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FIRST is a Manchester, NH based non-profit that uses robotics to create "a world where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

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I used to watch a show called BattleBots. It was a competition between teams that built robots designed to kill each other. I particularly enjoyed the robotic violence, but I could still enjoy watching friendlier robotic competition. That’s what FIRST promotes. They’re a Manchester, NH based non-profit that uses robotics and other forms of technology to “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” and it was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen–the guy who invented the Segway along with quite a few other amazing things.

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What I find amazing about FIRST is their reach. This year they expect to work with more than 300,000 students across nearly 30,000 teams. The large majority of students are in the FIRST Lego League (Grades 4-8), but there’s also a ton of participation in the Junior FIRST Lego League (K-3), FIRST Tech Challenge (9-12), and FIRST Robotics Competition (9-12). All together these students are eligible to qualify for scholarships from a pool of more than $16 million. While it’s all a competition, one of the key tenets at FIRST is Gracious Professionalism with an emphasis on “coopertition.” FIRST looks like an amazing organization, and it makes me wish that I had been able to participate in their programs when I was a kid. While that opportunity may have passed, you can still get involved. FIRST has a few positions posted on their Careers page including
International Coordinator for the FIRST Robotics Competition and Operations Coordinator. They also have AmeriCorps VISTA Program opportunities that are well worth considering.

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