How FIRST has Inspired us to Work in STEM
FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an organization that works to encourage children to pick up technical skills such as coding and mechanical engineering from a young age. The FIRST Tech Challenge gives school aged-students valuable engineering opportunities that regular school courses are not able to give to students through an intellectually demanding annual robotics competition that can last anywhere from four to eight months.
Currently, the number of women who work in STEM fields is greatly outnumbered by the number of men that take on careers in STEM fields. FIRST identifies this gap and has made many efforts to combat it by encouraging girls to join the program. And as an all-girls team, we spend a significant amount of time attempting to level the imbalance of genders in the STEM workforce through our outreach efforts. Also, within our team specifically, we train our members to become middle and high school experts in their fields of interests. FIRST has already taught us many of the skills that are required in those fields to all of the participants, and being part of the program has encouraged us to push past gender stereotypes and pursue our STEM-related interests.
FIRST encourages Gracious Professionalism, a concept that every team must remain friendly even while in a highly competitive atmosphere. This positive, albeit stressful, competitive environment motivates our team to push ourselves and learn from our mistakes. FIRST also motivates us to never capitulate, even during hardships, because of our strong will to stand out from other teams.
The work that we do on Prototype G has had a tremendous positive impact on our team members. Seeing our robot run on the field and the act of developing connections with prominent figures in the tech and engineering world through FIRST has inspired us to follow in these leaders’ footsteps. Talking to them was an inspiration; they made us feel like we could achieve anything we put our minds to. Because we are an all-girls team, we spend a lot of time talking to female leaders in STEM. Our conversations with these ladies have allowed us to realize the power in succeeding as a woman in STEM even after being told by society that we cannot do it.
There is something powerful about the message that FIRST sends to its students, and this message has encouraged us to consider careers in STEM after completing school.
- Abhirami Rajesh, Varsha Chennam, and Fiona Mercy Puthur Anto; team members of 11306 Prototype G
Now on our fourth year, we are proud to say that Prototype G, a reputable all-girls FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team from Princeton, NJ, is once again made up of 9 girls all of whom are united by our love for robotics.
FIRST is a global robotics program that is dedicated to educating, inspiring, and connecting students by engaging them in an interactive robotics program which incorporates computer science, engineering, and technology skills that inspire innovation. This program nurtures the skills needed in everyday life such as public speaking; it stresses the importance of teamwork, building connections, hands-on problem solving and much more.
Our team was created and is funded by SES who hosts our weekday meeting venue and YWCA Princeton (who strives to eliminate racism and empower women in all fields of study).