Eight years ago, FIRST robotics captured my heart with its vibrant spirit of ‘coopertition.’ Volunteering at the Seven Rivers Regional in LaCrosse, WI, I aimed to bridge the gap between industry and education. Little did I know, FIRST would profoundly impact my life.
This year, I entered the venue not as a volunteer for a company, but representing my own entrepreneurial venture—a leap inspired by the FIRST community. My journey has been enriched by meeting brilliant students, mentors, and industry leaders, witnessing their growth, and the embodiment of ‘gracious professionalism.’
The gratitude expressed by those I have worked with through the years is humbling, yet it’s the inspiration they’ve given me that’s been transformative. Last year, I received a message from a former student, now a successful young innovator, reminding me of the influence we can have without realizing it. Her courage and passion encouraged me to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams, seeking innovative ways to effect positive change.

As Seven Rivers FIRST is a regional event, I have had the unparalleled opportunity to meet and work alongside a very diverse group of teams, members of industry, and volunteers throughout the Midwest – beyond our local community boundaries. From the comradery that has developed with my machine shop team – to the synergy between the various teams/mentors/volunteers and educators, it is a significant display of the value of collaborating with people outside our local network, as it grants us an opportunity to approach various challenges and solutions through a unique set of experiences and voices.
I vehemently implore any of my fellow wrench slingers or tech enthusiasts who have not had the opportunity to delve into the world of FIRST – please reach out to a local team or program. You may be surprised to find the massive impact that you can make in the lives of our future innovators and communities by simply embracing your skills/talents and sharing them with others. More surprising yet though….is that you may find, as I have – that while working to enhance the lives of others – you will greatly expand your own innovative capabilities and endeavors.
Thank you to everyone in FIRST – from the depths of both my left and right ventricles – for the invaluable way that you have made a positive impact on my life. I look forward to seeing you all again next season! ❤️ 🔧 ❤️