A few weeks ago, sixty-two robotics teams competed at the FIRST Connecticut competition. The competition received a great deal of publicity and newspaper reporters and TV crews covered the event. We had hoped that the media personnel would paint an objective picture of the competition. Instead, they presented the common stereotype.
Viewing the news after the competition, my Farmington team heard a reporter say, “Hartford is geeked up and tripped out,” and “The geek shall inherit the Earth.” To top it off, one student was asked a question a stereotypical geek is asked, “Do you watch Star Trek?”
Saying that I was disappointed with the comments is an understatement. I know that at the root of this problem are the stereotypes shrouding science and technology.
FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an organization whose goal is to demystify science and technology through robotics programs for children. I believe that science and technology are not fields reserved for stereotypical geeks and nerds but are inspirational catalysts for everyone.
I spent my first year on the robotics team honing my computer skills in CAD. After being elected team secretary, I finally had a chance to explore our team’s inspirational Dream FIRST initiative and participate in community outreach. Dream FIRST is a science literacy program that inspires children to explore science, technology, and their dreams.
One of my fondest Dream FIRST memories was starting up a LEGO Robotics team at my town’s upper elementary school. The students I worked with and taught one-on-one were young but they worked just as hard as I did to build a functional LEGO robot. I frowned with them when things went wrong and smiled and clapped in joy when we finally had a working robot. My fellow LEGO Leaguers taught me that nothing can truly be accomplished without first enjoying the experience.
The children I worked with saw me as a math and science hero but I now know that anyone can be a hero in these fields. I continue to participate in robotics but more so now with our community outreach. Working with Dream FIRST, I have had a chance to see my teammates (who are also enthused about science and technology) writing, editing, and publishing their own children’s book about math and science and designing a plush toy of our first robot which will be a companion for young children.
The founder of FIRST Robotics, Dean Kamen, wants us “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.” The process will be slow and tedious but in the end, I believe it will be worth the effort to see the looks on the faces of men, women, and children who are inspired by science and technology and see it for what it truly is.
I am not a nerd. I am part of a group of students living their passions and changing the world.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.