What team were you a member of?
FRC 4935 T-Rex
How many years were you on the team?
1 FRC year and 1 FLL mentoring year.
Where do you currently work and what is your job description?
I currently work at a technology company called Red Ventures. I am a back end software engineer.
How long have you been there?
I have been working at Red Ventures for 2 years now.
What is one highlight from your time on the team?
When I was in FIRST Robotics, I was fortunate enough to be a Deans List Finalist. However, THE BEST highlight of my experience was when I mentored a brand new FLL team at the elementary school that I went to as a child. Seeing the students and how passionate they were about learning about technology and science to solve problems that they care about was one of the most fulfilling things I have done yet. I say that because I coached them on more than just how to design and program a LEGO robot; I had to coach them on what it means to be part of a team and to be a good team player. Seeing how that impacts a young mind has inspired me to keep teaching even in my current career. I make an effort to still go out to local schools to teach students about skills that will help them in any STEM career.
What are the top three skills you learned from your FIRST experience that have made an impact on your current job?
When people think about engineers, specifically software developers, they think about heads down coding in a dark room. FIRST has taught me that technology is one of the most collaborative industries out there. Everything that is innovative has been done with a team of open communicators. Robotics has taught me the fundamentals of working on a tech team and what open communication looks like. Practicing this open communication has helped me grow in my career faster than any other skill. But not only that, it has helped me become a better leader.
The second skill I learned from my FIRST experience is how to problem solve and what that process looks like. My mentor, Matthew Brown, always told us to keep asking "why?" until you can't any more. Then you will find the real cause of your problem. Those are words that I STILL think about in my daily tasks.
The last but not least skill I learned in my FIRST experience is project management. Building a robot in 6 weeks takes a village, but more specifically, a very organized village. This is where all the skills come together, and if you're not intentional with your decisions, it can make or break your team. Robotics is not just a 6 week club. It's a year round club that takes lots of planning and strategic decisions that can help the team year over year. Being part of FIRST has taught me what it means to project manage and this is a skill that has helped me in my current career in a very noticeable way. I have been proven to be responsible and reliable and that is something that I was first exposed to in FIRST robotics.
How has FIRST impacted your life?
When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to go into art. I wanted to become some sort of art director and help put together exhibitions. I honestly never even considered technology because I always thought it was too complicated for me to even try. When I was a junior in high school I was convinced by my friends to just give the club a try. That was one of the best decisions I had ever made in my high school career. I discovered that I like technology and that it's nothing like what I thought it was. And as a bonus, I was actually pretty good at it. Had I not tried FIRST Robotics, I would have never even considered being in the career that I am in today.
What words of wisdom do you have for current FIRSTers?
Being part of FIRST Robotics is more than learning how to put together a robot. It's an opportunity to invest in yourself and invest in your team. It's one of the most diverse and impactful opportunities there are; and if you're in it for the right reasons, you're going to benefit from those opportunities and you're going to grow immensely. This is why I encourage every current FIRSTer to embrace their discomfort and lean into the investment that will not only benefit themselves, but those around them as well.
This month we are shining the spotlight on FRC Team 4816, the Gadget Girls. The Gadget Girls are an all girls robotics team based out of Raleigh, NC. Go Go Gadget Girls!
Tell us in 2-3 sentences about your team: Team make-up, where the team is from, that kind of thing.
The Gadget Girls are North Carolina’s oldest all-girl team and we are going on seven years of being involved with FIRST. We are Girl Scouts from the Triangle region of North Carolina.
What has been a highlight for your team over the years?
There were many highlights for our team over the past few years. We will always remember making new friends on the team and at competitions, trying new things like helping little kids learn about robots, and learning how to build and program robots ourselves. Many of us had never touched a robot before joining the team so that’s a fun one! Another highlight is that we have learned not be worried about failure because failure is just an opportunity to learn something new. We will always keep that mindset because there is always time to learn more things!
Tell us about one struggle your team has overcome and how you did so.
One of the biggest struggles we have faced was that we have been a small team for most of our existence. This has caused us to not have enough hands for what needed to be done and people ended up doing more than they originally thought they were going to be responsible for. We overcame this by having a prioritized to do list at each meeting to make sure we were getting everything done in the most efficient order possible. When we didn’t have enough people to get everything done we had to make sacrifices and plan how to get those tasks done later.
What words of wisdom would you give to a rookie team?
Some words of wisdom that we would give to a rookie team would be that it will always be okay and everyone is willing to help you! You will make mistakes but you can learn so much from them and that’s how you get better
What does FIRST mean to you and your team?
FIRST to us is people who are passionate about robotics and STEAM coming together and learning together. It is not just separate teams competing, it’s a community of teams helping each other every step of the way. FIRST is also an opportunity that prepares us for our future by giving us a peek at the real world of STEAM and what our potential careers could be like.
We are excited to welcome back TE Connectivity as a Mastermind Sponsor! They have been a tremendous supporter since 2014. TE not only sponsors FIRST NC and our many events, they also provide mentors and financial support to numerous FIRST Robotics competition teams across the state. In addition, they provide a home for our field and materials during the off season. Our TE Connectivity volunteers are some of the best. They serve in many key roles and truly inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators.
Did you know TE produces many products that are used in space launches and travel? They have many applications from launch vehicles to a spacecraft chassis.
TE Connectivity is also working on creating a safer, more sustainable, productive, and connected renewable energy industry through harvesting wind. They are at the forefront of trying to reduce our CO2 emissions by using wind turbines and solar panels to help build a sustainable future.
A career at TE Connectivity can be a great and exciting path. Check out some of the opportunities here.
Meet veteran volunteer Ann Weinberger! She is one of our Sr. Volunteer Coordinators and she is ready to help you become involved as a volunteer at any of our five FIRST Robotics Competition events. Her sense of humor and passion keep us all ready to go. Thanks for all you do, Ann!
How long have you been volunteering for FIRST?Since 2010 What positions have you held? Safety glass table (that was fun), queuing, lead queuer, Judge assistant and volunteer coordinator and now Sr. Volunteer Coordinator What inspired you to become a FIRST volunteer? My son joined an FRC team in the fall of 2008 and I went to my first competition with his team in 2009. The next year, 2010, was the first year NC had a competition and I thought it would be fun to help out rather than just sit in the stands. That first year, I did safety glass table but then I wanted something a bit more active so I chose queuing. Once my son graduated, I still wanted to volunteer since I love the program and see how it benefits the students. What is your favorite part about volunteering? My favorite part is seeing the energy and excitement that the team members bring to the competition. I also love working with our great group of volunteers. How has volunteering helped you (career, job, life in general, etc…)?Now that I’ve retired, volunteering helps keep me active and involved in the community. What words of advice would you give to new volunteers or to those considering volunteering?Don’t be afraid to jump into any position. Try something new. Any favorite stories or anecdotes to share?Well, there was that first year when I moved a fan and nearly blew over the drapery behind the field during closing ceremonies. There are always lots of stories to share around the lunch table at the events. Come join us!
Team 3229 Hawktimus Prime from Holly Springs, NC! I was the Media Captain, so I took all the pictures and produced any videos, was in charge of social media and the website, and helped with grant and award writing/interviewing.
How many years were you on the team(s)? 3
I am a copy editor at N2 Publishing in Wilmington, NC. I edit anywhere from 170-200 articles per day. They are talking about having me work with the web development team as well.
How long have you been working there?
Only one month—yay for first post-grad job! (I graduated from UNC Wilmington this past May.)
I could say that the highlight was when we won the Judge's Award at the NC Regional in 2012, but I think the real highlight was my first season 2011 when we bagged our robot up and put it in the box. Since it was my first season, I wasn't sure of the hype/stress the night of. We stayed working on it until the last moment. I was taking last minute pictures when one of our presidents said it was time to bag up. Everyone went in a frenzy—not because we were out of time for any last minute add-ons or fixings, but because they wanted to hide something of our teacher/coaches in the box like they did the previous year. Mr. Simpson, the physics teacher, was oddly into stuffed squirrels and had a few around his classroom, our base camp. As the night progressed, Mr. Simpson was protecting the squirrels because he knew the team would try and get them. Mr. Simpson ended up leaving the room to check on the robot in the other room, leaving just me and another team member in his room where we were painting clothespins. Long story short, we ended up stealing both squirrels and got them in the box right before time. We laughed for so long after Mr. Simpson realized we'd gotten them. It made our team bond even more than we already had the entire season while building the robot. Seeing Mr. Simpson's face when we got to competition and he was able to hold them again was the funniest thing for us for some reason.
Leadership, time management, and communication.
How has FIRST impacted your choices (school, career, etc…)?
FIRST made me the leader that I am. It taught me how to properly balance fun and seriousness in a leadership role. FIRST taught me how to slow down and properly make the right decisions, but also how to make them under pressure as well. FIRST also taught me that it's possible to learn new things and have fun doing it.
You don't have to be directly involved in the coding or building of the robot to be a part of FIRST. As the Media Captain, it took me a long time to realize that. I was always fascinated by coding and engineering, but it never clicked for me in the way I wanted it to. But I loved FRC 3229 and our team, so I knew I wanted to stay. Capturing every moment—both on camera and in words—is important for FIRST. While I sharpened my media manager skills, I also grew as a young leader and as a person. I made some of the best friends—the only people I still talk to from high school are from robotics. FIRST welcomes everyone and will find a place for you no matter your skills. FIRST will help you succeed in your way, and you might even learn a few other things along the way (like how I did pick up some coding skills!). All you need to do is enjoy your time how you know best, and FIRST will take care of you.