Growth of FIRST
All superheroes have a pivotal moment: stick to the status quo or become something greater. For us, that happened when FIRST asked us to sponsor and coordinate the AZ-NM FIRST Tech Challenge program. The idea of our team being in charge of an entire program for two states was terrifying! We discovered growth can’t happen overnight; it takes time, passion and dedication ‒ superheroes don’t have an off-season!
As heroes, we are teachers, mentors & role models. At new FTC events, our weekend looks like this: piling into a bus Friday afternoon, training key volunteers, reviving misbehaving robots and helping teams go from a box of parts to a working bot…THEN the tournament starts! Over 3 years, the size of the Nut crew gradually decreases, allowing the newly-trained local volunteers to take the reins. We lead by example, immersing ourselves in a team’s experience from when a robot first moves to celebrating the winners. As a result, the AZ-NM FTC program has grown to nearly 100 teams due to 1000s of energetic man-hours & miles.
AZ & NM cover 240,000 sq. mi! With rural communities separated by hundreds of miles, supporting 100 teams is a challenge. We began this season by running kickoff events in PHX and ABQ, featuring 600+ attendees and 10 workshops from programming to fundraising; our AZ Kickoff is the 2nd largest in the country! But it’s more than the game; it prepares teams and strengthens the FTC community. Both kickoffs start with a meet-and-greet for teams to collaborate so they feel comfortable reaching out to others.
For the past two years we’ve replaced scrimmages with Meet-the-Field Day (MTF) to relieve the pressure of competition. This season MTF was in 6 locations in two states. Our joy comes when we watch teams we’ve empowered succeed. One example is FTC 12767: they came to MTF with a box of parts, built a working bot with the help of a Nut, and went on to win their first qualifying tournament!