What Gracious Professionalism Means to Us
Gracious professionalism is a fundamental part of FIRST, and we as a team have had many experiences regarding this important attitude. So what does it mean to us? Here are some of our takes on the pillar that has supported this team’s journey for so many years.
Gracious Professionalism is most prevailing at FIRST competitions. It is witnessed in moments when a team is in need of assistance, whether they are in need of a missing tool or even in need of some advice. Our team has had this experience when another team was in need of a new battery, and we were able to provide one for them. At a competition last season we had broken one of our Neverest motors, but we did not bring an extra motor with us to the event. We asked other teams if they had any extra Neverest motors, and were able to find a team that was gracious to let us bring the robot back from the competition with the new motor still installed. They gave us time to send the motor back to them.
Gracious professionalism is a big part of the FIRST community. It is most prevalent at competitions. Whenever a team is in need of a part, we always lend them whatever they may need immediately. We always make it a priority to be kind and supportive to all teams at the competition no matter what the circumstances may be. One of my favorite parts of competitions is watching all the different team members line up in the middle of the gym and start dancing together to a song they all know the choreography to. Those moments are so pure and are a true example of what gracious professionalism is and how everyone embodies it. Gracious professionalism is also prevalent in our team during our practices. We are a team of 12 (+2 coaches). So as you can imagine it is a challenge for everyone to work on the robot simultaneously. It is still a struggle with our 2 identical robots. We are also not affiliated with any school so we only meet once a week (and rarely on other occasions when something needs to be done fast). We must work quickly and efficiently during our meetings once a week to get everything that we need to get done. But we must also be patient and mindful as to not take up too much time doing nothing.
Gracious professionalism is valued by our team. We always make it a priority to be gracious professionals and to embrace the spirit of FIRST, respectful competition and kind demeanor. Each team member is assigned a certain task, whether it be on the programming team or building team. Although we each work separately on different parts of the robot, the combination of these parts results in one 18” by 18” robot. This is a reflection of our teamwork and the respect and reliability each member has for one another. We learn from one another and from our mistakes which helps us improve and bond as a team. This prepares us for our competitions where we can show our accomplishments while still learning about and observing other robots built by other teams. We are very determined in the competition but we always make sure that we show respect and kindness to other teams that are competing.
Gracious professionalism has given me a new way to approach challenges, and more importantly, a new way to help others. Prior to learning about the message of gracious professionalism through FIRST robotics, everything was a competition. Whether it was trying to beat the person next to me in grades, or just trying to talk to people, I had either won, or I had lost. Upon walking into my first FIRST competition, I saw something completely different. People from other teams were not only talking, but complementing each other. Even when these people knew that they would be on opposing alliances, they still shared strategies and talked as if they were all part of the same team. To quote Alaa-Al Aswany, “ Literature is not a tool of judgment—it’s a tool for human understanding”. While the author does not directly refer to robotics, it has a similar message. Through gracious professionalism, I am able to better understand how people feel and learn, and help myself and others improve with this knowledge.
When I joined FIRST I knew I was going to learn so much about robotics: how to build, how to code, and how to break down components of a task to team-member sized chunks. The competition is structured so that these learnings are a must, however, I learned that FIRST embodies something much more profound: gracious professionalism. FIRST competitions are my favorite part about FTC. All of the people you meet are always incredibly intelligent. I love talking to them, brainstorming ideas, and making alliances that take you through thick and thin. Everyone is always so open and easy to talk to. I’ve learned that competition is only truly fun when that is the case. Now, I try to take this ideal and apply it to other aspects of my life.
To me, gracious professionalism is all about having a competitive spirit; being motivated and enthusiastic about participating in competitions. However, that is just the first part of gracious professionalism. The second part is the concept of good sportsmanship. Throughout the competing process, we mustn’t get discouraged by failure, or encouraged by the failure of others. Instead, we must rise as a team, and help others rise as well. In short, gracious professionalism is being enthusiastic about what you do and supporting others in the journey to success.
One of my favorite parts about FTC and FIRST as a whole is the fact that you can learn about robotics and have fun without constantly having to worry about winning. The whole atmosphere at these competitions is set up in a way where team members of different teams can interact and learn from each other while still engaging in friendly competition. In my opinion this is the most important part of gracious professionalism. Even with all the work and time it takes to build a functioning robot, it’s always interesting to be surrounded by people who share your interest in STEM. FIRST provides us with a fun and interactive way to solve engineering challenges while still being able to get to know new people.
I learn more about gracious professionalism at every competition, or meeting that we have. Gracious professionalism is all about building relationships to me. Our whole team is very close to each other and we make new friends at each competition. Robotics opens up so many doors and I’m so glad to be a part of FIRST. Gracious professionalism is important to our whole team especially when we have to work for long hours for days on end. Gracious professionalism is something that is forever evolving on Islandbots and it has a different meaning to each member and it brings us closer together. We enjoy being young engineers trying to overcome problems together. We enjoy being a bunch of teenagers who laugh and watch funny youtube videos in Iana’s basement. We enjoy building relationships with our alliance partners and other teams at competitions. We enjoy being graciously professional and being a part of the FIRST community.
To me, gracious professionalism is a skill involving the same morals that have been instilled in our minds since the beginning of elementary school. Treating others with respect, kindness, and hospitality creates a comfortable environment where you can feel free to be yourself. This environment also allows newer teams to thrive with the guidance of more experienced teams. The FTC isn’t a cutthroat competition that revolves around simply winning. It’s more about learning how to work with others and allowing companionship to foster your own enrichment. Gracious professionalism facilitates successful communication with strangers who are put into your alliance. This skill is an asset, as it is applicable to real life situations.