makes me realize that what excited me about FIRST when I was 14 is still going strong. By volunteering, I can ensure that there will always be events where students can feel that same magic.