Case for using FIRST in the classroom

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FIRST® has many stories of how it has inspired its members in STEM. Recently I attended the FIRST® World Championships in Detroit and met many of these kids. Their passion and enthusiasm were contagious.

Dean Kamen’s famous saying “I don’t use kids to build robots. I use robots to build kids.-” was evident at the event.

I love this quote in that it is what I do as a STEM professional educator every day. I use STEM to excite and work with students so they are intrinsically motivated to want to learn more.

FIRST® is the main STEM tool I use in my lab. It’s “more than robots” philosophy permeates through not just my lab but works its way across the school in terms of Core Values, Gracious Professionalism®, and Coopertition®. It becomes part of the culture of the school.

As you can see I LOVE FIRST®. It is not perfect but it opens possibilities and opportunities; to kids and adults alike. Often opportunities that they never thought of before.

FIRST® rightly calls itself a “sport of the mind”. In this sports mindset, students mostly pursue it as an extracurricular activity/club/sport by schools, or by organizations/groups that want to participate.

As a professional educator that is not good enough for me. I want FIRST® as an experience for every student.


I want to reach those students who do not know, what they do not know= that this is what they love.

I want the kid that thinks that he/she is to cool for robotics to ask:

“Where has this been my whole life?” I have seen this happen.

I want the kid who cannot stay after school or cannot afford to join a club to have an opportunity during his/her school day.

I want the student who is already passionate about FIRST® to do it during the day, every day.

I want the student who struggles with the traditional curriculum to find success and the student that is exceptional in the traditional curriculum to find challenges.

FIRST® in the school as its own class, or interjected across the curriculum will open possibilities and opportunities for all of these students and more. Just like the value found in students taking an art class, music class, etc. it is the exposure that becomes necessary.

While, Dean Kamen is also famous for saying “FIRST®, The only Sport where everyone can go Pro!” is true.

I believe FIRST® should be for everyone regardless of going pro.

The best way for this to happen is for it to be part of a school day, for every student.

Author: Jennifer Martin