Clark Kent and Superman: FIRST Robotics in a Nutshell
We have grown up knowing about Clark Kent and Superman, where Clark Kent is hidden in plain sight among us, but when extraordinary things need to take place, he turns into Superman. I’d like to share a story with you about just one example of how those two exist within FedEx every day in the form of envelopes, small packages, skids, or in this example, crates.
We start with Clark Kent, in the form of the below crate – mild-mannered and unassuming, with no hint of what is actually inside.
Another Clark Kent, also mild-mannered until extraordinary things need to take place, is Dean Kamen. You may or may not be aware of him, but, among his many, many inventions is the Segway.
In his role as Superman, Dean decided 25 years ago that we needed more of our children in this country – and in particular, more women and minorities – to focus on science and technology (which we now refer to more often as STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), so he created the FIRST Robotics competition in 1989.
That idea has now grown into four separate competitions, from age six all the way through high school, and, in 2016 involved more than 3,000 teams, 75,000 students and 19,000 mentors from 24 countries. FedEx sponsors some of those teams.
So, back to our “Clark Kent” crate. Through a long relationship between FIRST and FedEx, FedEx Freight moves the largest of these crates of robots to and from competitions, all leading up to the FIRST Championship in late spring in St. Louis. These teams of up to 50 or more students and mentors have been working on these robots for months, so the concept of on-time, intact and damage-free is an absolute, especially when you are competing against teams from all over the world.
Once out of the crate, Clark Kent turns into Superman for the competition, and I was honored to again attend this year. It was amazing to walk on the floor of the FIRST Championship, with several hundred teams, and thousands of students and mentors, all competing, or going through their checklist to ensure their robot came through the last match in good shape, or collaborating with other teams. They explained how their team came together to make all of this happen in a matter of weeks and were still focused on how they could continue to learn from each match to make it better.
These high school students are our future leaders, and, hopefully, our future coworkers. They are bright, articulate and passionate about what they do and many continue to help in a mentor role after graduation. Their enthusiasm is contagious and my hat is off to each of them, their mentors and the FIRST staff.
FedEx was right in the middle of the championship with social media challenges and a large presence and we awarded prizes for teams participating in the FedEx Innovation Challenge. Once finished, with many lifetime memories and new friends made, the teams packed their robots back into the crate and Clark Kent moved back through the FedEx Freight network for delivery.
Inside those envelopes, small cartons, skids, and in this case, crates, are some great stories. It was an honor to briefly share in just one of those stories.
*A supporter of FIRST for 14 years, FedEx provides in-kind shipping for all 3,000+ Kits of Parts shipped annually to every FIRST team around the world, in-kind shipping for all FIRST Robotics robots competing at Championship, cash grants and the FedEx Innovation Challenge social media competition.
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