I first heard about this guy when we lived in the same city and he was fundraising for something kinda big. He's your average guy — a husband, a father of two, just living life. But he's doing something a little out of the ordinary.
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.
Sometimes you come across something that makes you smile out of sheer uncontrollable delight.
Sometimes you come across something that makes you smile out of sheer uncontrollable delight. Oftentimes when that feeling takes over, it’s about something small but sweet. These world famous orchestras pranking their conductors on their birthdays is the wholesome dose of serotonin you need right now.
In this short video clip from British classical radio station Classic FM, three separate orchestras prepare like they’re about to play the piece when their conductors—maestros Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Roger Norrington and Lahav Shani—come onto the stage. But what each of the three conductors is expecting is not what the orchestras play, delighting all with surprise renditions of "Happy Birthday." One orchestra, the SWR Sinfonieorchester, got very creative with its birthday serenade, masterfully remixing it with the first movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. It was an incredible mashup, and the 84-year-old Norrington looks truly impressed and moved to a few tears.
Music moves people in a way that not many things can. It connects with a piece of our soul that requires closed eyes to get the full effect. Hearing these professional musicians play their instruments just as beautifully when playing "Happy Birthday" as when they play the classical masters is a delight. The crowds cheered when the orchestras completed their tributes, just as loudly as they would’ve with a masterfully executed symphony.
Life can be hard sometimes and a little levity can lift just about anyone’s spirits. Seeing the audience join in on the birthday fun added to the joyful atmosphere. May all of these conductors enjoy their birthdays, and have many more to come. This was such a sweet moment to be captured on film and shared with others.
It's a problem a lot of couples face.
The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.
However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.
Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.
“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”
“We're both pretty good-sized humans and it just wasn't really working when she was in her third trimester, and I also have sleep apnea, which is very sexy for the ladies out there, I'm sure,” Carson told People at the time. “She couldn't get comfortable, so we were like a commercial you would see, kicking each other and just not sleeping.
“We woke up and we just shook hands like, ‘I love you, but it's time to sleep divorce. It'll be the best thing for all of us,’” he added.
The Dalys’ admission was brave, being that a lot of people associate a couple’s intimacy with their ability to share a bed together. It was probably also a relief to countless couples who feel like they’re the only ones struggling to sleep together.
Upworthy’s Heather Wake described the stress that co-sleeping put on her relationship in a revealing article earlier this year.
\u201cCould a "sleep divorce" save your relationship?\n\n@DrOz joins us to share how the growing trend can actually help keep the love alive.\u201d— TODAY (@TODAY) 1573133783
A sleep divorce may be working for the Dalys, but is it right for everyone?
Wendy M. Troxel Ph.D., a behavioral and social scientist known for her work on sleep and health, believes that couples like the Dalys do right by putting their relationship first.
“Here’s what the science actually tells us about the costs and benefits of sleeping together or apart. When sleep is measured objectively, people actually sleep worse with a partner. In fact, if you sleep with someone who snores, you can blame them for up to 50 percent of your sleep disruptions,” she wrote for TED Ideas.
Troxel points out that even when people suffer from sleep deprivation due to their partner, they still say they prefer sleeping with them versus spending the night alone. She ascribed this opinion to people taking on societal expectations instead of looking at their relationship objectively. “This suggests that our social brain is prioritizing our need for closeness and security at night—even when it comes at a cost to our sleep,” she wrote for TED Ideas.
The Dalys’ admission and Troxel’s research suggest that, in the end, the most important thing is for both partners to get a good night’s sleep, whether that means sleeping in separate beds or in separate rooms. “Just as sleeping together doesn’t guarantee a successful relationship—if only it were that easy!—sleeping apart doesn’t doom you to an unsuccessful one,” Troxel writes.