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FIRST builds my students into leaders

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Sherry Comer

Camdenton R-III Afterschool Services Director & FIRST Mentor

I’ve been coaching and mentoring FIRST teams in my rural school district for ten years. When I think about what FIRST does best, one thing comes to mind: It is to develop leaders.

Inspired by FIRST Founder Dean Kamen’s words, “We’re using robots to build kids,” my students came up with the perfect metaphor for all that our team members accomplish by building a robot. Our team, LASER 3284, builds robots to:

• Build leadership, which is like the chassis – the foundation of our robot.

• Build collaboration skills – like the mechanisms, the part of our robot that helps us work with other teams to complete tasks in alliances. 

• Build communication – like the robot’s electronics, the part that sends the messages. 

• Build creativity – like the software in the robot, you can’t see it, but it pushes us toward the end goal. 

• Build confidence – like the drivetrain, the part of the robot that keeps us moving forward. 

• Build critical thinking skills – like the code, where you compile information and declare solutions to problems. 

FIRST really is a journey – and it isn’t meant for one person to drive the train (or robot).  FIRST was always designed to include the masses, to involve diverse students and adults, to include youth with different skill sets, and to produce young people who would become ethical and skilled workers in STEM fields.

Ultimately, FIRST helps students gain the skills they will use for the future.  In the small town of 201 people I grew up in, we didn’t have access to programs like FIRST. I am proud to say that LASER 3284 has since mentored and helped start FIRST at that same small school.  Rural areas are often overlooked due to lack of industry.  In those areas, you will often find some of the smartest and skilled members of the future workforce. They have grit and tenacity that others lack. FIRST nurtures and builds on those traits. We should push for more rural funding and encourage smaller schools to become involved in FIRST.

Read Sherry’s strategies for helping students take the lead in their learning through robotics on the FIRST Inspire blog.

Download the FIRST case study about how Camdenton is helping students at all levels prepare for jobs of the future.

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