Raj Varghese: My name is Raj Varghese and I was a business team member at 1557 for 3 years. I am currently in the Masters of Accounting program at the University of Florida. My FIRST experience has helped me secure two internships in New York City and if all goes well I will be starting there as a consultant for KPMG, LLP when I graduate in 2015. How has it helped? My role on the team gave me experience writing and presenting to prominent members of the community. I now have the confidence to approach others about potential business opportunities and really sell someone on an idea that I’m passionate about. FIRST is a great foundation to build on leading into college, and I would encourage anyone to join because there is always a role no matter where your interests lie.
Frank Fogarty: I got my Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from University of Florida and I’m now finishing up a Master’s in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology at the University of Maryland. I’m also teaching courses for a Living Learning Program called Environment, Technology, and Economy at UM, which has given me some great opportunities to apply some of the things I learned way back in FIRST! The biggest impact FIRST had on me was giving me my first real experience at leadership and problem solving. The task given to our team required creativity, skill, organization and, most of all, it forced us to think outside the box. I can honestly say that I apply some of the lessons I learned working on our robot nearly everyday as a researcher and a teacher. Ron Stedelin, a former teacher at MDHS and one of the founders of Team 1557, inspires me. Prior to taking his courses, I wouldn’t have dreamed that my peers and I could construct a working robot. Mr. Stedelin provided us with the perfect balance of encouragement, guidance, and creative freedom that helped transform a handful of kids building makeshift machines from printer parts into an efficient, functioning team that designed, built, and piloted 1557’s first competitive robot. Without his passion and enthusiasm the team, along with the positive impacts it has had on countless students, would never have been possible.
Jake Herbst: Currently, I am enrolled in my last semester at UCF for a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. FIRST and 12v Bolt taught me to step up and apply myself instead of sitting around doing nothing. From this, I have learned a great amount about myself. Like, deciding my major should be something in engineering [a decision in which I do not regret]. Now I have taken my experiences to the next level in a organization similar to FIRST, but at the university level: the Society of Automotive Engineers Formula SAE (www.knightsracing.cecs.ucf.edu) FIRST has also influenced me to become a leader in SAE. My inspiration has mainly come from all the great engineers that continue to be a driving force for innovation and technology in this ever expanding world.Zach Herbst: I’m in college at FSU majoring in Philosophy with the intent to go to seminary afterward and eventual become a minister. FIRST taught me vital things about being a leader (of an all volunteer organization, with a donated budget, intent on spreading a particular worldview, which sounds a lot like a church). As for people that inspire me, I have a long list of people (in no particular order) like Ravi Zacharias, Dave Owen, Paul of Tarsus, Saint Augustine (who is the patron saint of sore eyes apparently), Jesus, Tony Dungy, Christian Newton, Christine Newton… and the list goes on. So, just put “Anybody that does anything I can’t, with a better attitude than I have.”
Evan Holley: I am majoring in physics, and joining the Coast Guard as a Health Service tech or as an electricians mate. FIRST Robotics helped me get a stronger understanding of how to work with basic technology as well as a lot about how teams work together to accomplish a common goal. FIRST also helped me to solve common problems with an unconventional solution. I’m inspired by mentors such as Dave who willingly devoted their free time to help teach youth not only how to build robots but also to build relationships and how to work as a team, even in the midst of heated moments and times where not everyone was the best of friends.
Kim Stowers: I am currently pursuing a B.S. in psychology at UCF. I plan to go to graduate school for education, become a teacher, and eventually become a counselor. FIRST Robotics was a great program to be involved in. It allowed me to develop my writing skills and develop confidence in dealing with public figures. While all the mentors at FIRST are admirable, I remain inspired by two mentors in particular: Dave Owens and Ron Stedelin. They are both incredibly sincere, caring people who are clearly devoted to the youth in FIRST Robotics. I am lucky to know them!
Quyen Lowe: Quyen is a former team member who currently attends Seminole State College. He has returned to the team as a mechanical mentor.
Taylor Gratzer: Taylor is a student at Seminole State College. He is a former member of Team 1557 and has returned as a computer programming mentor.
Carson Kimbrel: Carson is an alumni of Team 1557. He is a computer engineering student at the University of Central Florida. He has returned to the team as a computer programming mentor.