FIRST in Florida Stories is a new occasional series we’ll be running here, to showcase some of our amazing youth and the impact that FIRST has had on their lives, and that they have had on ours. We’re delighted to feature Alexa Baires-Jovel, a high school senior from Pine Hills, Florida, and co-team captain and public relations lead for Rock Star Robotics, in the Walt Disney Branch Boys and Girls Club FIRST program.
This past season she participated on both the Club’s FIRST Tech Challenge team, and their FIRST Robotics Competition team, where she was the primary driver. At the Orlando Regional FIRST Robotics Competition event in March, Rock Star Robotics earned the Rookie Inspiration Award.
This spring, Alexa was part of the Science Friday live show at the Bob Carr Theater in Orlando, where she shared part of her story. Unfortunately, Science Friday did not air our live FIRST segment, so we’re very happy to share Alexa’s full story here, along with her PLuGHiTz Live Radio interview from the Orlando Regional in March.
FF: How long have you been involved in FIRST?
Alexa: I have been involved in FIRST since I was in the 6th grade which was just about 7 years ago.
FFL Why has FIRST been so important to you? How has it inspired you?
Alexa: I was one of the founding members of Rock Star Robotics and being there from the very beginning is something that I see as an accomplishment. It has helped me grow as a person and I have made so many friends in this program. It has inspired me to be more involved in STEM because being the only female on the team I felt inferior to everyone else. But as people came and went I learned how to make myself stand out and I want to inspire other girls to get involved even if they might not plan to make a career out of it.
FF: How has Boys & Girls Club influenced and helped you?
Alexa: Well my Boys & Girls Club has influenced me to open my own non-profit business one day. They helped me realize my full potential and now I feel like it’s my turn to give back to people the best way I know how. As I became more heavily involved at the club I began making a name for myself getting involved in programs such as Keystone, Junior Staff and robotics. This in turn lead me to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, doing things I never thought I could do, such as speaking at last year’s Celebrate the Children fundraising dinner in front of over 1,000 people. In addition to this, they also helped me to obtain a full ride scholarship to Rollins College. Which of course could not be possible without them and all the experiences they offered me that shaped me into who I am now.
FF: Do you think FIRST is a good fit with Boys & Girls Clubs?
Alexa: I absolutely think so. One of the things that made our robotics team so unique was the fact that we all went to separate schools but came together through Boys & Girls Club. I think that the Boys & Girls club also does a good job of bringing together different people of different age groups and backgrounds which would make for a lot of diverse teams.
FF: What are your plans after high school?
Alexa: After High school I will be attending Rollins College and I intend to either join a robotics team there or if they do not have one start my own. Of course, with that I also plan to come back as a mentor for Rock Star Robotics.
FF: Can you share a favorite FIRST story?
Alexa: Well, our team recently participated in the Orlando regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the University of Central Florida, and I recall being picked as the designated after scoring one gear on the peg for our team. It was a lot of pressure and I was really nervous because I didn’t want to let my team down. But after I scored that first time I felt a rush of just pure excitement. I consider this to be my favorite experience in FIRST because that was my last competition before I graduate.
FF: What do you think FIRST can do to help reach more youth and have a bigger impact?
Alexa: I think that FIRST should really push for more Boys & Girls Club teams.The reason I joined my robotics team in the first place was because it was offered to me at my club. There have been so many instances where people were completely in awe of our robot that they themselves want to get involved and because of this we have been able to expand to a FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition teams. So if that isn’t reason enough I don’t know what is.
We completely agree! Check out Alexa’s interview from the Orlando Regional below. If you’d like to share your story with FIRST in Florida, drop us a line via our contact page.
And if you’re inspired by Alexa’s story and interested in starting your own team, registration is now open for all our program levels.