You know what? For the sake of my loved ones and coworkers, I won't share my own perspective here. (If you're confused about what I mean, watch the video and then check my headshot again.)
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.
"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.)
John Cena showed up in a big way.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly four months ago, more than 13 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland. Some cities, such as Mariupol, have been completely destroyed—"reduced to a wasteland littered with bodies," according to an explainer in Reuters—and may be uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.
Many families fled early in the war, when the danger became clear. But not everyone understood why they were leaving.
Children are befuddled by war, as they should be. It is nonsensical, illogical and unbelievable to think that you must leave your home and move to a country far away because a grown-up who is supposed to be a leader is trying to blow up your house. People with intellectual disabilities may also not understand a sudden uprooting, especially when the reason is something even fully abled adults struggle to make sense of.
When Liana Rohozhyn's home in Mariupol was destroyed earlier in the war, she and her family were forced to flee. Her son Misha, a nonverbal 19-year-old with Down syndrome, was understandably distressed about having to leave Ukraine. To comfort him through the long journey across Europe to safety, Liana told Misha they were going on a trip to find the champion wrestler, John Cena.
It was a fictional story made up by a desperate mother in a dire situation. As a parent, you do what you have to do to keep your children safe. Little did Liana know that John Cena would not only see her family's story, but go out of his way to provide a measure of comfort during a tragic and disorienting time.
Cena just happened to be in Europe when he read about the story of how Liana had motivated Misha with the hope of meeting him. Being only an hour's flight away, Cena's immediate response was, "We're going."
The WWE star met the family near Amsterdam and spent a "special" afternoon "building blocks and eating cake."
He shared kind words about Misha and his mother.
"Misha's ability to embrace persistence, that's extraordinary," he said, adding that Misha and Liana are "two great examples of how persistence can lead to joy, even through the toughest of times."
After spending the day with the family and gifting Misha a load of WWE gear, Cena told the young man, "This was a wonderful adventure in which I got to meet a wonderful new friend. Thank you for giving me strength."
Liana told him he had "a big heart."
The sweet story has touched the hearts of people the world over, with people sharing praise for Cena and for Misha's mother.
"There are several things I find remarkable about this interaction," wrote commenter Emily Clauson on YouTube. "How this man talks to Misha softly, with respect and love. He is not putting on a performance. He isn't acting 'compassionate' for the cameras. He is connecting with a human being. They were just two guys hanging out enjoying their day. He spoke to him as an equal. I find that so admirable."
"I’m from Ukraine and it brought me to tears!" wrote another commenter. "We Ukrainians really appreciate this support from all over the world, we need it so much at these dark times! as they say, in dark times you can see light people. Thanks for standing we Ukraine, would never expect to hear about so many people with big hearts. ❤️🇺🇦"
"I love how much he embraces Misha's mom," wrote another. "A lot of news reports on this story just seem to forget about how strong she is. This man is amazing!"
"Misha’s mom is an amazing woman. She kept her son going to get out. I wish them well and thank you John Cena for responding," wrote another.
This is not Cena's first trip to make someone's dreams come true. According to SB Nation, he has granted more than 650 wishes through Make-A-Wish since 2004, the most on record.
Cena himself shared that Misha and Liana define his motto, "Never Give Up," and thanked the Wall Street Journal and World Wrestling Entertainment for pulling it all together.
\u201cWhat a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. Misha and his mother, Liana define #NeverGiveUp. \n\nThank you to the @WSJ and @WWE who helped make this special visit possible.\u201d— John Cena (@John Cena) 1654635645
Thank you, John Cena, for showing us what the best of humanity can look like.
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