“Try the Impossible” — Inside the Minds of FTC Team Captains

STEM learning extends beyond classrooms. We have been strong proponents of STEM competitions as an opportunity for students to challenge themselves and apply their learnings. In today’s blog post, we sat down with two students who are currently captains of their teams for the FIRST Tech Challenge.

At Wiz Robotics, not only do we organize our own STEM competitions such as the Wiz Prodigy Online Competition and the Wiz Summer Innovators Challenge, we also have our own students participate in external competitions. Competitions create a valuable opportunity for students to learn and apply STEM skills as well as other transferable skills such as problem solving and critical thinking skills.

We had a chance to chat with two Wiz students who are also captains of their teams for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) on their STEM journey and experience leading their teams.

FIRST Tech Challenge, formerly known as FIRST Vex Challenge, is a robotics competition for students in grades 7–12 to compete head to head, by designing, building, and programming a robot to compete in an alliance format against other teams.

Let’s meet…

Pictured above: the Pr0teens team

Leo, captain of the Pr0Teens FTC team, and Michelle, captain of the DG (Drive Gears) team. Both Leo and Michelle are Grade 11 students who are passionate about STEM. This year will be Leo’s third year of participating in the FTC.

Pictured above: the DG team

Q: Let’s talk about your STEM journey. When did you first start?

Leo: I was first introduced to technology when I was 4 years old. I played my first computer game and loved it. After that, I became interested in figuring out how those games were made and I wanted to know how computers worked. I attended a coding class in grade 5 after seeing a poster about it in school and that’s how it all started.

Michelle: I started STEM around grade 4 to 5. I took some programming classes and learned C++, java, and Python. I also did some lego building classes at community centres.

Pictured above: The Pr0teens

Q: What were the most attractive parts of STEM to you?

Leo: My passion for STEM first came from computer games. I also love the science part of STEM and how machines worked. I would say that’s where my passion for engineering came from. I loved going to the Science Centre.

Michelle: I love how there are many different paths you can take in STEM. I personally really like robotics and programming as well as physics and chemistry.

Pictured above: the DG team

Q: What made you decide to compete in the 2022–2023 FTC Competition?

Leo: I first joined FTC in grade 9 as one of the lead mechanics of the team. At first I didn’t know how things worked but I was able to learn a lot of new skills over the years. Because I’ve improved myself every year and had a lot of success with FTC, I wanted to challenge myself and my abilities and to build upon the engineering skills I already have.

Michelle: I like the aspect of being able to compete with students my age who have similar interests (in STEM). It’s really cool to learn from everyone. I believe we can learn from each other and improve ourselves through collaboration.

Q: It’s great to hear that both of you had such great experiences at FTC! As the captain of your FTC team, what are your expectations for yourself and your team?

Leo: Our FTC team mentor have always said to us, “it doesn’t matter if you do a little or do a lot, what matters is that you do your best”. I’ve always expect our team to try to do their best for the team. I want everyone feel like they want to be a part of the team and want to do something for the team.

Michelle: As the captain of the team, I want to always be there for everyone on the team. My goal is to be optimistic and inspire the team members and to help others as much as possible. Motivation is important!

Q: What about winning? Does winning matter to you?

Leo: Winning matters but what matters more is that you learn from the experience. As long as you learn new things each time. It feels good to win but it’s better that you learn from the experience.

Michelle: Of course! I also want to be able to go to the world competition.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in your STEM journey?

Leo: Commitment is the biggest challenge. Being in the robotics team, everybody has a unique part that they are working on and everyone has to come together. However, it’s also a great learning opportunity. When somebody is absent from the team for whatever reason, everybody will come together to fulfill the missing piece.

Michelle: My biggest challenge is staying motivated and determined. My school has a lot of STEM students so it gets competitive when you compare yourselves with others. Staying motivated and passionate are what helps me to reach my goals.

Q: Use three words or a sentence to describe a good team.

Leo: Try the impossible. This team is all about trying the impossible. At first we didn’t think we could do it but throughout this FTC journey, we’ve achieved and even surpassed our goals. Everybody was passionate and committed.

Michelle: Determination, passion, being optimistic. As long as you can stay optimistic, you’ll have determination and passion to keep on going even when things get difficult.

It was so inspiring speaking to the two captains. We love to hear about their passion and dedication to their teams.

The main takeaways for us are:

  • Don’t be afraid to be challenged. STEM competitions are not easy but challenging yourself to it will be rewarding!
  • Winning is not everything. The most important thing is to have fun and give it your best shot.
  • Follow your passions. Passions and determination will propel you to reach your goals!
Photo by Vlad Hilitanu on Unsplash

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