Charity Spotlight: FIRST®

Joshua Stackhouse

February 1, 2024

Charity Spotlight: FIRST®

As part of our #RenewalsForGood initiative, Hexos spotlights charitable organizations to which we have made a contribution. Our contribution may include Hexos team members volunteering, a monetary donation from Hexos, or a combination therein. Hexos prioritizes organizations that champion environmental restoration, racial diversity and equity, and expanding STEM education. Additionally, Hexos invites input from its partners and clients to direct our involvement toward organizations and initiatives that are meaningful to them.

Picture this: you’re in your second year at middle school and you are one of a handful of students at your school to be selected to participate in a LEGO® robotics competition. Over the course of a few weeks, you team up with your classmates to design small problem-solving robots — applying the disciplines of mechanical engineering and computer programming to one of your favorite toys. Having forged strong bonds through co-operation and teamwork, you accompany your classmates on an extended field trip where you receive mentorship from professional experts and compete with other students who share your talents and passion. In the following years, you repeat this fun experience. Year after year, you have the opportunity to hone your skills and take on greater challenges, until finally it comes time to enroll in higher education. Now, how good are the chances that you will choose to pursue a degree (and potentially a career) in STEM?

You don’t have to guess because we actually have a scientist’s best friend: good hard data. A recent study from Brandeis University found that students who participate in programs like the one described above are significantly more likely to declare a STEM major in college or university. Which means that FIRST®, a non-profit charity corporation that “prepares young people for the future and inspire today’s kids to build tomorrow’s leaders,” has been a resounding success.

FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, best known for inventing he Segway and the iBOT, and Dr. Woodie Flowers, an accomplished professor of mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The initial event, the FIRST® Robotics Competition, is still operated by the organization. However, FIRST has since added the Tech Challenge and the LEGO League to its operations docket. Since its inception, FIRST® has reached over 2.5 million student participants in over 100 hundred countries!

Perhaps most notably, FIRST is inspiring girls and fostering their talents and passions for STEM fields where the gender gap disparity is especially alarming (women only make up only 24% of the STEM workforce in the US, and the figures are even lower in Japane, India and the European Union). According to the aforementioned study, 48% of female students who participated in FIRST programs declared a Engineering or Computer Science major by their fourth year in higher education (compared to only 16% of their peers).

With a 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator, a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, and a proven impact on their participants, FIRST® is definitely an organization worth supporting, highlighting, and participating in.

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