We love our NYC FIRST Alumni! We are continuously inspired by their journey in how they have taken their FIRST experience to drive impact in the STEM world. We're spotlighting Philip T., a former FIRST Robotics Competition member.
What FIRST program were you actively involved in?
I was involved in FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) -- Team 1155.
Why did you join a FIRST Robotics Team?
I remember being fascinated by the SciBorgs when I attended an open house for Bronx Science. At the time, they were driving this very complex looking two-part robot around (Lunacy had been the game that year). I knew that I wanted to be apart of a team, but I can’t say high school Phil was very active, so athletic teams were out of the question. While participating in FIRST as part of team 1155, the SciBorgs, I was the team’s head of public relations as well as the president of the former NYC FIRST Student Leadership Assembly, a student organization consisting of all robotics teams in NYC from 2011 to 2013.
What advice/words of wisdom do you have for current FIRST participants?
My first tip to FIRST alumni / current students is to contact their previous mentors after thanking them for all their hard work of course. Mentors are special because they have observed your work first hand. They have devoted countless hours during build seasons to help you grow as a student and as an adult. They know you on a more personal level and can show a side of you other than a resume or a grade point average. They know your skills, how you learn as well as your shortcomings (not that this is a bad thing). Mentors also have your best interest in mind. They may know of available opportunities for internships or work experience and are willing to speak strongly about you in any situation providing that you give them more than a few days notice (something I learned the hard way).
My second tip is that this world is small, and the idea of ‘six degrees of separation’ really does apply. As a result, don’t be afraid to approach someone to start a conversation, especially at the New York City Regional. If you are an alumnus, come to the NYC Regional. I volunteer every year as an alumni ambassador. If you are a current student at FIRST, you should be there to support your team. The NYC regional is a great opportunity to make new friends and forge connections. Get to know FIRST staff and get to know FIRST volunteers. We want to meet you and hear your story. We want to hear all the incredible things you have done and ultimately, we’re here for you. During my summer in Manchester, NH at DEKA, I met a mechanical engineering intern at FIRST who received his internship during his senior year of high school after talking to the head of FTC at FIRST during a regional competition.
Lastly, just be yourself and use all of your resources. You’ve been involved in such a great program. FIRST is the biggest robotics competition for high school students, and one that is recognized worldwide. You put together a robot in six weeks, as an extracurricular activity. Be proud of yourself for that. The skills I learned in team building, time management, and coopertition (competition + cooperation) have helped me tremendously moving forward in my college career as well as I move forward during my PhD. Stay in touch with us at FIRST. As FIRST, we are here to help you. FIRST has some great resources to help support its alumni and students.