Many Iowa State students know the New Hampshire-based company FIRST from their annual FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, but one Iowa State alumnus has been working with the company and says there is more to FIRST than playing with building blocks.
Nick Skripsky (BSME’08) is the resources coordinator of the FIRST Place center and has been with the company since January.
“FIRST Place is an education center that FIRST set up to meet community needs. It is an amazing, moveable, transformable space,” said Skripsky.
FIRST Place is one of only five programs that make up FIRST. The others include FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), FLL, and Jr.FLL.
FRC and FTC are competitions for high school students and Skripsky believes the work the students accomplish during the events is helping them excel in the future.
“The idea that FRC and FTC teams are gaining experience that will catapult them through engineering college at prestigious institutions around the country and put them ahead of the curve to gain access into the workforce for companies that will change the way we live—it’s an astronomically phenomenal thought,” said Skripsky.
Skripsky works indirectly with all five areas of FIRST, but concentrates on activities that connect with the FIRST Place center. In his first week, he was in charge of the FRC kickoff week but had support from other FIRST employees.
“I had a lot of help from veteran members of the staff, and I think that’s a testament to the kind of people who work for FIRST,” said Skripsky.
He began working indirectly with FIRST in an operations role for the Iowa State FLL while still a student. He was in charge of organizing many aspects of the event including parking, bleacher rental, room scheduling, moving tables and chairs, and he even slept in Howe Hall to make sure things ran smoothly.
“I slept in Howe the night before the tournament every year on ‘security duty,’ but overall, I am super happy the planning team I got to work with every year was completely awesome. They are some of my favorite people to work with,” said Skripsky.
After working with FLL at Iowa State, Skripsky decided he wanted to find a job working with FIRST and starting looking at their job board for openings.
“I got a tip from several friends at FIRST about the FIRST Place resources coordinator and thought it was a really good fit. (The job) was outreach oriented, it was for a company that I believe in, and I knew I would be working close to people that I had loads of fun working with in the past,” he said.
His main duties as FIRST Place resources coordinator include scheduling events and catering the moveable center for FTC, FRC, and FLL events, but Skripsky is also in charge of planning and organizing conferences at the FLL championship in St. Louis, kickoff workshops, and summer camps.
Another role FIRST Place is trying to expand is to provide teams, coaches, mentors, and educators with a central hub for information and training, team building, and curriculum materials.
“We are trying to gather information from teams and the programs in an effort to design FIRST curriculum. We want to be the spot that educators look to for schools programs and curriculum,” said Skripsky.
He says he enjoys working with a company that allows creative freedom for so many different students across the country.
“The biggest draw for me is the uncanny ability that FIRST teams have to inspire the rest of us. Day in and day out, FIRST teams and team members are learning how to make a better world for us, and someday, someone’s going to fix our problems, and that person is going to be a FIRST alumnus,” said Skripsky.
He hopes to continue working with FIRST and creating an outlet for students to help change lives across the world.
“I believe in FIRST and the young people it attracts. Just thinking about (their work) gives me goose bumps and makes me emotional,” said Skripsky.