If 86% of the American people want something, it's not exactly impossible, now is it?
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
Recent reports show the EU's food supply becoming toxic.
A shocking report released last month by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe found that over the past nine years there has been a 53% rise in contamination of the most hazardous pesticides in European fresh fruits.
The analysis of more than 97,000 fruit samples found that nearly one-half of all blackberries and one-third of apples had toxic pesticide residue. These pesticides have been linked to serious illnesses such as birth defects, cancer and heart disease.
At the same time, Reuters reports that intensive “farming, forestry and urbanisation are fuelling the degradation of natural habitats” adding that most of Europe’s protected “species have a negative conservation status.”
In an effort to dramatically reduce the volume of pesticides in the bloc’s food supply and rehabilitate its natural habitat, the European Commission has proposed dramatic new environmental targets. The first would reduce the use of chemical pesticides across the EU 50% by 2030. Pesticides would also be banned for use in public parks and protected areas.
\u201cAccording to new research by our partners at PAN Europe, the contamination of fruits and vegetables produced in the European Union by the most toxic pesticides has substantially increased over the past decade. https://t.co/y6SIIkdQ7Y\u201d— PAN North America (@PAN North America) 1655920740
The second would require EU countries to restore 20% of the bloc’s land to nature by 2030 and all degraded land by 2050.
In addition, the proposal would restore 15,500 miles of rivers and redirect them to their natural courses. It would also work to increase farmland bird populations.
“The aim is to cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 with nature restoration measures, and eventually extend these to all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050,” the commission said, according to The Washington Post.
Frans Timmermans, the commission's first vice president, will help the EU recover its natural habitat at a time when the planet is threatened by climate change.
Fruit plantation near Hamburg, Germany.
“When we restore nature, we allow it to continue providing clean air, water, and food, and we enable it to shield us from the worst of the climate crisis,” Timmermans said according to The Washington Post. “Reducing pesticide use likewise helps nature recover, and protects the humans who work with these chemicals.”
The new proposal would be wonderful for the planet but the fast transition to pesticide alternatives would be a challenge to EU farmers. So the proposal allows farmers to use EU funds to cover the new costs for the first five years.
The proposal will have to be approved by EU member countries and lawmakers to take effect. Some are skeptical of making such drastic changes at a time when the bloc’s food supply has been compromised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, the European Commission believes if there isn't a switch to new farming techniques, the effect on the bloc could be disastrous as well.
"If we lose soil fertility, if soil erosion and degradation continue, that is going to be a major impact on our agricultural output," the European Commission's Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius told Reuters.
The European Commission’s proposal is a dramatic plan that could fundamentally change the face of Europe by reversing decades of damage caused by farming and urban sprawl. At a time when Europe is being challenged by war and the effects of climate change, returning the land to nature has never seemed like a better idea.
"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.)