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Engineer Gregory Andries: "FIRST has provided me an opportunity to work with students on "real life" engineering problems. The high school students are provided a unique opportunity to build a simple mechanical device out of raw materials. I have really enjoyed working with the students, teachers, parents and fellow engineers on the FIRST program for the past five years. The FIRST program has allowed me to learn more about myself, has helped me work better with others, and has taught my student teammates skills and knowledge that will become an important part of their life experience."

Alumni Angel Serrano: "I absolutely love this program. When I was a student all I did was think about First. I would often just stay after school and not even go home waiting for the meetings to start. I was excited every time and I guess that is the biggest reason why I keep coming back as a volunteer."

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Engineer Lindi Rose: "In December of ‘98 I came to CT to work at Pratt & Whitney as a co-op. My very first day of work my mentor, who was one of the team leaders at the time, got me to go along to a FIRST meeting and see what it was all about. From day one I was hooked. The students and engineers on the team became my friends and helped me get through the difficulties of being away from home. When I returned home I kept in contact with the team and part of my reason for deciding to return to Pratt was because of the experience I had while involved with FIRST and the impact this team had on my life. I love this team. I don’t believe I’d enjoy working with any other students as much as I enjoy working with the one’s from Hartford Public High School, because I feel that being an inner city school, myself and other adult members of the team are making more of an impact on these students’ lives than students from a more affluent school. We are opening their eyes to science and technology and giving them opportunities they may not otherwise have. That is exactly why the long hours and hard work are all worth it. FIRST is a great program, I only wish my high school had had a team!"

Student Kate Gallagher: "Joining FIRST has been one of the best decisions that I could have made this year. My two older brothers have participated in the program and have enjoyed it. In the beginning, this year I was asked if I could help with some paper work. But that all changed when I met the engineers and students. Something sparked, I became more interested and spent more time at FIRST. FIRST showed me commitment and responsibility. Never have I enjoyed such an enduring and worthwhile program."

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Engineer Andy Blair: "What are you doing to forward the progress of Team 181???"

"Four years ago I moved to Connecticut. I heard about this robotics program that was getting started and thought it’d be a great way to meet some people. I’m still amazed everyday by the students and engineers I’ve met and the relationships I’ve formed. I’ve often thought about moving from Connecticut to get closer to family and friends in Ohio. But, every time I begin to think that way, my mind always comes back to Team 181 "The Birds of Prey". There is something so special about the friendships formed when everyone is under the gun of doing so much in so little time– something so special that even when it seems insane to keep coming back and putting the kind of time in that we do, I just can’t seem to pull away."

Student Melinda Guzman: "Dedication, commitment, responsibility. Through FIRST I have had an opportunity to really know what it means to be all of the above. FIRST has made me more open minded and knowledgeable. I was able to express my leadership skills and with that, I was able to learn that in my heart, I am a leader."

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Student Tianna Glass: "Joining FIRST was a wonderful experience for me, because it taught me to open up as a person and stop being shy. I earned a chance to participate and feel like a part of not only a team, but of a large and welcoming family."

Engineer Amy Brewer: "First there is the excitement of the building of the robot, but after that wears off and burn out sets in, it is seeing the growth of the students during that short period that brings me back every year to do FIRST. I enjoy watching how the engineers and students react with each other, and how the students learn to work together as a team. I always find when I think this is my last year with FIRST, it is seeing what the students get out of the program that makes me return."

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Student Natasha Garcia: " The FIRST team means a lot to me. We are more than a team we are a family. This past winter, we lost one of our most talented engineers, Mike McCoy. We stuck together and the engineers pulled through for us. Without FIRST I wouldn’t have a smart engineer as a math tutor, but also a mentor, someone I can talk to. I also appreciate that there is finally a program where students who are interested in science and technology can finally expand their world of learning."

Engineer Ben Hall: "F.I.R.S.T makes me feel guilty. Am I supposed to get so much from this program? I've learned new skills, made new friends, and had some of the best experiences of my life. FIRST gives me the opportunity to work with students from Hartford who are outwardly so different from me, with students who initially intimidated me, with students who continue to challenge, frustrate, and inspire me. I'm addicted. I just hope that I can give to the students as much as they do to me."

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Student Khuong Vu: "FIRST is a program that has further expanded my horizons in engineering. The preparation and actual building of the robot intrigued me to pursue my interest in this field. FIRST has truly fulfilled its acronym. It inspired me to recognize science and technology."

engineer Gary Hilbert: "I believe in the FIRST concept of bringing students, teachers & engineers together to work as a team on a fun, interesting and challenging project. I think everyone benefits and learns in many ways from these interactions. For me personally, FIRST gives me the opportunity to remain connected with young people now that my own children have grown."

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Student Erick Rodriguez: "What does FIRST mean to me? FIRST is an experience of problem solving and a taste of the real world. It is also a great way to meet new people. In this program you experience the field of engineering. So far it has been one of the best programs that I have been a part of. I would also like to thank all of the engineers and teachers for volunteering to work with, us it means a lot to us."

Engineer Kimberley Sullivan: "Students of the Birds of Prey, thanks for showing me the unlimited potential that exists in Hartford Public High School. I'm very proud to be one of your teammates. Mike, thanks for teaching me so much. I'm sorry that I'm not using what you taught me this year. It's just too painful to work on the drive without you. Thanks for positively impacting so many people. I'll never forget you."

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Engineer David Shahan: Because this is my first year with FIRST, I see it primarily as a chance to meet new people and make friends. By working with a group, learning with them, and collaborating with them in overcoming all the challenges of creating something new, I’ll eventually come away with something memorable and meaningful. I look forward to working and learning with the students. Hopefully I will too help them experience something memorable and meaningful.

Alumni Nery Cruz: "First to me was the beginning of my career as an engineer. It motivated me and guided me into the career path I'm currently on and influenced me in my choice of schools. First was also my family away from home. It taught me a lot about friendships, communication, conflicts, and most of all how to have fun and still do something that is worthwhile. I love my Birds of Prey family and will always be a bird of prey in heart."

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Alumni Heriberto "Eddie" Rodriguez: "To me personally FIRST has been an inspiration. It has changed my life completely. I went from being a "C-D" to a straight "A" student; from wanting to become an accountant to being an undergraduate student at CCSU, majoring in Mechanical Engineering, with a GPA of 3.2. If it weren't for FIRST, I would probably be working in a minimum wage paying job.

Thank you, FIRST."

 Engineer Jennifer Chu: "Two years ago, a good friend told me of a volunteer program he was in and how amazing and fun it was despite all the long hours and hard work. I thought he was crazy. His enthusiasm and dedication to these kids and the program persuaded me to give it a shot last year and he was right! It was hard work, but a lot of fun! Since then, these kids and the program has become a big part of my life. They remind me of why I chose to be an engineer in the first place - the hands on experience of making something out of nothing, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of six grueling weeks standing there looking at the final product, the fun of learning something new. The friendships that are formed at FIRST are not only with the other volunteer engineers, but also with the all of the students. It is rewarding to watch these kids learn and see them develop over the years into amazing young men and women."

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Student Ricardo Cruz: "FIRST has allowed me to experience a career field that usually wouldn’t be open to me. I also enjoy all of the fun we have with the team. I made some strong friendships with the engineers as well as with the other students. I think of this team as a family."

Engineer Denman James: "Technically, FIRST is a program intended to interest high school students in science and technology; fortunately it turns out to be much more than that. There is no other project that embodies learning, friendships and personal growth as much as the FIRST robotics program. I have gained more personal satisfaction from working on our team than from any project that I have ever worked on."

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Alumni Yeshiva Cohen: "FIRST meant a chance to do things that I wouldn't have had the ability to do otherwise. I learned a lot of skill not only how to use the tools, name the materials and build a robot, but also how to bend as part of a team, how to voice my opinion and how to get people motivated. It gave me a chance to be part of a team that didn't involve being athletic or having a specific talent. Rather I was valuable for being myself and being part of the whole. It also gave me a chance to make awesome friends that I otherwise would have had nothing in common with, but because of this program, we will be friends for a very long time, and we will always be Birds Of Prey. FIRST is one of my best high school memories, and I'm thankful for every experience, even the ones that didn't go so well. FIRST is a truly unique, life changing experience, and one that I am always going to have fond memories."