Team Unlimited Alumnus Recognized by FIRST
Patrick Pilvines, one of the founding members of Team Unlimited, has been recognized by FIRST for his continuing involvement as a mentor, both with Team Unlimited and regional FTC programs. The articles focus on the valuable lessons that can be learned from the experience of failures.
FIRST Newsletter – June, 2011 - Spotlight on Alumni
Former FIRST Team Captain Says the Best Lessons Come From Failing
It might come as a surprise that a former member of a FIRST team defined by its unlimited abilities says the most important lessons he learned were from failing.
Throughout his FIRST “career,” Patrick Pilvines, of Sharon, Massachusetts, has been a dedicated member of two teams: FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team “Sharon Eagle Robotics Unlimited,” and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) #1, “Team Unlimited” ─ formerly FTC Team 13. Pilvines says the Team Unlimited tag was given when the MC at the 2005 FIRST Championship demonstration competition wanted to shorten the team introduction.
Currently a sophomore at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), in Troy, New York, Pilvines got an early start with FIRST as a sixth grader at Sharon Middle School. After reading an article about the organization in the local paper, Pilvines and a group of his friends formed an FLL team. The entire team stayed together through high-school graduation after forming FTC Team 13/FTC 1: Team Unlimited.
Pilvines says in addition to participating in competitions, Team Unlimited has been very active in the community, from managing its own FLL & FTC websites ─ http://www.syraweb.org and http://unlimited.syraweb.org ─ to mentoring the Sharon FLL teams (up to 13 this season), to volunteering at FLL & FTC tournaments. Because of the team’s online presence, and an excellent track record, Team Unlimited has been contacted for advice by teams from California to Maine, as well as several international teams.
Closer to home, the team has also provided resources to the Rhode Island and Connecticut state FTC programs, conducting workshops and sharing tips on how best to compete. In addition, team members help with field or judging events, teach new programming languages, and provide on-site encouragement during competitions.
Today, Pilvines, who is a mechanical engineering major at RPI, volunteers at the FLL and FTC level, and has been trained as a Massachusetts state referee so that he can assist at state and local tournaments. As a former FIRST Team Captain, Pilvines says he has always enjoyed talking to and advising teams in the heat of the competition.
The college sophomore adds that one of his fondest FIRST memories happened in 2005 during the demo FTC season. Ironically, the moment had more to do with losing than winning. During the last match of the day at the 2005 FIRST Championship, the Team Unlimited robot accidentally flipped over. Although the team achieved a personal victory by righting the robot before the match was over, they lost the match and were eliminated from the competition. However, when the members retreated to the pits to figure out what went wrong, they received some unexpected advice from Grant Imahara, well-known electronics expert from the hit TV show Mythbusters. Imahara worked with the team to help them determine the problem, and, during the closing celebration that evening, invited Pilvines on stage to compete with him in a celebrity demonstration competition. Both Imahara and Pilvines successfully overcame all comers.
Pilvines says that encounter with Imahara will always be special for him and is what most influenced him to become a mechanical engineer. “It taught me to see the possibilities in failure and learn from my mistakes. Since then, I’ve encouraged team members to pursue education in the technical fields.”
Through his experience with FIRST Pilvines says he has acquired many skills that will aid him throughout his life: how to speak professionally; organize and give large-group presentations; understand programming code; properly design CAD models; and design a finished product that meets specifications quickly and efficiently ─ all of which have helped him immensely in the college classroom.
Yet, as valuable as all of those concrete skills are, Pilvines says perhaps the most rewarding “take away” from his experiences with FIRST are the people with whom he has interacted and connected. “The encouragement I received from Dean Kamen, Woodie Flowers, Grant Imahara, and the many other Volunteers and employees of FIRST, as well as their partner organizations, has influenced my life immensely and helped me learn how to succeed at RPI and for the rest of my life,” adds the polished public speaker who at one time feared presenting in front of large groups.
His advice to future FIRST team members? "Don't let failure dissuade you; face it and work through it. Few things go completely as planned and these bumps along the way will help you do better the next time. These failures can be some of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have."
Today, as a FIRST team Mentor, Pilvines has been involved in many aspects of the organization, from conducting seminars and workshops that help teams better understand the process of effectively programming a robot, to providing design advice to members via email. “Being a Mentor is about helping participants work through issues and improve themselves. It’s about providing sound advice and ideas, when needed. The participants are the future engineers and scientists of our generation and helping them learn is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have.”
“FIRST has been one of the greatest experiences in my life. I only hope that others who participate can get what I have gotten from such an amazing program. FIRST will challenge you to challenge yourself. It will help you face problems head on and work together as a team so that you can succeed.”
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