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FIRST robotics, stem robotics challenge, stem education
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FIRST students learn real-world career skills through robotics competitions.

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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.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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