Dear FIRST in Texas Community,
When you take a step back and look at the big picture, it’s hard not get a little emotional about everything that’s been accomplished. Making STEM exciting and accessible for Texas youth–and when you think about all of the hard work that everyone has put into so many details of the FIRST in Texas mission–you feel tremendous pride. Let’s face it, it’s been an amazing year.
Here are just a few amazing data points to demonstrate this:
Most of all, when you look at everything that has been accomplished in 2018, you feel a sense of overwhelming gratitude. That’s certainly how we feel about all of those who have made 2018 possible for the FIRST program participants in Texas. All of you–our state and corporate partners, the FIRST leadership, the support staff in Texas, our volunteers and mentors, and the FIRST in Texas board members–have invested deeply in Texas students’ participation in FIRST and in helping the growing demands of the STEM workforce through the FIRST programs.
Texas boasts one of the largest populations of FIRST teams, students, and events in the world, and our metrics continue to grow every year. With something this big, we’ve needed every single one of you to succeed.
We have some amazing financial partners who have stepped in to support Texas FIRST teams in big ways. Thanks to your help, FIRST in Texas was able to support more than 8,000 Texas youth in 2017-2018, including many students who have needed your support to overcome socioeconomic hurdles.
Over 38 percent of these students supported by your grants were girls.
Almost 75 percent of students supported were of a minority race and (or) ethnicity.
58 percent of all funded students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Over 4 percent of funded students had one or more disability.
Everyone who has partnered with us is making a big difference in the lives of students. We’d like to especially thank the following major partners.
The Texas Workforce Commission is our largest supporter. They provide funding each year for FIRST in Texas with a special emphasis on high school FIRST students who belong to underrepresented populations, come from Title 1 schools, qualify for free or reduced lunch, have disabilities, are homeschooled, or are students in a school that serves a military base. Team grants provide teams help with local and national registration fee payments and purchasing materials and equipment.
Besides partnering with the state of Texas, corporations with offices in Texas have stepped up in big ways.
Dell’s generous partnership has given us the ability to support Texas teams with laptops as well as funding through team grants. In addition, Dell has prioritized giving to teams in financial need with a majority of girls and minority students in underserved areas of the state.
Qualcomm provided funding to support FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition teams in the Austin area. Their giving was distributed based on team achievement, female leadership, and financial need.
In addition, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, CPS Energy, and USAA gave crucial funding assistance to FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition teams and events in close proximity to their offices in San Antonio. These are just a few examples of how we work closely with our partners to realize their directed giving goals.
To All of Our Partners: Thank you for everything you’ve done to change the lives of students across Texas. Your STEM advocacy through funding, mentorship and volunteerism is why we are able to accomplish the mission of FIRST to inspire the next generation of leaders and innovators, improve communities, and bolster our future workforce.
One of the thrills of being involved with FIRST in Texas is knowing you’ve got superb support from the national component of FIRST®.
The team at FIRST® have been instrumental in guiding the vision and providing the necessary support to make everything happen at the state level. They’ve modeled the spirit of “Coopertition®” and Gracious Professionalism extremely well with their kindness, cooperation, and their willingness to assist and enable states in their local missions. They’ve also modeled the core value of FIRST® wonderfully well:
To FIRST®: thank you for all the time and effort you put into making the FIRST dream attainable for Texas youth.
The FIRST in Texas staff has also gone above and beyond to make the dream happen for Texas students. Their tireless efforts in working with both FIRST and the local teams, with its many Areas (which are large and complex within themselves), is the reason we’re seeing such amazing growth and progress today.
To the support staff in Texas: thank you for investing your time, talents, and hard work in taking on the mission of FIRST in a state as big as Texas.
The volunteers and mentors are the lifeblood of FIRST, and especially FIRST in Texas simply because the population is so large, the geography is so diverse and expansive, and the needs are great.
An entire article could be devoted to the volunteers and mentors, but thanks to their blood, sweat, and tears on the frontlines, FIRST in Texas has been able to accomplish some remarkable feats.
In FIRST LEGO League Jr., teams participated in the Aqua Adventure, which allowed kids ages 6 to 10 to explore how we use water at home or in our community, the water’s journey, and how to improve a crucial part of this journey. Here’s a look at the FIRST in Texas numbers:
In FIRST LEGO League, teams (grades 4-8) jumped into HYDRO DYNAMICSSM, in which teams identified a problem within the human water cycle, designed an innovative solution, and shared the problem and solution with others. Here’s a look at how Texas did:
In the FIRST Tech Challenge teams (grades 7-12), teams participated in the FIRST RELIC RECOVERYSM. In this adventurous theme, teams must attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by scoring Glyphs into the Cryptoboxes, transferring Relics, retrieving Jewels, and other fun and challenging tasks. Texas had a huge presence in this program.
In the FIRST Robotics Competition, high school teams (grades 9-12) participated in the FIRST POWER UPSM game challenge, in which teams find themselves trapped in an 8-bit video game. They must use Power Cubes to defeat the boss. Texas teams had a blast.
The amount of volunteers and mentors needed to shepherd all of the teams mentioned above and manage all of those events is a Texas-sized army. The amount of hours they’ve put into these programs is staggering.
To all of our volunteers and mentors: you are FIRST in Texas. None of the wonderful things mentioned above would have happened without you.
Last but not least, FIRST in Texas has been fortunate to have a remarkably experienced, talented team of board members who have each dedicated their lives to the core values expressed by FIRST and the FIRST in Texas mission. They have provided guidance and oversight every step of the way as FIRST in Texas dispersed hundreds of thousands of dollars in team grants. Our board members have such a passion and drive for STEM advocacy, for nurturing the next generation of STEM geniuses and entrepreneurs, and for improving communities across Texas that it has not only motivated the FIRST in Texas organization to give their best, but it has served as models to the thousands of Texas students.
To our FIRST in Texas board members: thank you for pouring your time, experience, and resources into the mission of FIRST in Texas. The lives of thousands of students (and their families) across the state have been changed because of you.
Recently, FIRST in Texas sent an end-of-year survey to Texas teams. The survey collected their reflections on how FIRST in Texas has impacted them. Although it was a small sample, there was a clear trend: students self- reported that FIRST in Texas has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on their 21st-century skills. As a result, they also reported having a strong interest in pursuing future STEM education and careers.
The great work continues as a team effort which means we expect to see even bigger things happening during the 2018-2019 season. To everyone who has supported FIRST in Texas: amazing things are happening, and we owe it all to you.