“What you learn in FIRST will be with you for the rest of your life.”
– Kyle Heaton, FIRST Indiana Alum
There are a myriad of benefits to participating on a FIRST team. In addition to teaching students soft skills like teamwork, presentation, and communication – FIRST robotics programs introduce students to key technical skills that help them prepare for STEM careers.
One of the most pertinent reasons schools need robotics team is the fact that it introduces students to applied coding and computer science. “Considered a cornerstone of technology education – needed to prepare for higher levels of education and the world of work graduates will enter after moving on from pre-k – 12 – robotics offers numerous approaches to learning coding and computer science. This is achieved “through code’s application to authentic, often real world problems making concepts easy to visualize and solutions easy to test.” (EdTech Digest)
FIRST Indiana Alumnus, Kyle Heaton, is an excellent example that. In his four years on FRC 45 The TechnoKats, he developed an interest in coding and computer science. After graduation, he moved on to Purdue University to pursue a degree in Computer Science. He’s done multiple internships focusing on machine learning, database design, and software development. When asked about FIRST, he said “What you learn in FIRST and take with you will be with you for the rest of your life.” Here’s the rest of what Kyle had to share:
How long did you participate in FIRST?
Seven years total, with four years of FRC with FRC 45 The TechnoKats and 7 years volunteering (I volunteered while I was on FRC 45)
What FIRST programs did you participate in? (FRC, FTC, FLL and/or FLLJr)
I only competed in FRC, but I volunteer in FRC, FTC, and FLL.
What is your current academic status?
I’m a senior at Purdue University studying Computer Science with concentrations in Machine Learning and Information Systems (Graduate Dec. 2020). I’m also a part of the Purdue FIRST Programs, where I have acted as their Vice President and as an internal director for IT.
If you are employed, where do you work? And what do you do?
I work as an RA (residential assistant) to create a community for 50 students on my floor from all around the world. I’ve also worked at various companies on internships doing machine learning, database design, and software development.
How does your work relate to coding and computer science?
All of my work on internships is very technical, dealing with implementing the things I have learned in and out of the classroom. I code by creating machine learning models, creating databases to store terabytes of data to be analyzed by my models, and I have to come up with creative new ways to solve hard problems.
What’s the most important thing you learned from FIRST?
FIRST taught me how to accept failure, and how to learn from it.
What’s your greatest achievement with FIRST?
My greatest achievement in FIRST is the number of people I have been able to positively affect now that I have graduated as a student from the program and can now give back to those who are on their own journeys.
What is your favorite thing about FIRST?
FIRST is fun. Even during the hard times of staying late working on robots or coming to an event before the sun is up, the payoff of people learning and having fun is worth all of it.
What advice would you give to current or future FIRST participants?
Learn as much as you can. Not just about computers or robots, but yourself too. What you learn in FIRST will be with you for the rest of your life.