Saturday, April 9, 2011
FIRST is Cool
Well, I am almost done reading The New Cool, and I gotta say it is pretty cool, but there ain't nothin' new about Geek Cool. I think I am just lucky, because I have known, for a very long time, that when young people have opportunities and support, when learning is motivated by curiosity, when students are respected for what they can do and how much they will learn... then improbable things will happen, and impossible things will be within reach.
Some people think that for science, technology and math to be respected, for the students who choose books over malls, learning over zoning out, to be cool, that we have to drop the nerd, lose the silly-goofyness that pegs us as uncool and amateurish.
I say, we are cool. Period. In a bow tie. In a fez. With painted faces, and pocket protectors. Dancing our dances, chanting our chants, and doing the math: We are cool, and always have been. It is about being genuine, and feeling free to be your true self. Respectful, and true.
I am not naive. I understand that to raise interest and money, to market ourselves to the corporate banks and deep pockets, we have to claim our rightful place among the legitimate, pros, and we have to don the suits of their cultural values. But, I will always know that we were cool first, when no one cared, when no one was looking, and I will not surrender my spirit to satisfy the ideals of the same crowd that is tracking the antics of Charlie Sheen, or using their math to figure out how to avoid paying taxes to the very government that serves to protect them.
The New Cool, it's been a fun read, somewhat like watching yourself from a remote camera, because I recognize so very much of what teams, like FIRST 1717, have accomplished, and how they got it done. There are a lot of flavors in FIRST, every team, every member has something special to bring to the world... this isn't a unique circumstance, but one that I like to acknowledge, and sometimes have to remind myself to appreciate. The diversity is a blessing, and a challenge.
I am thankful that Alex is on a team that comes from an exceptional school, with exceptional peers and teachers. FIRST 2102 Team Paradox is composed of an incredibly diverse, talented, and dedicated group of people, and while not everyone is equally capable of lathing a wheel, calculating torque, or writing up a business plan, everyone on the team is equally capable of contributing something. The team is elite, but it is not elitist. And that is very cool. I am thankful that the team is not asking everyone to drop their quirks and flavors, their individual skills, in favor of something homogenized and glossy. It is cool to be yourself, and to bring that self to the team, for the team.
FIRST, Dean Kamen, robotics, science, technology, math, the students, the mentors, the build shops, the events... it is all amazingly cool. And I feel as though I cannot shout or whisper, or jump up and down long enough, or hard enough to get this belief out there... but I want to. I want millions of people to stop what they are doing and learn more about FIRST. I want a million people to plan their weekend around FIRST Championships, watch live coverage and cheer for students and their robots. I want a million people to mentor, or volunteer, or make a contribution to a team. It's so easy. It's so cool. It's so very, very important... I promise you, the stronger FIRST becomes, the more we give to our children of our time, faith and passion, the more they will have to give us of their time, faith, and passion, and they will achieve the improbable.
All of your comments are loved and appreciated, and your names are going in the fez. Tomorrow, Lady Betty Orpington will pluck a name from the fez for the winner of The New Cool.
Oh... and how is this for cool?