Where would you have put the comma?
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.
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.
The distant future could be even further than we think.
Is the world ending? For real this time?
It might certainly seem that way, considering constant political upheaval, relentless environmental distress and a general perceived failing of the human race. As it turns out, this is not a new way of thinking. It may very well be as old as civilization itself.
And perhaps more importantly, it might be the exact piece of false logic keeping us from making crucial decisions that can shape our future … the very, very, very far distant future.
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, a YouTube channel that uses animation to “explain things with optimistic nihilism,” explores this existential quandary in a video titled “The Last Human – A Glimpse Into the Far Future.”The video begins with a not-so-simple question: When will the last human be born and how many people will there ever be?
You can watch the full video below:
Making an assumption that the current birth rate would stay the same (unlikely, but for the sake of discussion), that would mean the global population would increase by 125 million people each year. Combine that with the fact that the average collective life span of most mammal species before extinction is somewhere around 1-10 million years, and we can conservatively estimate that there is still a whopping 800,000 more years before a real apocalypse is upon us.
Yes, even under a cynical lens, we might be looking at a future of 1.2 quadrillion people yet to be born.
Of course, galactic catastrophes can happen. A supernova, gamma ray bursts … the things sci-fi movies like to scare us with. But even those must fall under very specific parameters in order to pose a real threat. And if they did happen, humanity is still “relatively safe from extinction, maybe even for billions of years.”
Things get even more complex if we consider we might eventually leave Earth.
“If future people can colonize, say, 100 billion stars and live there for 10 billion years, while each generating 100 million births per year, then we can expect something like a hundred octillion lives to be lived in the future. This is a 1 with 29 zeros, a hundred thousand trillion, trillion,” the video states.
The potential for added zeros grows and grows from there. In this futuristic scenario, we could see a blending of colonized galaxies. Yes, galaxies. Plural. Which, the video concludes, could give us a potential for a tredecillion lives. Never heard of a tredecillion? It means a million, trillion, trillion, trillion potential people.
“Every generation assumes they’re important enough to witness the apocalypse and then life just goes on,” which the video explains is a phenomenon called societal pessimism. However, because the potential size of the future could in fact be vastly greater than our present comprehension, it might behoove us all to think of civilization as being at the beginning of its story, rather than the end.
The future is still in our hands
With this in mind, there might be an even more powerful moral imperative attached to our actions today, something explored in a school of thought referred to as longtermism. Longtermism doesn’t argue that human life most certainly will go on, but focuses on the possibility that it could. And because of that, we might want to examine what the long-term consequences of our choices could be for those future generations, ethically speaking.
After all, if there’s even a chance that billions of people could still be born despite our seemingly bleak current circumstances, then maybe we owe it to ourselves as a species to not throw the tredecillion babies out with the bathwater.
It’s a fascinating thought experiment, not to mention a pretty cool argument in the name of rational optimism. Plus, it’s made all the more palatable with fun graphics. Thank you, In a Nutshell!
He didn't ask for a reward, but he's getting a big one.
At Upworthy, we are always looking to share the best of humanity and there are few things that reveal someone’s good character quite like when they do good when no one is watching. A recent story from Chula Vista, California, celebrates a teenager who went out of his way to return a woman’s lost purse.
According to NBC News San Diego, Eliana Martin was shopping at Ralph’s supermarket when she accidentally left her purse in a shopping cart in the parking lot. After she left the store, she realized she had lost her purse and began frantically canceling her credit cards.
Shortly after Martin left the parking lot, a recent high school graduate, Adrian Rodriquez, 17, found her purse in the cart. Rodriguez searched the purse to look for an identification card to find where she lived so he could return it to her. He then drove over to the address on the identification card, where Melina Marquez, Martin's former roommate, currently lives.
Marquez wasn’t home so Rodriguez left the purse with a relative. Marquez later saw video of the drop-off on the family’s Ring doorbell camera.
“I looked into the Ring camera, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. He’s such a young kid.’ I was like, ‘We need to find him and just give him a little piece of gratitude.’” Marquez told NBC San Diego.
Even though Rodriguez didn’t expect anything for doing the right thing, Marquez believes that he should be rewarded for his actions. So she organized a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $5,000 for the 17-year-old.
“We think he deserved a great compensation and since a lot of people wanted to help for his good actions here we are,” she wrote on the campaign’s website. For Marquez, Rodriguez’s good deed was about more than just returning a purse.
“He was raise [sic] by amazing parents and this needs to be told,” she added. “Gives me hope for our next generation and also never judge a book by its cover.”
While the story of Rodriguez returning the purse is heartwarming, it isn’t all that rare. A groundbreaking 2019 study conducted in Europe found that when people find a lost wallet, they are more likely to return it if it contains money. Further, the more money in the wallet, the more likely it’ll be returned.
Researchers believe that people are more likely to turn in wallets containing money because they believe that it’s wrong to steal. "The more money wallet contains, the more people say that it would feel like stealing if they do not return the wallet,” Alain Cohn, the study’s lead author from the University of Michigan, told NPR.