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FIRST Robotics building connections and future leaders of STEM

Shaw's Brian Cooksey, director of workforce development, shares the impact that the FIRST Robotics teams in Northwest Georgia have had on not only Shaw but also local students.

Brian Cooksey

Director of Workforce Development

Ten years ago, Shaw began supporting FIRST Robotics teams in Northwest Georgia. The program has been a very successful partnership for Shaw, allowing us to connect with the future workforce, develop more STEM talent in the communities where we sponsor teams, and invest in the future generation of STEM leaders.  

FIRST Robotics exposes students to new college and career opportunities, as it gives them the foundation to learn and improve their skills in engineering, programming and innovation. Participants of the FIRST Robotics Team 5900 are mentored by me and fellow associate Conrad Hernandez. This partnership has allowed us to connect with, develop and identify future talent. 

This past summer, three former members of the Fighting Mongooses, the robotics team we sponsor at NWGA College and Career Academy, interned with Shaw.  

Rafa joined FIRST his junior year of high school, having heard about it by word of mouth. We worked with Rafa to help him create a clear path to pursue engineering, a profession he was unaware of before. “Working with the mentors helped me appreciate Shaw's culture before I started my internship. They showed me the impact that a Shaw associate can have in their community,” Rafa said of the experience. Rafa interned with Shaw as a Maintenance Engineer co-op and will graduate from Georgia Tech in 2023. 

Betzy joined the team when it first started, and she is now pursuing mechatronic engineering. Betzy said the club helped her find her passion. “I probably would not have pursued engineering had it not been shown to me before,” Betzy said. Pushing herself to meet new people and try new things has now paid off. She interned with the CIM group this summer and will graduate this year from Kennesaw State University. 

Ronnie had no prior interest in engineering, and through working with the team found it to be something he enjoyed immensely. He decided to pursue mechanical engineering his sophomore year, and now studies at Georgia Tech. Ronnie said, “I’m the first person in my family to go to college, and it was because of the robotics program that I was able to chase my goal of attending and finishing college with a passion for the major I chose.” Ronnie interned as a Reliability Engineer co-op. 

Rafa, Betzy and Ronnie all found their passion and grew their confidence through being involved with FIRST. As a mentor on their team, I personally saw each one of them grow and expand their technical and interpersonal skills through their involvement with the program. I don't believe they would have joined Shaw without this program. They are amazing young people with bright futures and many talents. 

With this widespread opportunity to engage and educate, we’re encouraging a new generation to pursue their passions. I’m excited to see even more of our former FIRST Robotics team students return to Shaw for internships and co-ops in the future.