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Alumni Testimonials


"FIRST Robotics, and specifically the SuperNURDs team, played a huge role in my engineering career path. I loved learning about the technical side of the robot, but found my passion to be more closely related to managing people. Being on this team helped me realize that Industrial Engineering was the perfect fit for me- and now, a few years down the road, I realize that some of my Project Management skills used today were first developed during my time with this team. My favorite memory is definitely when we placed into the top 8 teams at our second regional competition. It was such an accomplishment for us after working so hard to finish the robot, and not to mention establishing ourselves as just a second year team! I also loved, and still cherish, the community and close-nit family we became. We may have been the nerdiest of the bunch, but after long hours and late nights together, some of those people became my closest friends. I'm so thankful for my experiences with this team and the encouragement from the mentors along the way. Looking back I wouldn't have spent my time any other way!"

Linnea Briggs

2 year student - 2011 Alumni

Former Business team member

"This experience helped me figure out that what I was majoring in what I wanted to do. The team helped me become more knowledgeable with vocabulary and become familiarized with the use of tools. FIRST helped me by networking with other students interested in the same area of study and know that there are many opportunities that are open to students. The best part of the team was the teamwork used to help build a robot. The best memory that I had was being at the competition and seeing all the teams help each other out and experiencing what its like to be in a room full of people who have the same interests as you. I wish that I would have been in the team longer but the year that I was on it I enjoyed it."


"I plan to get a Masters degree at a prestigious university in engineering. Before I do that, next year (2015) I plan to participate in a summer research program, and by the end of next year I would have liked to have had an internship. Also, I plan on going back to San Pasqual and be a mentor on the team."

Liliana Estrada

1 year student - 2013 Alumni

Former Business team member

Ken Gourley

4 year student - 2014 Alumni

Former President, Electrical and Programming Lead

"FIRST gave me the ability to prove I have leadership abilities. It also allowed me to show that I have technical and engineering expertise that I gained outside of the classroom. It's always a good talking point for scholarship committees, too.


I received the following scholarships: H. William Kuni Scholarship, William Hubbard Scholarship

Ford Salute to Education Scholarship

SPHS Parents Club Scholarship 

Berkeley Undergraduate Scholarship

Jungman #1 Student Award

SEG/Anadarko Scholarship"


"Right now, I'm deciding between graduating with a BA in Geophysics in 3 years or doing a double major in 4 years. Possible double majors would be Computer Science, Astrophysics, and Applied Math. After that, I'm going to grad school for one or two years and getting a MS in Geophysics or something similar. I will then begin my career in petroleum engineering, the geosciences, planetary sciences, or something similar. Hopefully I'll have plenty of internships before then though."

When I joined the SuperNURDs during my senior year of high school, I didn't know anything about engineering. I started out on the business team, but with encouragement from the mentors, I started doing more and more work with the mechanical team. When build season started, I transferred entirely to the mechanical team.


From Kickoff onward, the mentors made an effort to include me in design brainstorming conversations, always asking for my opinion and answering my questions. I loved debating ideas and filling whiteboards with sketches; it was my first experience with the way engineering combines logic and creativity. Mr. Marler put me in charge of designing and building the robot's drivetrain, and walked me through every step of the process, from how to choose between c-channel and square channel to how to use a drill. When the drivetrain was complete, I got to be the first person to drive it. It was incredible to see something I had designed and built actually work, and I started to understand the power of engineering. I spent the rest of the season helping build and troubleshoot the other mechanical systems on the robot, and was selected to join the pit crew for competition.


That year, FIRST sparked my interest in engineering. I learned how to break down a challenge, develop designs, and use a wide variety of tools that I had never touched before. I developed a powerful work ethic, confidence, and sense of self-efficacy. I became more comfortable asking questions and trying things far outside of my comfort zone. I think the most valuable thing I got out of being on the team was an engineering mindset. I started seeing the nuts and bolts and hose clamps that hold the world together, and developed intense curiosity about how the machines around me work- things I used to take for granted. And I started seeing everyday annoyances as problems that I can solve. After my experiences on the team, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, and I'm currently majoring in engineering at Harvey Mudd College, with a focus in mechanical engineering.


In spring of 2015, I took a semester off from Harvey Mudd, and while I was home I started mentoring the SuperNURDs. Our team is like a family, and there's nothing quite like the feeling of walking into the robotics room to a group of people who are so happy to see you. It was revitalizing to spend time with my mentors again, and to be in an environment where everyone is so excited about what they're working on. 

At the San Diego Regional, I took charge of the pit crew. I had so much fun with my pit crew kids, and it was exciting to see them start to pick up the same kind of pride and confidence that I remembered from my time on pit crew. At various points throughout the weekend, when I brought comments and concerns to Mr. Warren, he encouraged me to lead conversations with the team myself. His encouragement help me develop confidence as a leader and authority figure on the team. 


Mentoring has helped me grow tremendously as a leader and project manager, and I've developed my empathy and patience as well. In order to be truly compassionate, you have to understand people, and mentoring has greatly increased my ability to understand and empathize with people. Mr. and Mrs. Warren, Mr. Marler, and Mrs. Lutgen have all been incredibly influential in encouraging me to take charge when appropriate and be a confident and compassionate leader, and they are my role models of what a mentor should be. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to work with them.

This semester, for my senior project, I'm working with four other Harvey Mudd students to develop an improved system for femoral reconstruction in patients with metastatic cancer. I'm currently writing our first provisional patent application, and I'll be the project manager next semester. I've loved working on this project so far, and I would probably never have gone into this field without the opportunities I've had through FIRST. After graduation, I plan to work in biomedical applications of mechanical engineering, so that I'll be able to do something I love and also have a positive impact on people's lives. I would ultimately love to find a job in the San Diego area so that I can continue mentoring the SuperNURDs. But wherever I end up, I know that I will continue mentoring for FIRST. 


Sarah Nichols

1 year student - 2012 Alumni

Former Mechanical and pit crew member

FIRST has changed my life more than every other aspect of high school combined. The hands-on engineering experience has provided me with the ability to confidently say “I belong in the STEM field.” I am currently an electrical engineering major at San Diego State University, and feel years ahead of all of my peers. Although AP credits make me technically a junior in college in my second semester of my first year, I feel much more prepared and twice as confident about engineering as most engineering students. Others often question whether they are cut out for the difficulties of engineering, but I already know I am because I’ve done it. For 4 years.

At the beginning of those 4 years, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have any particular skills, except that I liked math a little bit. After a few years on the SuperNURDs, I realized I was extremely interested in the electrical side of the robot. How on earth does electricity make this robot move so quickly? I had no idea. I made it my goal to learn as much as I could and create the cleanest electrical board the team had seen. By the end of my fourth year, I had a solid foundation in the basics of electrical engineering and could confidently lead a team of kids to completely wire a robot. Working closely with others taught me leadership skills, and gave me the ability to delegate work and multitask between different groups working on different projects.

Those leadership skills come in handy every once in a while, but the scholarship opportunities gained from being on the team are one of my favorite parts of being in the club. After being on the team for four years, I always had something to talk about in my scholarship and college application essays. Mentioning robotics and all of the engineering experience looks spectacular to colleges and donors, which caused me to get a full ride to SDSU. I now get paid to go to school, simply because I had fun building robots in my spare time in high school. I can not possibly imagine a better opportunity for a student, and I wish everyone could experience it.

Matt Smith

4 Year Student - 2016 Alumni

Former President, Electrical Lead


Joseph Marler (Left)

3 year student - 2012 Alumni

Former Co-president, Mechanical Lead

"The mission of FIRST is to inspire today's youth to become science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting, mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.


Five years ago, when I first became involved with FIRST by joining team #3255 The Super NURDs has been a positive impact in my life, which I still feel as I apply and live the vision of FIRST. The vision of FIRST is now a part of me. I now know who I am, were I am going, and I have found out how I will dedicate my talents and skills that I have learned in Team #3255


FIRST taught me to be a leader. It taught me to have the vision that will be the driving force of an effective team, working for a common goal. FIRST taught me how to delegate and see the best in my team, recognizing their natural abilities, talents and skills, and then to inspire them to grow and to develop and adopt the same vision, the same dream and goal. FIRST taught me how to manage a team and manage my time, turning dreams into plans and achiveable goals.


What I loved about FIRST is that it is fun! It is indeed the hardest fun I have ever had as a youth. It is so exciting to see a little team of extraordinary youths come together, set aside differences, and dream toghether. From week one to week six, we wore the same uniform, ate the same food, and  shared the same dream. The team was so much more than a team, we truly were a family. We shared so many moments of happiness and joy as we learned and built together, we shared moments of heartache and trouble as some plans faild, and as some ideas crumbled. Tears were shed, both tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Sometimes arguments got heated, but like a good family, it all ends with hugs and reconciliation.


What I also loved about FIRST are the mentors! The mentors truly are my heroes. The vision that they had built my vision in so many ways, I almost cannot count. The most vauable gift they gave me was nothing tangible but something more, time. The time that they gave, the passion that they had is what inspires me today to be the best I can. Some of the most bright and inspiring men and women I know are the mentors of team #3255 The Super NURDs. Because of them, I am the young man I am today. I love my mentors, I was proud to be one even if it was only for the 2013 season. I do not even know if I deserve to be called a mentor, as I look at these dedicated men and woman who sacrifice hours of time, talent, and resource to challenge the rising generation dream a little bigger. 


I love FIRST because it gave me identity. I know who I am thanks to FIRST. I am a Mechanical Engineer! I did not have that vision. I knew nothing of what I was born to be until I joined team #3255. I knew nothing of confidence until I joined FIRST. I knew nothing of true friendship until I joined FIRST.  I am proud of who I am thanks to FIRST. FIRST gave me the idea, the examples, the recources, the lessons, the confidence, everything to become who I am today. I am a FIRST alumni, and it fills me with joy to say this. 


In short, FIRST was the best decision of my life. I know who I am, who I will be, how I will provide for my future wife and five to eight children. FIRST gave me the tools to be that person. FIRST gave me the tools to be an Engineer."

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