Volunteering for Our Future: My F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Competition Experience

Robotics Competition

Will Glass | May 3rd, 2016

Here at Cross Company, we are a group of people who take giving back to our communities seriously. We have a long history in charitable and community work on a corporate level, as well as on an individual employee basis. Some examples are our long standing relationships with United Way branches in both High Point and Belmont, NC and our yearly canned food drives for local food pantries.

We are always looking for ways that we can help by gathering donations for good causes or through donating our time to organizations that need some technical help. Because of this, the President of Cross Company Mobile Hydraulic and Control Systems found an opportunity for us to lend some of our time and technical knowhow to a great organization known as FIRST.

FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen. As an organization, they do everything in their power to inspire kids from as early as kindergarten through their senior year of high school to pursue further education in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM)-related careers. They do this through four different types of competitions, which are FIRST Lego League JR., FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition.

They accomplish a lot of what they do through donations, sponsorships, and volunteer programs from technical companies such as Cross Company and many of our vendors. I, along with one of my coworkers, controls engineer Keith Baxter, had the chance to volunteer at a FIRST Robotics Competition that took place over a weekend during March in Greensboro, North Carolina and I have to say that it was amazing to see what high schoolers came up with for this competition.

When volunteering at these events, you can choose from many different stations and duties that fit in with your experience and expertise, such as helping debug code, working at the mobile machine shop, and other technical and nontechnical roles. I happened to help the teams pick the defenses that protected their respective bases and input the data. Keith helped troubleshoot the programs that the teams wrote for the robots. We spent the weekend fulfilling our roles, and it was great to see the teams working together to strategize and solve problems much like we all have to do in the professional world.

If you find that you enjoyed the event and want to be a bigger part of the organization, you can even be a mentor to a team and help them to develop the robots they make and help distribute the knowledge that you have accumulated during your professional career.

If you and your company take the time to pay it forward and do events like these, not only are you helping those in your community rise up and learn, but you can foster relationships that can lead to your company becoming more visible in your area. This added visibility could then lead to new business opportunities or even future employees.

We all had a spark lit for us at some point during our younger years that inspired us to pursue a future in the STEM-related fields. So with that said, I think that the biggest benefit from volunteering was helping to be that inspiration for someone else. By taking the time to volunteer at events like this we can help those kids develop some technical skills and begin the grooming of the next wave of technical experts.

For more information about the specific FIRST event we worked, here's a local news piece.  Or go to http://www.firstinspires.org to volunteer at a local event.

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Will Glass


Will graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2013 with a Bachelors in Industrial Engineering and has been with Cross since summer of 2014. Will covers central to eastern North Carolina as well as the Tidewater and Richmond areas of Virginia as a Hydraulic Account Manager. His passions include but are not limited to Chelsea FC soccer, cooking and eating great food, craft beer, gaming, and of course Tennessee Vols football. Will is always seeking to gain knowledge so that he may be able to better serve his customers.