I had the pleasure of attending the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis over the weekend, where for the second year I got to award the Media & Technology Innovation Award, sponsored by Comcast and NBCUniversal.  This year, Team #1538 -- The Holy Cows from San Diego, CA, took home the prize. 

This year’s FIRST Robotics event was special for two reasons. First, we commissioned what turned out to be an incredible trophy for the Media & Technology Innovation Award recipient. 

And second, one of the award designers -- an Assistant Technical Manager for NBCUniversal’s Creative Department, is an active alumnus of the FIRST robotics program. Her name is Erica McCay, and I’m compelled to tell her story because it’s illustrative of what the FIRST program is all about, and why we are so into it, as individuals, and as a company. 

Erica McCay spends her time these days working on "anything that moves" in the Harry Potter section of Universal’s theme park in Hollywood -- animated figures, animated props, special effects -- "anything that isn’t the ride system," McCay told me recently. 

Erica’s passion for technology began as a sophomore at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA, when an early engineering mentor planted an important seed in her mind. 

The mentor told her that it’s entirely possible to do what you love, for a living. 

And considering her experience, Erica jumped at the chance to help design the Media & Technology Innovation Award.   

Erica describes the trophy design this way: "We wanted something kinetic, that used the FIRST symbols of circle, square, triangle -- so we thought about planetary gears, where everything meshes together.  FIRST is all about meshing knowledge, and relationships, and teamwork."  

You can learn more about the award, which recognizes a FIRST team for designing a superior digital experience to promote themselves and the FIRST program as broadly as possible, here.  You can also see the winning team’s website – and their clever and useful "CowTips,"as well as their data gathering "CowScout" app, here

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how exciting it was to visit with four of the 54 FIRST teams sponsored by Comcast this year who made it to the finals: #341, "Miss Daisy," of Ambler, Pa.; #558, Robo Squad, of New Haven, Conn.; #1089, Team Mercury, of Hightstown, N.J., and #3260, SHARP, based in Pittsburgh.  They were tough competitors, and we are truly proud of their accomplishments. As we look ahead to next year, I hope to see more FIRST teams competing to take home the Media & Technology Innovation Award.  We also look forward to continuing our involvement with the FIRST Robotics community and to furthering an enormously important goal: To change the culture of the country by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science & technology leaders.