March 19th, 2012
FIRST Robotics: A Family Experience
From Stephen Cosgrove, Corporate Controller, Johnson & Johnson
My son joined his high school’s FIRST® Robotics team as a freshman in 2000. He had always shown an interest in mechanical and technical things, and joining FIRST seemed like a perfect fit.
FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The organization works to foster an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, including through events such as their FIRST Robotics Competition. In the FIRST Robotics Competition, students work with mentors and community sponsors to design and build a robot that will compete against other FIRST teams during regional and national events.
For four years, I watched as my son worked with his teammates and mentors to tackle each year’s competition with enthusiasm. From developing a concept to building a robot to competing, the students actively worked to think creatively and problem solve. Over the course of each build season, the team members grew in self-confidence and knowledge.
I was lucky enough to join the team on trips to some of the events all over the United States and offer advice and feedback as they worked to build their robots. Their alliance even won the national championships one year! My son made some great friends from across the nation. In fact, he still keeps in touch with engineers and friends that he met through FIRST.
It’s an incredible experience. The process gave the my son and his teammates real-world engineering experience, addressing a lot of issues that are fundamental to what engineers and scientists do in manufacturing operations every day. The practical knowledge the students gain through collaboration with their teammates and their mentors enhances the learning experience. It takes learning out of the classroom and encourages practical application of skills.
Today my son works as an information technology consultant. The skills he learned taking part in FIRST are ones that he uses on a daily basis. My son has told me and anyone that asks about FIRST that experience, “really helped me grow, figure out what my interests are and what I wanted to do in my future career.”
After my son graduated, I continued to stay connected with the FIRST organization, helping parents and students each year as they got involved with the organization. It’s that sense of community that helps make FIRST so special.
Johnson & Johnson has been an enthusiastic sponsor of FIRST Robotics for a number of years as a founding sponsor of the organization. Several employees across the Company give valuable hours of their personal time to serve as mentors on various FIRST Robotics teams. Supporting FIRST is a great way to encourage STEM learning by today’s students, who one day just may be the engineers and scientists of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies.