There's a presidential election in November, and you'd think we would want as many Americans to vote as possible. So why are some legislators trying to make us spend more than $65 million on policies that make voting harder?
Societies all over the world face an ever-growing list of complex issues that require informed solutions. Whether it’s addressing infectious diseases, the effects of climate change, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, the world has an immediate need for problem-solvers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.
Here in the United States, we’re experiencing a shortage of much-needed STEM workers, and forward-thinking organizations are stepping up to tap into America’s youth to fill the void. As the leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education, FIRST is an important player in this arena, and its mission is to inspire young people aged 4 to 18 to become technology leaders and innovators capable of addressing the world’s pressing needs.
Founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989, FIRST is a global community that helps young people discover their passions for STEM through exciting robotics-based challenges. It develops team-based competitions and other innovation-driven programs that engender resilience, cooperation, empathy and problem-solving. The 2022 FIRST season included more than 679,000 students from 110 countries, who were supported by over 320,000 adult mentors, coaches and volunteers. The season recently concluded with the global FIRST Championship, where thousands of teams from around the world came together to celebrate what they had learned.
Students and their robots compete at the FIRST Championshipvia FIRST
“We just have so many problems that we need to solve, and I truly believe that a lot of them need technological solutions,” Fazlul “Fuzz” Zubair told Upworthy. Zubair is the systems engineering department manager at Raytheon Technologies, an American multinational aerospace and defense conglomerate. He mentors FIRST Team 4201: The Vitruvian Bots in Los Angeles.
“Even the problems that don’t appear to be technological in nature will require big data or to make the next big breakthrough in energy, transportation, or our ability to observe our known universe,” said Zubair.
The robotics-based programs that FIRST provides expose students to global challenges and encourages them to do their part to be problem solvers. Annual FIRST seasons are themed around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and are meant to encourage participants’ critical thinking and innovation across a breadth of worldwide issues, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. The Goals, much like the mission of FIRST, are an attempt to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
“These challenges not only help students put their STEM and life skills to the test but get them thinking about how technology can address critical community, national and global problems,” FIRST CEO Chris Moore told Upworthy. “Mentorship is the critical piece that helps students up-level their learning.”
FIRST students develop strategies for addressing complex challenges by working with enthusiastic, experienced mentors who are professionals in STEM fields.
“When STEM gets challenging, mentors are there to collaboratively help students navigate the problem, find solutions, and discover their own resiliency,” said Moore. “Many young people—especially those from underrepresented, underserved, and vulnerable populations—struggle to envision themselves in STEM fields. Mentorship can combat this self-doubt and help more students discover their path and sense of belonging in these careers."
FIRST students develop a solution-based mentality and are armed with problem-solving skills, empowering them to make a direct impact on their communities and the world around them.
FIRST Team 316, the Lunatecs, formed in Carney’s Point, New Jersey, in 1999 as a FIRST Robotics Competition team and later established a nonprofit, the South Jersey Robotics. The SJR team designs, fabricates and donates adaptive devices to improve the lives of physically challenged individuals and the organizations that serve them.
South Jersey Robotics created adaptive gear to allow physically-challenged people to scuba dive.
“We wanted to apply the skills we’ve learned in real-life situations and creating an adaptive device program allowed us to do that,” student Seth Simpkins told Upworthy. Recently, the FIRST team created Jump Assist, an adaptive jump rope that allowed a young boy with congenital amputation to play like the rest of the kids at his school.
FIRST Team Buckets of Ravena, New York, founded the nonprofit We Give Water in partnership with U.K.-based eWaterPay to help address the global problem of clean water accessibility. The nonprofit has raised $55,000 to fund 40 sustainable systems in Gambia, West Africa, that provide clean water access to more than 20,000 people.
“While we might take accessible water for granted here, in other countries water means life. We wanted to help bring life to those in need so they could be able to worry less about where their water was coming from and more on important things, such as school and health,” FIRST Team Buckets member Elizabeth Robertson told Upworthy.
FIRST Team Buckets helped bring sustainable water systems to Gambia.
Raytheon Technologies’ Zubair is confident that the opportunities provided through FIRST are contributing to a new generation of much-needed problem-solvers.
“By creating more people that get excited, that say, ‘This is what I want to do, I want to develop technology,’ we are creating a group of people who are primed to solve our tough problems,” he told Upworthy. Zubair even used his participation in FIRST to create a pipeline of qualified STEM talent for his team: he has hired 15 FIRST alumni to work with him at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, and many of these hires give back in their free time to mentor local teams.
FIRST students supply ample proof that young people don’t have to wait until they graduate high school or get a job in a STEM industry to make a difference. They can start now by picking up the skills they need for success in STEM and life through FIRST.
“Don’t wait for anything,” Robertson said. “If you are given the opportunity to do something amazing, do it. The one thing our team said every time someone asked this question was, you are never too young to change the world. STEM skills are meant to do good.”
Simpkins agrees: “I say you don’t have to wait. In fact, waiting is the worst thing you can do. Be open to new experiences and believe in yourself.”To learn more about FIRST and to get involved, go to firstinspires.org.
Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.
The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.
Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.
When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.
The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.
When the internet is full of dreary headlines, it’s even more important to balance it all out with things that spark joy.
Whether it comes from cute kids and animals, amazing art or wholesome acts of kindness, things that make us smile help remind our hearts that the world is indeed a big place, containing both the bad and the good. Sometimes it might take a little extra scouring to find what makes us smile, but Upworthy is here to make the search a little bit easier.
Without further ado, let’s get uplifted:
This is Benny. He fell asleep during his guide dog initiation photoshoot. 12/10 we still think he has what it takes pic.twitter.com/s5Juhz7SP2— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) June 29, 2022
Sometimes being adorable is just so exhausting, wouldn’t you agree?
Maestros Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Roger Norrington and Lahav Shani were in for a delightful symphonic surprise. Who knew that “Happy Birthday” could be such a moving tune?
Seventeen-year-old Adrian Rodriguez found Eliana Martin’s abandoned purse in a shopping cart. Rodriguez found an address where Martin lived, and dropped it off while she wasn’t home. His act of kindness was caught on the doorbell camera, and Martin's former roommate was so moved she started a GoFundMe campaign to reward him. People raised nearly $10,000. You can read the full story here.
This girl had the whole section rooting for her bottle flip pic.twitter.com/CxSyGP7OKx— Gleyber With No Brim (Corey) (@Saquon_Gleyber) June 26, 2022
And the crowd goes wild! I don’t think she expected that kind of applause.
Note to self: Never wear a long skirt while visiting baby elephants.
Sometimes the simplest gestures hold the most meaning.
@griffinbrothersskating Comin I’m hot 🥵 #TheGriffinBrothers#foryoupage#fyp#jamskating#rollerskating#jamskate#rollerskate♬ Coming In Hot - Andy Mineo & Lecrae
Brothers Marcus and Michael Griffin, also known as The Griffin Brothers, are rolling through social media showing off their impressive skate skills. With smooth moves, fun outfits and an inspiring story, there’s just so much to love about these two.
Williams was a comedy master. Elmo is adorable. It’s a pretty unbeatable combo.
Perhaps I’m biased because octopi are my favorite animals of all time, but it was cool to learn that octopuses have two sets of gills inside their mantle to extract oxygen from their ocean environment. They bring water into their mantle and exhale through their “siphon”—that snorkel-like tube sticking out of the mantle. If an octopus needs a speedy getaway from a predator, it can use jet propulsion—inhale with a powerful exhale—to swim away!
Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in as an associate justice to the United States Supreme Court, making history as the first Black woman on the highest court in the nation https://t.co/udbQDO3algpic.twitter.com/4R6U6rIFgi— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 30, 2022
At least one bit of good Supreme Court news.
The internet doesn’t always have to be a soul drain. Feel free to come back to these anytime you need the healing salve of joy.
Certain sensations bring up incredible memories.
There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.
It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.
Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.
A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”
It was a call for people to tap into the collective subconscious and bond over the shared experiences of youth. The most popular responses were the specific sensory experiences of childhood as well as memories of pop culture and businesses that are long gone.
Ready to take a trip down memory lane? Don’t stay too long, but it’s great to consider why these experiences are so memorable and still muster up warm feelings to this day.
Here are 19 of the best responses.
"An eraser that looks and smells like a very fake strawberry." — zazzlekdazzle
"Remember the warm, fuzzy static left on your tv screen after it was on for a while. A lot of you crazy kids WEAPONIZED the static to shock your siblings!" — JK_NC
"Waking up super early on Saturday morning before the rest of the family to watch cartoons." — helltothenoyo
"When you'd watch a vhs and it would say 'and now your feature presentation.'" — Mickthemmouse
"Eating one of those plastic-wrapped ice pop things after a long day of playing outside in your backyard with your friends." — onyourleft___
"Scholastic book fairs." — zazzlekdazzle
"The distinctive newspaper-y feel of those catalogues, the smell of them. Heaven. I would agonize over what books to get, lying on my living room floor, circling my options in different colored gel pens, narrowing it down to 2-4 from a dozen in an intense battle royale between slightly blurry one-line summaries. I know my mom's secret now. She would've bought me the whole damn catalogue. But she made me make my choices so that I really valued the books. I'd read them all immediately, reading all night if I had to, hiding in a tent under my covers with a flashlight I stole from the kitchen. I thought I was getting away with something. As an adult, I notice, now, that the flashlight never ran out of batteries." — IAlbatross
"Watching 'The Price Is Right' when you were sick at home." — mayhemy11
"That feeling of limitless freedom on the first day of summer vacation. That feeling of dreaded anticipation on the last day of summer vacation." —_my_poor_brain_
"Blockbuster." — justabll71
"The noise when picking up the phone when someone was surfing the web." — OhAce
"The TV Guide channel. You had to sit through and watch as the channels slowly went by so we could see what was on. It blew getting distracted by the infomercial in the corner and then realizing you barely just missed what you were waiting for so had to wait for it to start all over." — GroundbreakingOil
"Light Bright. I barely remember it myself but you’d take a charcoal-black board and poke different colored pegs through it. You plug it in to the electrical outlet and all the pegs light up creating whatever shape you made in lights." — 90sTrapperKeeper
"You knew it was gonna be a good day when you walk into PE class and see that huge colorful parachute." — brunettemountainlion
"Ripping handfuls of grass at recess and putting them on your friend." — boo_boo_technician
"In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem if no one else can help, and if you can find them....maybe you can hire The A-Team." — Azuras_Star8
"Watching 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.' There was something so special about the intro where he would sing Won't You Be My Neighbor while he changed his jacket and shoes. I loved every second of it, and would watch in utter content and fascination each time as if I'd never before seen him zip his cardigan up and back down to the right spot and change his shoes with the little toss of a shoe from one hand to the other." — Avendashar
"Somewhere between blowing on some cartridges and pressing the cartridge down and up in the NES to get it to play." — autovices
"That feeling when you are going as high as you can go on the swings. Power? Freedom? Hard to describe." — zazzlekadazzle
"Cap guns. But smashing the entire roll of caps at once with a hammer." — SoulKahn90