What is FIRST?
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international youth organization founded by Dean Kamen. The intent of FIRST is to inspire students in the fields of science and technology through its philosophy of cooperative competition. This organization allows students to discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology, while building self-confidence and learning life skills such as communication, team building, and leadership. This real world experience combines the excitement of a sporting event with science and technology to create a varsity sport for the mind. FIRST is based in Manchester, New Hampshire and is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit charity.
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." — Dean Kamen
FIRST's mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills that inspire innovation and foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.
Gracious professionalism, a term coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, is part of the ethos of FIRST. It is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With gracious professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended. In the long run, gracious professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.
Coopertition produces innovation. At FIRST, coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. It involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.