Dean Kamen said that FIRST is the “Varsity sport of the mind”.
During our 2010-2011 school year, Team 3142 sought to make achieving varsity status for robotics a reality in our school. Beginning in January, we researched FIRST teams with varsity status across the country to learn how they achieved it. By mid March of the 2011 school year, our principal told the team that he would fully support our efforts in achieving varsity status with the help of our Board of Education. Shortly after, in early May, the Newton Board of Education granted the team varsity status, making us the first academic team to receive this honor in our high school and the first public school in New Jersey to honor robotics with varsity status, making us equal to all the other athletic teams.
Gaining varsity status gave members of our team the validation they desired and the drive to go farther. We felt that our intense six weeks build season deserved the same recognition as any other sport if not more so because of our year round commitment to spreading the message of FIRST and striving to service our community. Having achieved this status for the team showed our fellow students that STEM is as important as all athletics. As Dean Kamen said, “You have teenagers thinking they’re going to make millions of dollars as NBA stars when that’s not realistic for even 1 percent of them. Becoming a scientist or engineer is.” We have taken Dean’s message seriously. Seeking and attaining varsity recognition lets students know that being a famous athlete is not the only way to succeed in the world.
In the beginning of February in 2012, we honored our inaugural year varsity students with our team designed chenille Talon Varsity Emblem. Ever since, at the end of each season we honor members who have qualified for varsity with a letter in Robotics.
It is our hope that the knowledge gained while working on our team and towards our goal of creating leaders in science and technology, as well as living FIRST ideals, will inspire our team members to reach out to every segment of our society to promote the exploration of FIRST and careers in the scientific fields.
Next: Steps to Varsity