Once again, I have been humbled and reminded of how much I do not know. Last week marked my annual trip to the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis. I’ve volunteered for six years now as the pit announcer; helping the young genius’ get where they need to be, donate parts to other teams and even providing some energetic rally cries. It is a pretty remarkable experience, one of my favorite volunteering activities.
What is truly outstanding is that Dean Kamen’s vision 20+ years ago is thriving today: Elevating our young mathematicians and scientists to rock star status is so important for so many reasons and I’ve never heard it put quite this way. We admire and even idolize sports and entertainment icons, yet that is not wealth-creating. All of those stars need the technology that is created by the nerds; the kids who grow up to invent things that change our lives.
Think about the satellite industry. Robots in space transferring and handling voice and data signals so that someone can call for live-saving support or send a critical file from the most remote parts of the world. The auto-acquire antennas that keep data moving as the ship pitches and rolls or the plane flies were invented by someone who knew a lot more about science than I do. The signal processors and switches, the lines that carry PSTN calls, the cellular networks, all the circuits that know when and where to move what signals were all invented by some geeky kid someplace in some lab because that kid idolized math and science and not sports. That impresses me to no end; all those ones and zeroes….. I am not that kid: I was a jock. I don’t know how to make a robot play a competitive game.
There is also a bonafide economical concern in the US. Some say we are losing our competitive edge because of our pre-occupation with the wrong things. We need to become MORE curious about how things work and what is possible. When you tie those two curiosities together, you can invent the future, the next multi-billion dollar IPO.
So I have a challenge for you: Get involved with FIRST. Sponsor a team (I do, even though my daughter graduated two years ago), get your company to sponsor a team, mentor a team, volunteer at the local or national level. I promise you that nothing can prepare you for what you will experience. The fulfillment is overwhelming. I was literally almost at the point of tears as I left the playing field just as the championship celebration was just beginning after the final match.
And maybe you to will be humbled as you realize what else there is to learn, and overwhelmed when you give of yourself to help these very talented kids develop the skills that will help invent the future.
Thanks for reading.