This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

April 4, 2007

Robots Teach Kids Gracious Professionalism

The most successful entrepreneurs are driven to leave a lasting legacy and Dean Kamen is no exception. He invented the portable dialysis machine and the Segway ®, an urban transportation machine.

In 1989, Kamen decided to focus on igniting young people's interest and participation in science and technology. His vision is “to create a world . . . where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes", so he founded an organization called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

The FIRST organization engages young people (ages six through 18) and their mentors and volunteers in solving a common problem in a six-week timeframe. The teams of youngsters build robots using a standard “kit of parts" and a common set of rules, then vie in regional and international competition.

In one division, the FIRST LEGO League Nano Quest Challenge this year, teams of nine- to 14 year-olds are using LEGO to explore technologies that start in the nano world and lead to valuable practical applications for everyday life.

FIRST celebrates the concept of “Gracious Professionalism.” Coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Gracious Professionalism” encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. Participants compete aggressively while treating each other with mutual respect and kindness. Competing teams take pride in supporting each other with spare parts and/or counsel even to their own disadvantage.

FIRST redefines winning by rewarding teams for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Scoring the most points is a secondary goal. Winning means building lasting partnerships.

This year the full range of FIRST programs will touch 90,000 young people and 40,000 mentors and volunteers. They will build 10,652 robots. On April 12 to 14, 2007, teams from 22 countries, including Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Australia will participate in the FIRST Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

As enlightened technology companies look for ways to address the skilled labor shortage and predispose young scientists and engineers to choosing employment with them, we expect support for FIRST to increase substantially.

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