Taking the FIRST Steps Towards Change
The world needs engineers now more than ever. But to truly Engineer Ambitiously, our industry needs a diverse array of innovators.
NI has extended a six-year commitment to FIRST® , an inclusive robotics community that prepares young people for the future. In addition to large-scale product donations, NI’s continued pledge includes extensive R&D and support time. This generous gift—valued at $2 million per year—represents NI’s longest, most significant up-front contribution to a nonprofit organization.
Through this continued partnership, NI and FIRST® will make STEM programs even more accessible to girls, students of color, and economically disadvantaged youth while promoting skills-based volunteerism. In addition, NI serves as Lead Sponsor of the FIRST® Virtual Mentor Network, a new global platform recently launched this year.
FIRST® students aren’t just building robots—they’re inventing devices and applications that could have a major impact on our world. Check out some of the greatest innovations developed by FIRST® students over the last decade.
The E-Wall is a low-cost, lightweight, eco-friendly building block that can replace conventional blocks and insulation.
The CosmoCup is a menstrual collector that was engineered to provide female astronauts with an alternative to using contraceptives to skip their periods.
This water conservation tool is the size of a tennis ball and can be buried in the soil to measure how much water is available for crops in real time.
This automated water post tracks the water consumption of horses through sensors on the post and trough.
The Styro-Filter was created to combat Styrofoam waste by converting it into activated carbon that can be used to purify water.
The innovative ROY G. BIV Math System™ application was created to help students who are struggling with dyslexia learn math.
This long-range notification sign uses balloons to indicate where aid is available during natural disasters.
This device uses “jamming” technology to help seniors with hand tremors, poor vision, or limited mobility pick up small objects.
Costing less than $10 to build, the BOB-1 is an economical, easy on/off prosthetic device that gives users their mobility back.
Christina Li studied computer science and electrical engineering with a focus in robotics at Stanford University. Now, as a software engineer at SpaceX, she works closely with the hardware teams to develop automation for their new Mars vehicle, Starship. Her involvement with FIRST® began as a programmer. Although she didn’t have practical experience with coding, she quickly saw its appeal and power. FIRST® also introduced her to manufacturing, specifically machining and welding. The opportunities FIRST® provided inspired her to join other engineering design teams in college that focused more on mechanical design: the Mars Rover team for the University Rover Challenge and the Stanford Solar Car Project for the World Solar Challenge.
Melissa Smith holds a PhD from George Mason University and is currently a senior UX researcher at Google, where she leads research on controllers, inputs, and peripherals for Stadia, the company’s new cloud-based gaming platform. Melissa’s involvement with FIRST began over 20 years as a FIRST LEGO® League and FIRST® Robotics Competition participant. She went on to volunteer within the organization and will soon become the first alum to serve on the FIRST® Executive Advisory Board.
Ruben Estrada is studying marketing and mechanical engineering at Cal State LA. Ruben came to the United States at a young age, and something his father said to him back then had a lasting impact: “Ve cómo hago las cosas yo para que aprendas a hacerlas en el futuro.”(“Observe how I do things so that in the future, you know how to do them.”) Ruben took that advice to heart. He joined FIRST® as a sophomore in high school. It was an exciting time for him, because up until that point, he had never been exposed to the types of opportunities that FIRST® provided. Early on, he didn’t know much about building robots and even less about programming, but by following his father’s advice—to observe and learn—he picked up both concepts quickly. His father’s words inspired Ruben to become his team’s lead mechanic and had an influence on his current career path. Ruben continues to be involved with FIRST® whenever possible; he has interned with their marketing department, spoken at FIRST® events, and worked as part of their social media team.
Melanie Sanchez is pursuing her passion for STEM as a third-year student at UNLV with a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in computer science. She’s held internships at Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Reno, Nevada, and is currently interning at Southland Industries as a design engineer. Melanie began her journey with FIRST® as a sophomore in high school, thanks to the encouragement she received from her computer science teacher. As a FIRST® participant, Melanie excelled, serving as lead machinist on lathe, team vice president, and ultimately team president. And although she no longer competes, she continues to stay involved with FIRST® as a mentor, scout, and coach.
Kate Sample graduated from Emporia State University with a degree in elementary education. After completing her studies, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with FIRST®, helping to bring STEM to underserved youth in South Florida where she currently lives. Kate has been around FIRST® since she was five years old. Her father, an electrical engineer, often pursued STEM opportunities that she and her sister could participate in. As a FIRST® mentor, he would bring them along to FIRST® events so they could experience science and technology first-hand. Because she grew up in the program, there’s no denying the influence it’s had on her life. In her current role with FIRST®, Kate helps ensure that FIRST® coaches and mentors have the training and support they need to assist teams. She also helps locate funding, recruit volunteers, and facilitate events.
Chelsey Roebuck holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University and is the executive director and cofounder of the nonprofit Emerging Leaders in Technology and Engineering (ELiTE). This Harlem-based youth development organization uses STEM education to empower underserved students in New York City and Ghana, West Africa, providing them with hands-on learning in computer science and engineering. A FIRST® Robotics Competition alum, Chelsey credits FIRST® with many of the values and traits that have helped drive his success, including being named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Education” in 2016. Today, Chelsey continues to support FIRST® as a mentor and coach for the Harlem Knights, a FIRST® Robotics Competition team from Frederick Douglass Academy.