Inspiring the Future Leaders of Technology through FIRST

Modern manufacturing is built on innovation. It thrives on the desire to change and move forward with the spirit of competition and growth.

To truly succeed, however manufacturing needs to foster these qualities in young people—those who are the future of the industry, the engineers of tomorrow. Companies and individuals who recognize this are fostering innovation and building upon the true success of manufacturing.

One organization that epitomizes this is FIRST. A nonprofit founded in 1989, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) inspires a passion for science, technology, and engineering in young people. It gives these young participants a healthy sense of completion, creativity, communication, and leadership.


It was founded by Dean Kamen and Dr. Woodie Flowers. Flowers is the Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Distinguished Partner at Olin College, and the former host of the PBS television series, “Scientific American Frontiers.” Kamen invented the Segway® Human Transporter, the iBOT™  mobility device, HomeChoice™ peritoneal dialysis system, Slingshot water vapor distillation system, and the prosthetic “Luke” arm.

Taking cues from both men’s thought-leadership and experience, FIRST develops skills in young people that are bound to lead them to success.

The organization offers several programs for young innovators, including:

Jr. FIRST Lego League (Jr.FLL): For children ages 6-9, it’s a SONY DSCreal-world challenge using LEGO® bricks and components to design and build a challenge related model.
•    FIRST Lego League (FLL): Students ages 9-14 design, build, and program robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology.
•    FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC): Students ages 14-18 apply real-world math and science skills while using an advanced TETRIX® platform to build robots.
•    FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC): Also known as the varsity Sport for the Mind™, this competition includes teams of 25 or more students responsible for everything from raising funds to creating team branding, culminating in the building and programming of a robot that must perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. The competition is highly challenging, and is as close to real-world engineering as any students can get.

At PFERD, we believe wholeheartedly in the principles of FIRST, and in the capabilities of these youngsters. For the past 12 years, we’ve been actively involved in the FIRST Robotics Competition, with our own Senior Manufacturing Engineer, Rick Woods, acting as a volunteer mentor, providing technical assistance and guidance to the students.

Jim Sucharski, another PFERD engineer, acts as lead advisor to two FLL teams, who are currently in the midst of preparing for upcoming competitions.

Inspired by the value of the organization and the hard work of these PFERD employees, we are now a primary corporate partner and the founding sponsor of the first year FRC Team 5096 The Teutonic Force. Together with Rick and his son Dave, this incredible team is working toward preparing students for fulfilling STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers while fostering creativity, professionalism, and real world engineering skills. They are the model for the future of this industry, and as a result, successfully built a robot and took home the Rookie Inspiration Award.

While we are happy to provide FIRST with donations, including materials and equipment, we are especially proud to be an active participant in the education, training, and excitement these students receive from it. The competitions and the kids embody our spirit of innovation and success, and we can’t wait to see what they achieve, today and tomorrow.

The future of our industry truly lies in young people like these, and we’re thrilled to be a part of this endeavor.

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