FIRST in Texas would not be the thriving fount of STEM advocacy that it is without our wonderful alumni organizations. One thing is certain: our alumni groups come from an interesting variety of contexts. They range from organizations at the collegiate level to the official statewide alumni group: FIRST Alumni Network-Texas (FANaTX) which is open to any FIRST alumni from or in Texas. These FIRST program veterans are serious about giving back and using their knowledge and experience to change the lives of students.
The Rock Stars of STEM Volunteerism
What makes the members of our alumni groups so special? For one thing, alumni frequently mentor teams and volunteer at FIRST in Texas events to support programs from FIRST LEGO League all the way to FIRST Robotics Competition, (You can read more about these events on the FIRST in Texas programs page.) These volunteers do everything from demonstrate high-level robots design (see Texas A&M’s example below) to providing logistical and staffing support at our biggest competitive events. They go all-out to continue their interest in STEM and research shows it’s making a huge difference. For example, as noted in this FIRST® research: Highest degree expected among FIRST students:
- 34% Bachelors
- 41% Masters
- 19% Doctorate
FIRST® Alumni also gain soft skills and other abilities (such as a productive team-oriented attitude) that is needed in today’s workforce. For example, this is the percentage of FIRST students who see a significant boost in these skills:
- 90% Problem Solving Skills
- 90% Teamwork
- 87% Innovative Thinking
- 85% Creative Thinking
- 85% Perseverance
- 79% Leadership
78% of all Alumni are in STEM fields. In addition, 82% of all male Alumni and 68% of all female Alumni are in STEM fields. In addition to those numbers, a recent blog post outlines the kind of impact FIRST is having:
- FIRST in Texas participants are more likely to show gains on STEM-related outcomes than students in the comparison group.
- Girls who participate in the FIRST® programs continue to show significantly greater impacts than their male counterparts. In other words, these programs are opening the STEM career door for girls in a big way.
- Students who participate in these programs show significantly higher interest in majoring in computer science, engineering, and robotics than comparison students, and they are 2.6 times more likely to take an engineering course.
Alumni Are Inspiring
There is no doubt the FIRST experience is unique. Only alumni truly know what current FIRST participants go through during a robotics season. Their mentorship and event support is not only appreciated but highly valued. There’s just something inspiring about seeing a successful, brilliant alumni who are either in college or the workplace continuing to support teams and events long after their own participation has passed. It gives students a gold standard in their own work, and it motivates them to try their best when they see what their future can hold and who they might become someday. And as an alumni you can be that role model!
A Vibrant (and Well-Connected) Community: Why Alumni Groups Are Great Networking Opportunities
When you participate in an alumni group, not only do you get to affect the lives of students in a positive way, you get the added benefit of networking with industry leaders from a variety of backgrounds and other STEM-focused alumni once they’ve graduated from high school. It’s a continuous stream of networking opportunities and you never know who you might meet at the next event. The more you get involved, the more opportunities you’ll have to receive invitations to special alumni events, discover volunteer opportunities, and even find valuable job and internship postings that you may not have found otherwise.
A Look at Some of Our Amazing Alumni Groups
Enthusiastic FIRST alumni have created groups on the campuses of their schools. For example, there is the alumni association at the University of Texas at Austin who help support STEM initiatives in the Austin area. In addition, there is the Aggie FIRST Robotics organization at Texas A&M. As stated on their website, their mission to extend the presence of FIRST in college environments. They foster technical, professional, and social growth by creating engineering design challenges. In their own words: “…we want to give back to the FIRST community, helping the next generation of students receive the same opportunities that we were fortunate enough to receive.” But they don’t just stop at the college level. They do some amazing things to inspire high school FIRST in Texas teams as well. As they describe on their website: “We also participate in the Robots Done Quick design challenge. Members from our organization designed, built, and presented a FIRST robot in one week to demonstrate to high school FIRST teams how to make a competitive robot under a tight budget and heavy time restrictions.”
We’re seeing a growth in the number of new and upcoming collegiate alumni organizations, the University of Texas – RGV is the most recent alumni group. We hear that alumni currently attending university in El Paso and Houston areas are making plans to formally launch alumni groups soon. Keep on eye on the FANaTX page for links to those groups when they go live.
How Can I Get Involved? One Word: FANaTX (Pronounced ‘Fanatics’)
The FIRST Alumni Network – Texas, or FANaTX, is the official alumni organization in the Lone Star state. It’s a huge Texas-sized effort to track, connect, and engage FIRST Alumni who are from Texas and (or) are currently residing in Texas. The goal of FANaTX: “We aim to develop local FANaTX Chapters to increase contact and involvement within each community while growing the group as a whole to provide wide-scale networking and promotion of initiatives.” The best news of all? You can join the fun! If you’d like to get involved in this thriving network, it’s as easy clicking a link and typing in your information. You can go to the FANaTX page to dive in. Let’s hear it one more time for all of our wonderful FIRST in Texas alumni groups! We couldn’t do what we do without your infectious enthusiasm and diehard support.