FIRST Indiana Robotics (FIN) central commitment is to provide growth opportunities to students.  The organization is centered on supporting and raising these students to their technical, professional, and personal potential.  FIRST students are passionate, bright, and have so much to offer.  They have invaluable insight on serving them and their peers better, and they are just as committed to advocating for more students to have the same opportunities through FIN that have given them a chance to grow and learn.  FIN is devoted to amplifying our student’s voices, and the main vessel connecting the students to our organization is the Student Board of Directors or SBOD.  The SBOD represents the students in FIN’s decisions and helps shape the organization’s future.  FTC and FRC students are encouraged to apply to serve on the student board and speak from the student perspective while working on initiatives to strengthen the FIN community.  We sat down with a few of the student board members and discussed the development and impact they have experienced through their involvement with FIN.  Their testimonies and accomplishments on behalf of FIRST students are the pride of the FIN community.

Ishani has been involved with FIRST since she was six years old, and she states that her involvement in robotics has been invaluable in building confidence and developing professional skills.  Ishani talked about how her involvement with the FIN SBOD allowed her to expand her involvement past her team and into her community.  “It’s so encouraging to see my teammates growing skills with me, both technical and professional, and growing as people.  Witnessing the same changes I have seen in myself in others too has been so rewarding.” She is a part of the SBOD’s Growth and Retention Committee and works on making robotics more accessible, recognized, and less stigmatized to others.  She has contacted schools to promote robotics programs, created flyers to get more people involved, and worked on diversity initiatives.  Ishani also emphasizes the importance of mentor connections, which provide valuable advice and opportunities for growth.  Chelsea has also enjoyed the advocacy element of the SBOD.  When we spoke to Chelsea, she was getting ready for the FIRST at the state board day, and she was especially excited to speak with the governor, who had attended the high school she attends.  “I volunteered at FLL state and escorted VIPs around the event.  That was a great experience, and I feel prepared to talk about FIRST and robots to legislators,” Chelsea said.

Every year the SBOD elects officers who attend the FIN Board of Directors meetings and are key stakeholders in strategic decisions.  Luke, who started with robotics in his freshman year, got involved with the SBOD and eventually became its president.  According to Luke, being part of the SBOD has helped him grow and build “authentic professionalism” skills.  He has learned how to interface with diverse people, solve complicated problems, and manage time better.  Luke mentioned that his involvement with FIN has allowed him to interface with CFOs, CEOs, and legislators, opportunities other students his age outside of FIN are not getting. 

Finally, one of the most impactful aspects of FIN is its community and culture.  Ishani said the FIRST community support of each other, from parents to coaches to mentors, has kept her coming back all these years.  Chelsea noted that through her work on the board and her experiences at competitions, she had created friendships with people from all over the state, something that she did not expect when she decided to pursue robotics.  Luke also mentions the bond he formed with some core FIN volunteers during the FLL state competition.  The group stayed long after the event was over to help with the teardown, and Luke felt immediately welcomed into the group of professionals and peers.  The relationships and connections formed through FIN are meaningful and last beyond the competition season.

Through its SBOD, participating students, mentors, and volunteers, FIN has a diverse community.  There is, however, one unifying factor for everyone involved in FIN: everyone is invested in creating positive experiences for FIRST students across the state.  Ishani, Chelsea, and Luke’s experiences with FIN are just a few examples of how it has impacted students in Indiana and beyond.  FIN’s mission to inspire and recognize STEM education would not be possible without the students’ voices, and FIN ensures that their voices are heard.

The 2023-2024 student board of directors application is open now, and any student in FIRST Tech Challenge or FIRST Robotics Competition that is a rising 10th, 11th, or 12th-grade student is eligible.  See the application here.