It takes extreme devotion to do what she has to do every morning just so she can learn.
In today’s rapidly changing world, most parents are concerned about what the future looks like for their children. Whether concerning technology, culture, or values, young people today are expected to navigate—and attempt to thrive in—a society that’s far more complicated than that of their parents. It’s one of the reasons why parents are keen to involve their kids in activities that will help them become more resilient, well-rounded and better prepared for life when they enter adulthood.
One such activity is FIRST®, a volunteer-based global robotics community that helps young people discover a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through exciting, multifaceted challenges. FIRST helps kids ages 4 to 18 to build confidence, resilience, cooperation and empathy as they compete and collaborate with one another.
You may have seen the transformative power of FIRST programs featured in the new 2022 Disney+ documentary “More Than Robots.”
More Than Robots | Official Trailer | Disney+www.youtube.com
Through FIRST, students develop skills to help them thrive in changing times while connecting them with skilled mentors from as many as 200 Fortune 500 companies. These connections often lead to job placements in high-paying and rewarding STEM careers.
“If you want your child to be ready for the real world in ways that school and classroom experiences won’t necessarily fully prepare them for, FIRST is the program for you,” Erica Fessia, vice president of global field operations at FIRST, told Upworthy.
A wonderful example of the impact FIRST has on students is Aaron, who lives in Watts, an underserved neighborhood in south Los Angeles. Aaron was a reserved kid until he joined FIRST, where he developed a passion for robotics that pushed him to become a leader of his team, the aptly named TeraWatts.
Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, a schoolteacher and TeraWatts mentor, has seen Aaron make tremendous strides over the past two years. “He’s one of the most technologically competent students on our entire team. But I am 500% more proud of his growth as an individual in his confidence and his leadership,” she said, noting it’s the type of growth she rarely sees through traditional educational settings.
Aaron believes he has learned resilience through the program due to its fail-forward approach to engineering. “Normally, I get really frustrated when I can’t solve a problem,” he told Upworthy. “Robotics helped me to calm down instead of getting angry. If you don’t get it right the first time, you just keep trying, trying until you do.”
Problem-solving is an important goal of engineering and FIRST inspires students to stretch the limits of their innovation and imagination to reach their goals. When each annual FIRST season begins, student teams are assigned a sport-like challenge, typically themed around a critical global issue like recycling, transportation or energy, and are asked to build a robot that can compete in that challenge. They are given a kit of materials with limited instructions. It encourages them to experiment and attempt new iterations until the robot works.
When the students hit a roadblock, they can get help from adult mentors with either educational or professional experience in STEM fields. This provides the invaluable experience of working with positive role models who’ve made STEM their life’s work. It’s a big reason why FIRST students are better prepared for STEM careers than those who’ve only studied the subject in school (that is, if they even have access to STEM education in their school).
Afzaa Rahman has been a FIRST student for seven years as a member of the Durham, North Carolina-based Zebracorns. After high school, she hopes to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.
“The Zebracorns have a special place in my heart as they have provided me with a community of individuals who stood by my side, willing to assist, support, encourage and motivate me in my endeavors,” she told Upworthy.
She hopes that being part of FIRST will inspire other girls to do the same. “It’s important that we leave our mark and continue to make meaningful contributions to STEM fields,” she said. “By participating in STEM, today’s girls and women will inspire future generations to do the same until we are no longer a minority.”
Afzaa’s father, Mujib Jinnah, encourages other parents to involve their children in the program, too. “I think other parents should definitely consider having their child participate in FIRST. In addition to STEM learning, FIRST encourages the development of teamwork and soft skills, which are essential qualities to enhance from a young age,” he told Upworthy.
One of the most important goals of FIRST is to recruit women and students from underserved or underrepresented communities into the program to help bridge the gap in STEM participation. This can help uplift individuals and communities by putting their issues directly in the hands of a new generation of problem-solvers.
“When we talk about diversity in technology, we talk about bringing more voices into technology,” Fazlul “Fuzz” Zubair, systems engineering department manager at Raytheon Technologies and mentor of FIRST team The Vitruvian Bots, told Upworthy.
“When young people of all backgrounds learn they can get into technology, they bring the issues they see to the forefront and say, ‘I can solve this with technology.’ That way you don’t just get technology that’s developed for one class of people,” said Zubair. “We need more developers from underserved areas because they understand the issues.”
FIRST robotics challenges inspire competition and cooperation—what it calls Coopertition®. Two teams may be competing alongside one another in a challenge and then later compete against each other. To make this work requires another FIRST value: Gracious Professionalism®, a term coined by the late Dr. Woodie Flowers, a distinguished MIT professor emeritus and a pioneer in hands-on STEM education, including many years spent tirelessly supporting FIRST.
“The ethos of Coopertition and Gracious Professionalism encourages all who participate in the FIRST community to emphasize and respect the value of others and their opinions, including those that might differ and differ strongly from yours,” Fessia said.
Iqbal-Zubair says that, win or lose, the unique nature of the competition builds practical empathy that students won’t learn elsewhere.
“You can be kind to a team and understand what they’re going through in one competition. Then, work against them in the next and be gracious in both situations. That takes a lot of empathy,” she said. “FIRST requires technical empathy, emotional empathy and strategic empathy,” she added.
Keys to thriving in a world where change is happening at a breakneck speed are resilience and flexibility as well as the 21st-century skills of cooperation and empathy. FIRST students are developing those skills while building some pretty amazing robots, too!
FIRST is open to students from the ages of 4 to 18. To learn more about FIRST programs in your area and how to become involved, go to firstinspires.org.
We all know someone who talks too much.
There are some people who live under the illusion that everything they say is deeply interesting and have no problem wasting your time by rambling on and on without a sign of stopping. They’re the relative, neighbor or co-worker who can’t take a hint that the conversation is over.
Of all these people, the co-worker who can’t stop talking may be the most challenging because you see them every day in a professional setting that requires politeness.
There are many reasons that some people talk excessively. Therapist F. Diane Barth writes in Psychology Today that some people talk excessively because they don’t have the ability to process complex auditory signals, so they ramble on without recognizing the subtle cues others are sending.
It may also be a case of someone who thinks they’re the most interesting person in the conversation.
For others, it’s a symptom of a disorder. Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks, a licensed marriage and family therapist, writes that excessive talking can also be a symptom of, among other things, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or anxiety.
“Anxiety can cause someone to speak excessively,” Brooten-Brooks writes at Very Well Health. “While many with social anxiety may avoid social interactions, some may inadvertently talk excessively when in social situations out of nervousness and anxiety.”
So what do we do when we're stuck in a situation where someone just keeps talking? A Reddit user by the name of Spritti33 asked for some advice about how to “politely end a conversation with a person who won't stop talking” and received some very practical and funny responses from members of the online forum.
A lot of folks pointed out that it’s not impolite to walk away from a person who is incessantly talking because they are being rude by disrespecting your time. Others shared how, in some cultures, there are ways of shutting down a conversation while allowing both parties to save face.
Here are 19 of the best responses to Spritti33's question, “How does someone politely end a conversation with a person who won't stop talking?”
"In Flanders we have a word for it, 'bon,' and then you say something 'I have work to do,' 'It's time to go home,' 'It's time to get drinks.' And people realize the other person wants to leave without being mean," — ISuckAtRacingGames
"In Ireland we do like a little clap/slap our thigh/clap the person's shoulder and say 'Right! Shur look, I'll let you go...' as if we're being polite and letting the other person off the hook, but actually, it's like get me the fuck out of here haha!" —funky_mugs
"If they keep talking over polite cues, I have found there really isn’t a polite way to exit the conversation," — Binder_Grinder
"This is so true. People that do this don't care whether you're into the conversation or not, they're talking simply because they want to. I've gotten better at just interjecting (even mid-sentence if I've already tried everything else) with, 'I'm sorry, I have to go. (start walking away at this point) It was nice talking to you.' Don't give any excuses or reasons for leaving, just do it otherwise they'll try to talk about your reasons." — PSSaalamader
"As a teacher, I have learned how to interrupt people who do not leave any pauses when they’re speaking: start nodding and verbally agreeing with them, 'Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh…' You can’t interrupt these people, but you can start agreeing while they speak, then raise your voice and say, 'Yeah, wow, excuse me but I must go,'" — Janicegirlbomb2
"Remember that it is them who is being impolite by talking incessantly about things of no interest to their audience," — Orp4mmws99
"Source: am a therapist. What you do is recap their last story and in the same breath add a goodbye.
I.e. 'Sounds like you guys found a bunch of great deals at the mall, that’s awesome! Thanks for meeting with me, you’ll have to tell me more next time we run into each other. It was great to catch up!'" — pikcles-for-fingers
"Just start coughing these days it'll clear a whole room in seconds," — Sinisterpigeon
"People who are like this expect folks to just walk away from them while they are talking because that’s the only way the conversation ends. It’s not rude to them, it’s normal. So, it’s entirely okay to say, 'all right this has been great, see you later,' and then just walk away smiling," — Underlord_Fox
"If you can practice this, start to train one of your eyeballs to slowly drift off whilst the other eye remains locked on theirs. That should do the trick," — The-Zesty-Man
"At 62, I just walk away. My bullshit filter has disappeared," -- Negative_Increase
"You gotta realize that everyone else they talk to just walks away. They’re used to that. They think a conversation is you just talk at someone til they walk away. It’s not weird to them," — DelsmagicFishies
"I don't know why some people are so afraid of this. It is not rude. You don’t need to lie. 'We can speak more other time. Goodbye,' is fine," — Kooky-Housing3049
"On a more serious note, I typically do an 'oh shit' type of face like I've just remembered I had something important scheduled. I say 'Sorry, what time is it? check the time Ah crap, I hate to cut you off but if I don't head out now I'm going to be late for ____.' Then I scurry away like I'm really in a rush. If you're in a situation where you can't straight up leave, I swap 'gotta head out' for 'I told someone I'd call them at [time] and they're waiting on my call' and then make a fake phone call," — teethfairie
"'Wow, you have a lot of opinions about this subject...' and then never stop angling the conversation back to how weird it is that they're still talking," — Ordsmed
"Had a friend who would put his hand gently on your shoulder and kindly say, 'I love you , but I just don't care, good (night/day),'" -- Think-Passage-5522
"While not exactly polite, my Aunt Sophie had a great way of ending a conversation. When the monologue got too much she would nod her head like she was listening and then at the slightest pause she would go, 'The end.' And walk away.
She mostly did it with kids who didn’t realize they were yabbering on about Thundercats too long. (It was me, I was yabbering on about Thundercats too long.)" — theslackjaw727
"Change your stance, instead of facing them head on turn 90° your body language will end the conversation quickly without being rude," — Zedd2087
"Where possible, I've always found it best to tell these people up front that you have somewhere to be 15, 30, 45, etc minutes from now. If that's not realistic, I've found that if you can usually find a gap to say you need to run if you focus on doing only this for 3-5 minutes," — Pretend_Airline2811
This episode brought to you by the letters W-I-T-C-H.
Once upon a time, in the mid 1970s, "Sesame Street" traded its bright, sunny atmosphere for ominous gray skies. Most of us would have probably never known this had it not been for the power of the internet.
An entire episode of the beloved children’s show has resurfaced online after being initially pulled for allegedly being “too frightening” for kiddie viewers.
What on earth could be so scary in a place where the air is so sweet, you might wonder. As it turns out, even "Sesame Street" isn’t impervious to a wayward witch broom.
The video clip starts with upbeat, fast-talking David (played by Northern Calloway) exiting Hooper’s store, struggling to make his way through powerful gusts of wind.
“Look at that! Something’s falling right outta the sky!” he shouts gesturing up as the wind whirls. David drops to one knee and catches an incoming broom just in the nick of time. Suddenly the wind stops. Yay?
Unfortunately, our hero’s troubles are just beginning. Sinister music begins to play, and unbeknown to David, who should come lurking from around the corner but the original Wicked Witch of the West herself.
No, you’re not in Dorothy’s dream. That is Margaret Hamilton reprising her role as the one, the only, the Wicked Witch of the West. Guess that bucket of water didn’t quite do her in.
“I know I’m not in Oz anymore,” Hamilton says while looking around, concluding she “must be over the rainbow somewhere.” Determined to find her broom and fly away, she marches over to David, demanding he give it back.
Unfazed, David does not immediately give back the broom, insisting that she should be more careful and treat him with more respect (can’t have a “Sesame Street” episode without a life lesson, after all). The lecture only further agitates the witch, but David won’t budge. Finally she tries to snatch the broom away, only to be electrocuted.
“Oh I forgot!” the Wicked Witch exclaims. “I can’t so much as lay a finger on the broom as long as somebody else is holding onto it!" What an oddly specific and important detail to forget. Oh right, kid’s show.
The Wicked Witch disappears in smoke, promising that this is not the last we’ve seen of her. She proceeds to terrorize poor David throughout the entire episode, including creating an indoor thunderstorm and threatening to turn him into a basketball. Savage.
Finally the Wicked Witch concocts a plan to get her broom back by turning herself into a sweet, regular looking older woman, a scheme so fiendish she wins the heart of Oscar the Grouch in the process. The plan works, but the witch still has to ask for it nicely. So, you know … compromise.
Though Big Bird called the ordeal “interesting and exciting,” apparently audiences didn’t quite hold the same view. Mike Minnick, who posted the episode on YouTube, claimed that it only aired once in the mid ’70s before getting the pull for being “too scary for children.” According to an article published by AV Club, the show was on the receiving end of a deluge of complaints from the parents of freaked out kids.
Some reminiscing fans agreed that yes, as kids, the episode was terrifying. One wrote that it “scared me beyond belief when I was 5. I would anxiously watch the start of each episode after seeing this one, to make sure it wasn't the ‘witch one’ again.”
However, the main sentiment shared in the comments was gratitude that the footage found its way back into viewing.
“What a real joy to see ... I know she scared the bageezus out of me when I was a little one watching The Wizard of Oz every year on television. Now, it's just plain old nostalgic to see the original Wicked Witch,” wrote one person.
Another added, “People have no idea how huge this is. I honestly thought I'd never see the day. One of the holy grails of lost media has been found.”
Mostly, the whole thing became one giant Margaret Hamilton appreciation fest. Here are just a few of the heartfelt comments:
“From the bottom of my heart, Thank you SO SO much for making this available to watch and experience! This really was a great treat and seeing Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch again just brought out the kid in me!”
“Lmao when she turns into a cute little grandma and does the evil laugh, I loved it! She is so cute, what a legend.”
“Margaret Hamilton…. I love her so much and miss her desperately. I love how 40 years later she was still able to play the wicked witch as incredible as she always was.”
You could say that Hamilton was born to play a witch. During her interview with Mister Rogers—yes, Hamilton frequented children’s shows in her heyday—she shared that as a little girl, she always dressed up as a witch for Halloween. So it’s no wonder that getting the chance to play perhaps the most iconic witch of all time made her “very, very happy.”
Hamilton felt her cackling, green-skinned, shoe-obsessed character wasn’t all that wicked, just misunderstood. She told Mister Rogers, “Sometimes the children think she’s a very mean witch, and I expect she does seem that way. ... She also is what we refer to as frustrated … because she never gets what she wants.”
Under that definition, there’s a bit of witch in all of us.
This uncovered relic, traumatizing as it might have been, has brought some major joy with its epic return. Perhaps even wicked witches can be a source for good.
John Cena showed up in a big way.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly four months ago, more than 13 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland. Some cities, such as Mariupol, have been completely destroyed—"reduced to a wasteland littered with bodies," according to an explainer in Reuters—and may be uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.
Many families fled early in the war, when the danger became clear. But not everyone understood why they were leaving.
Children are befuddled by war, as they should be. It is nonsensical, illogical and unbelievable to think that you must leave your home and move to a country far away because a grown-up who is supposed to be a leader is trying to blow up your house. People with intellectual disabilities may also not understand a sudden uprooting, especially when the reason is something even fully abled adults struggle to make sense of.
When Liana Rohozhyn's home in Mariupol was destroyed earlier in the war, she and her family were forced to flee. Her son Misha, a nonverbal 19-year-old with Down syndrome, was understandably distressed about having to leave Ukraine. To comfort him through the long journey across Europe to safety, Liana told Misha they were going on a trip to find the champion wrestler, John Cena.
It was a fictional story made up by a desperate mother in a dire situation. As a parent, you do what you have to do to keep your children safe. Little did Liana know that John Cena would not only see her family's story, but go out of his way to provide a measure of comfort during a tragic and disorienting time.
Cena just happened to be in Europe when he read about the story of how Liana had motivated Misha with the hope of meeting him. Being only an hour's flight away, Cena's immediate response was, "We're going."
The WWE star met the family near Amsterdam and spent a "special" afternoon "building blocks and eating cake."
He shared kind words about Misha and his mother.
"Misha's ability to embrace persistence, that's extraordinary," he said, adding that Misha and Liana are "two great examples of how persistence can lead to joy, even through the toughest of times."
After spending the day with the family and gifting Misha a load of WWE gear, Cena told the young man, "This was a wonderful adventure in which I got to meet a wonderful new friend. Thank you for giving me strength."
Liana told him he had "a big heart."
The sweet story has touched the hearts of people the world over, with people sharing praise for Cena and for Misha's mother.
"There are several things I find remarkable about this interaction," wrote commenter Emily Clauson on YouTube. "How this man talks to Misha softly, with respect and love. He is not putting on a performance. He isn't acting 'compassionate' for the cameras. He is connecting with a human being. They were just two guys hanging out enjoying their day. He spoke to him as an equal. I find that so admirable."
"I’m from Ukraine and it brought me to tears!" wrote another commenter. "We Ukrainians really appreciate this support from all over the world, we need it so much at these dark times! as they say, in dark times you can see light people. Thanks for standing we Ukraine, would never expect to hear about so many people with big hearts. ❤️🇺🇦"
"I love how much he embraces Misha's mom," wrote another. "A lot of news reports on this story just seem to forget about how strong she is. This man is amazing!"
"Misha’s mom is an amazing woman. She kept her son going to get out. I wish them well and thank you John Cena for responding," wrote another.
This is not Cena's first trip to make someone's dreams come true. According to SB Nation, he has granted more than 650 wishes through Make-A-Wish since 2004, the most on record.
Cena himself shared that Misha and Liana define his motto, "Never Give Up," and thanked the Wall Street Journal and World Wrestling Entertainment for pulling it all together.
\u201cWhat a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. Misha and his mother, Liana define #NeverGiveUp. \n\nThank you to the @WSJ and @WWE who helped make this special visit possible.\u201d— John Cena (@John Cena) 1654635645
Thank you, John Cena, for showing us what the best of humanity can look like.