It seems like the news shows one shooting after another, each one as senseless and tragic as the last. One group is trying to break that cycle by doing something unheard of in violence prevention but also very common-sense.
There’s no shortage of companies, governments and organizations around the world searching for talented workers with a deep knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The demand is providing a clear pathway to rewarding, world-changing and well-paying STEM careers for many young people.
However, some students are missing these incredible opportunities because they haven’t envisioned themselves in STEM or encountered any mentors to show them a pathway for success.
FIRST is a global nonprofit that provides robotics-based programs and mentorship from adult volunteers such as educators and STEM professionals to students ages 4 to 18. FIRST is a mission-based robotics community that aims to get kids excited about STEM and allows them to build these talents, along with critical life skills such as communication and leadership, through team-based robotics competitions.
FIRST has a proven impact in guiding young people into STEM careers, all while having fun and making useful connections.
FIRST Championshipvia FIRST
Nearly 700,000 students and 320,000 adult mentors, coaches, judges and volunteers participate in the nonprofit community year over year, and the transformational power of FIRST programs was featured in the 2022 Disney+ documentary “More Than Robots.” Students develop problem-solving skills and learn confidence, cooperation, empathy and resilience—skills that will serve them well in their future careers.
Fazlul “Fuzz” Zubair, systems engineering department manager at Raytheon Technologies, an American multinational aerospace and defense conglomerate, mentors FIRST Team 4201, The Vitruvian Bots, in Los Angeles.
Zubair has hired 15 Raytheon Technologies employees from his FIRST team, creating a FIRST-to-work pipeline. Better yet, many of the new employees then give back to FIRST by mentoring their own teams. Zubair’s dedication to mentorship has created a cycle of positivity that continues to grow.
“Here, at FIRST, it’s a sport where everyone can go pro. They can come out of this program, and they can get a good-paying job and contribute positively to society and solve the tough problems that we have,” Zubair told Upworthy.
“Raytheon Technologies understands this, so it supports students in the program and its employees who mentor. Through FIRST, we’ve created a pipeline of people who already know how to collaborate with engineers and when they come into our companies, they have a head start,” Zubair continued.
Wireless communications innovator Qualcomm Incorporated is another multinational company that supports FIRST. It has been hiring FIRST students because of their advanced skill sets since 2006.
“They’re working on robots and learning things like coding and critical thinking, but they also have 21st-century skills like teamwork and the ability to collaborate with students that come from diverse backgrounds. Those are all things that are important in the workplace,” Natalie Dusi, corporate social responsibility manager at Qualcomm Incorporated, told Upworthy.
As employees, FIRST students join the workforce with experience and vital collaboration skills. “They roll up their sleeves and start innovating right away. When FIRST students come into Qualcomm Incorporated, they are confident,” she added.
Zubair says that FIRST students are valuable, in part because they understand that failure is part of learning and innovation.
“Learning through failure is something that’s really hard to teach,” he said. “You must go through that process. I like to tell my students all the time, ‘I’d rather you fail on this robot than a billion-dollar satellite. Learn now, fail often, fail early.’”
For FIRST CEO Chris Moore, the opportunity to gain confidence in STEM is an important and deeply personal issue. When he was in middle school, a teacher dissuaded him from pursuing a career in technology and he believes it had lasting, negative effects on his career. “Even now, as someone with decades of experience leading youth-serving organizations, this STEM inferiority complex has stuck with me, and at times I still doubt my own STEM competency,” he told Upworthy. “The reality is, STEM is achievable and rewarding for everyone, no matter their gender, age, race, economic standing orientation nor any other factor.”
Statistics point to a high demand for STEM workers and a short supply, especially in the United States and especially among women, underserved, and underrepresented groups. FIRST provides young people from any background with the skills they need to succeed in their STEM studies and future careers. Notably, FIRST reached more than 20,300 youth in underserved communities during its 2019 season.
FIRST students are twice as likely to express interest in a STEM career than their peers.
FIRST understands the value of inspiring all students and does so by providing innovation grants to teams from underserved communities and developing strategic alliances with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers and Girls, Inc., and other like-minded organizations.
One of the lasting impacts FIRST has on students is an understanding that no matter who they are or where they come from, they can solve the world’s most pressing issues.
The theme for the 2022 – 2023 season is energy. Students will explore the essential role that energy plays in keeping the world moving forward, the possibilities that different energy sources unlock, and how we can all realize a brighter future through innovative ideas in energy generation, efficiency, and use.
Cooperation, empathy, and resilience are skills that last a lifetime and it’s never too early for a child to enjoy their benefits. Learn more about FIRST programs in your area and how you can become involved!
Go to firstinspires.org to learn more.
When life is one big dad joke.
There are many traditional staples of fatherhood—love, support, protection, security, providing an example—but there is, of course, that other not-so-warm-and-fuzzy feeling that dads can provoke in their kids at any given moment … sheer, utter embarrassment.
Usually in a father’s humiliation tool belt is the infamous dad joke. These corny puns have been around since 2003, and let’s face it, they’ll never leave. Of course, no dad needs one to make your eyes roll. They can do that most of the time simply by being themselves.
For his well-known #Hashtags segment, Jimmy Fallon asked his “Tonight Show” audience to share “funny, weird, or embarrassing” stories about their dads. Fallon, a father himself, is no stranger to the cringeworthy power of a dad joke. In a 2020 interview with TODAY, Fallon admitted, “I’m starting to get the eye rolls now where Daddy’s not the funniest person in the world.”
Don’t worry Fallon! Clearly you’re not alone, because people replied with some truly hilarious comments. Dads might be silly, but we’ll gladly put up with it for the love they give us.
Enjoy 20 of the very best #DadStories:
As usual, Fallon went first:
"Instead of buying a smoker my dad just grills in the garage with the door closed." – @jimmyfallon
"At my aunt’s wedding reception, my dad ran out from the bathroom when he heard You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees play, and proceeded to do John Travolta’s routine from Saturday Night Fever." – @MJ_Rose88
Kudos to the dads with these sick moves.Giphy
"My Dad will call me sometimes when he wants me to bring him food. He refers to me as 'GrubDash.'" – @FalPalAMF828
"My dad likes to play a very morbid game called 'guess who died', which consists of him gossiping about someone I probably haven't seen in 20+ years and can't remember at all, who died recently. Bonus points for guessing the cause of death." – @jon_jonz
"My dad used to drink his morning coffee with his dentures in his hand while reading the newspaper. When we asked him why, he said his teeth also wanted to read the newspaper." – @FallonHolic_
"When my dad took my sister to her first Jr. HS dance, she asked to be dropped off a block before the school. My dad proceeded to take her all the way up to the main entrance, got out of the car and loudly announced her arrival!" – @77BroncosFan
"Asked my dad if he knew who Taylor Swift was...he said, I don't care who he is!" – @JessyKrupa
That's Mr. Swift to you.Giphy
"My dad whistles really loud. He sticks his head out the window and whistles back to birds. But when the lady next door heard him, she called 911. The cops told her, 'Lady, he didn’t whistle at you. He only flirts with birds.'" – @tostianascripts
"When my dad would leave a message on my answering machine, he would end the message saying, 'This is dad signing off.'" – @RealRobFindor
"We were on vacation and the gift shops selling fudge called plain fudge 'chocolate no nuts.' A guy walked up to my dad with some samples and offered him some saying 'chocolate no nuts?' And my dad said 'what did you just call me?'" – @lauraceciliaOT
"My Dad laid a new floor in my brother's house. It was all finished so we couldn't understand why he was taking up the boards again. Turns out he had seen a spider run underneath and was worried it would be trapped." – @Sohnzie
"Whenever my dad would try to talk us into trying something new to eat he'd state, 'It's so good it'll put hair on your chest.' He had 3 daughters." – @Bookelew
OMG, DAD WHY?Giphy
"My mom once bought a 6 ft Santa statue at a yard sale without telling dad. When he got home and parked, we heard banging, crashing and swearing. We went to look and the Santa was laying face down on the curb. Dad thought someone was trying to jump him." – @dknessfalls
"My dad couldn’t decide if he wanted to be called 'grandpa' or 'papa' so he just told all of us to call him 'Coach.' He’s not a coach." – @iPopEditor
"My father went to the McDonalds drive thru and asked for a whopper. When they said 'they didn’t have whoppers', He just drove off without placing an order." – @Marisa_Rosie22
"One day we went out to eat at Pizza Hut and sat in front of an empty table with some pizza left on it. My dad, being the penny pincher he is, grabbed some and started eating it. A few minutes later the couple comes back from the bathroom asking 'where’s our pizza?'" – @Alex_Erickson3
"My dad let a bee land on his hand and watched it closely as it stung him because he 'wanted to see the process up close.'" – @TrippyPsycholo1
Up close? No thanks.Giphy
"My dad once tried to tell a lady she had a Big Bug on her, but accidentally told her she had a Really Big Butt. She was not amused." – @Sallyjo25
"My dad thinks it's funny to introduce my mom as his 'first wife'....my parents have been married for 58 years and are in their late 80's." – @annMcD87
"My dad entered Canada by swimming across the Niagara from the US under the cover of night." – @albertduic
Dads can be mischievous.Giphy
"People are so good."
If you're looking for a reminder of the good in people, we've got some sweet evidence for you.
Madison Mealy and her husband Blake recently moved to a rural area in the Blue Ridge Mountains and are new to country living. Mealy shared a video on TikTok showing her husband mowing the lawn with their baby in a backpack.
Cute, right? The only problem is they have a humongous lawn and her husband was mowing it with the teeniest push mower.
To be fair, if you've never had a big lawn, you may not realize how long it takes to mow and that not all lawn mowers are created equal. (They make riding lawn mowers for a reason, and it's not because of laziness.)
Mealy shared her amusement at having sent her husband out to buy a mower and seeing him come back with the tiny mower. It was going to take him hours to mow their grass.
But after she took a shower and went back to check on his progress, what she found was so heartwarming.
Not one, not two, but several strangers—presumably neighbors—had seen Blake trying to tackle their acreage with a subpar mower, and they showed up to help.
"We don't know any of these people," Mealy wrote.
"Reminder: there's a lot of good left in this world," wrote Mealy.
It's true. Helping without being asked. Showing up when you see a need. Taking a burden off of someone's back without expecting anything in return. There are instances of pure human kindness like this all around us, every day, even if they're not right in front of our faces.
We have plenty of viral examples of people at their worst, so it's important that we share humanity at its best. And if you're tempted to think that the former is the norm while goodness is the exception, don't. Studies show that most people are honest, generous and helpful.
As Mealy said, "People are so good." We just need beautiful reminders like this on occasion.
Thanks for providing one of those reminders, Mealy family. (Now go get yourselves a proper mower.)
Here kitty, kitty! Oh wait, there are 12 more of you?
Who can resist a sweet little kitten trying to cross the road? Even if you’re not a fan of cats, you’d likely stop for a baby animal in the street. That’s what happened to Robert Brantley of Louisiana. Brantley was on his way to work and spotted a tiny white and gray kitten trying to get across the street. Being a kind human, he stopped his car to bring the kitten to safety. But he got more than he bargained for, because as he was scooping up the little thing, several more kitty cat siblings came running out of the nearby grass.
In all, Brantley counted 13 kittens. Twelve more than he planned on caring for, but by the looks of his Instagram page, his family has taken their role of cat rescuers seriously. With kitten season being in full effect in these warmer months and pet surrenders remaining high since the return to work from the pandemic, Brantley taking on fostering 13 kittens is much needed. Humane societies across the country are reportedly full or even over capacity. My own local humane society currently has nearly 150 animals over its limit and is begging for foster families and adopters to help clear the shelter.
It’s not only humane societies that have reached or exceeded capacity. Animal rescues across the board are in dire need of people to take animals to make room for the inevitable drop off of puppies and kittens from the current litter season. Mating season, which subsequently turns into puppy and kitten season, starts in early spring and lasts throughout the summer. This inundates local shelters and rescues.
Some shelters, like my local humane society, are asking people who find litters of puppies or kittens to do exactly what Brantley is doing. Foster them and attempt to adopt them out on their own. It looks like Brantley's wife decided to get these now cleaned up kitties in their Sunday best to have a photoshoot in her makeshift studio. One kitten sported a bow tie while the others climbed around the enclosure patiently awaiting their turn. It also seems Brantley himself is having fun with the situation—in one video he talks about what he packs to go on a marksmanship match and includes 13 kittens along with his tripod and toolkit.
In one of Brantley’s most recent updates, he says that two of the kittens, Michael Scott and Nala, have been adopted by a family in Alexandria, Louisiana. In the same update he informs his followers that one of the kittens still left to be adopted is currently on daily medication and the family is keeping up with check-ups for the rest of the furry crew.
Here’s hoping that all of these little guys get adopted out soon. And may more people take Brantley’s lead to foster the kittens or puppies they find if they have the means. This can also serve as a reminder to spay and neuter your pets and any strays you may be caring for outside of your home.