Dean's List

From Team 449 Wiki

The Dean's List award is given to sophomores and juniors on FTC and FRC teams who show exemplary leadership and a passion for STEM. It is a reference to both Dean Kamen, co-founder of FIRST, and the collegiate concept of a "dean's list".



Criteria for selection of the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge FIRST Dean’s List Award shall include, but not be limited to a student’s:

  • Demonstrated leadership and commitment to the ideals of FIRST
  • Effectiveness at increasing awareness of FIRST in the school and community
  • Interest in and passion for a long-term commitment to FIRST
  • Overall individual contribution to their team
  • Technical expertise and passion
  • Entrepreneurship and creativity
  • Ability to motivate and lead fellow team members

From 449

A student must:

  • Be an active junior on the team
  • Participate on the team for at least one calendar year (except in incredibly special circumstances)
  • Demonstrate the mission of FIRST through their work on the team
  • Possess a wide range of skills, including non-technical experience


Laura Espinoza

I was nominated by the team for 2017 Steamworks and had my interview at our first District Event (Greater DC). Although a lot of my interests do not lie in STEM, I have been an active team member since my freshman year. I started out on the mechanics subteam and became the Vice President of Communications for my junior year.

When I walked into the interview, there were two female interviewers. One of them did not want to shake my hand, but I am not sure if this was a personal preference or because she was sick. First tip: Offer to shake hands and do not be offended if they decline. Also, please provide a firm handshake. Nothing is worse than a limp-fish hand. Nothing.

They then launched into questions, asking me why I joined the team and just asking me to tell them about myself. This is possibly the hardest question to ever have to answer. Second tip: Be prepared to give an elevator speech about yourself, no more than 1-2 minutes in order to give them time to ask follow-up questions.

We talked a lot about what I accomplished as a mechanics member and how I transitioned from a technical to a non-technical role on the team. Specifically, I talked about my experience creating a brand-new subteam and the challenges that we faced along the way. In the end, they went over the 7-minute time limit, but we talked a lot about outreach events we have participated in. Third tip: Do not be afraid to brag about the team! Outreach is the main goal of this award, so try to connect your technical experience with how that has helped spread the mission of FIRST and STEM.

After all the district events, they selected 9 semi-finalists to move on to the District Championships. I was chosen as a semi-finalist, which I had not been expecting at all. At District Champs, I arrived at my interview about 10 minutes early (which caused a lot of confusion because a volunteer had been looking for me to take me to my interview, but I was already there).

This time, there were three women in the room. I shook all of their hands and we quickly moved along because of the 7-minute time limit. They asked me if there was anything I wanted to add that I did not talk about during the initial interview. This stumped me because it had been a couple of weeks, and I did not remember what I had said. I knew they had notes about what I talked about, so I was very afraid of repeating myself. Fourth tip: As soon as you leave your first interview, write down the questions and your responses in case you get to move on. Especially focus on what you wished you had said differently.

I ended up reiterating my goals for the team and our current outreach, citing some problems with team mentality towards outreach vs. building. They then asked about my passions, which I knew what they were, but I struggled to connect them with STEM. In the end, I spoke a lot about lifting up women and minorities (which may have been a dud because all three judges were white, and I'm not sure how they felt about that) in any way that allows me to do so. I probably could have expanded this goal into a more STEM-focused passion, but I did the best I could with the time I had. Fifth tip: Stay true to yourself, but be prepared to make your ideas STEM and outreach-oriented. In the end, this is what Dean's List is about.

During the awards ceremony, I was not chosen as a Dean's List finalist, which, I must admit, was rather disappointing. I felt that I had given it my best shot, and sometimes it just is not meant to be. In the end, I know that FIRST attracts the best of the best, and we are facing some really tough competition across the board. Do not be discouraged if you are not chosen to advance further in this award. Know that the team chose you to represent them out of so many qualified students and did not do so lightly. Best of luck to all future Dean's List nominees from Team 449.

Chris Wang

A little about me: I was a junior, in electronics, and was VP of Finances when I was nominated in 2016/2017. I was interviewed at a district event, but didn't make it past that.

The award focuses not only on your own impact on the team and community, but how you've led the team in broadening impact. It's important that you demonstrate your passion for the team, but also important that you demonstrate your involvement in outreach and community service through the team. Don't make stuff up! Be honest and talk about what you're proud of.

Questions that you may be asked:

  • Introduce yourself.
  • What is your role on the team?
  • Why is FRC and robotics important to you?
  • How have you served your team and community?
  • Why do you think you were nominated for this award?

Regarding introductions: Come up with a one to two minute elevator-pitch style intro for your role, what you've accomplished, and why it's important. Expand on what you say as they ask you questions, but think of a underlying theme for what you talk about. First impressions are critical.

You should read the essays that the mentors and your peers write about you. They may ask questions about the contents and/or experiences mentioned.

Stories are important. You're trying to convince the judges that you are worthy of the award. Merely telling them what you've done/think you've accomplished is usually not enough; you want some sort of narrative you can give to them.

Present yourself with confidence and poise. Introduce yourself, speak up, and smile. Look and act like you're exited and happy to be interviewed, even if you aren't.

Run through some questions and answers with some of the mentors. It will help you immensely. They can give you advice on just about everything you may need.

There's a seven minute time limit for the interview. Don't feel pressured by it, but be conscious of it. Go into detail, but not excessive detail. The judges are FIRST alumni, and are familiar with what we do. My interview went two or so minutes over the time.

Find some of us listed on this page if you still have any questions. We'll be happy to answer them!

Urjita Das

Pro tip #1: Mentors are there to help you!

Before I entered my interview, I had stood outside, pacing back in forth in the cold, reviewing my answer to some basic questions that were predicted to be asked. I had Mr. Pederesen overhear my responses and give me feedback on both the content and my performance. He'd tell me to slow down often, watch my phrasing of words, and definitely place greater emphasis on certain topics. Mentors are pros at interviews, and so take advantage of their perspective view of the team and their expertise.

Pro tip #2: Give them what they want to hear! Be unique!

I wasn't chosen as a Dean's List nominee because I emphasized too much on team organization and our leadership hierarchy, which if you think about it, honestly isn't what the judges want to hear. They want to hear about IMPACT. The impact you've had on the team, your community, and FIRST overall. They want to hear about your interactions with doing things differently, in ways that are atypical! Make yourself memorable by not being cliche!

Pro tip #3: Be SPECIFIC. Paint a narrative!

So during my interview, I talked about Rockville Science Day and TPMS night. Outreach to them is such a familiar topic. Every team does outreach like us, so it doesn't help your campaign if you're like the other nominees. Instead, make outreach something special and dear to you, so that it paints a narrative and really stands out in comparison to the other stories. Talk about an outreach opportunity that really hit home.

Pro tip #4: Always talk about improvement

It's great to hear what you've done in the past, but how about the impact and difference you're going to do in the future. When they ask to hear more, definitely emphasize what you want to do different. Tell them your vision. FIRST loves to hear about making goals, and helping them improve with every coming year!

Pro tip #5: Technically there are 14 of us.

Every year there are two nominees. Dean's List was created in 2010. That means, technically, there are 14 of us that you can approach for advice! Feel free to run practice sessions with any of us and ask for help :).

Harrison Zheng

My History: I joined the team as a freshman for the 2012 season (Rebound Rumble) as part of the programming team. For the 2013 season (Ultimate Ascent) I was a project lead (device was down selected and never put on), helped with the code, and was on the drive team as a device operator. For the 2014 season (Rebound Rumble) I was the team vice-president, and for 2015 I was team president. Now I'm an engineering director for the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team (shameless plug here), so some things don't change.

Submission Process My year was the first year they started doing the interviews, so there was still a heavy emphasis on the essay. I don't have access to the essay right now, so if that's still important, maybe it's worth a look at that. You were only allowed to submit a Dean's List nominee to one regional, so the team chose to enter my submission to the Greater DC regional since that was a home regional, and judging at the time seemed to have a bias for locals.

Interview Before the interview I basically prepared by myself by going through expected questions in my head. I did debate, and also in Boy Scouts there's this part of the promotion process call the Board of Review which is basically a 15min interview with 3 adults.... so I was pretty well versed at interviewing at the time. Would definitely more prep for people without the same practice.

As I was waiting, Evan Feinberg gave me the following insight "You'll probably win at the regional since here they mainly focus on your impact on the team. You definitely won't win at Champs since there they focus on your outreach impact." YMMV as times may have changes, but in typical Evan fashion he was spot on....

During the interview, the Judges asked a bit about what I did outside of robotics, and then asked clarifying details about what I did on the team In particular:

  • I emphasized we were a student run team: not all teams our like ours, in general 449 student leadership takes on way more responsibility than other teams students
  • They want concrete examples of leadership : I mentioned how I send weekly Subteam Leader Updates and also spend a lot of time working with project leads on integration.
  • I got asked about how FRC connects to robotics outside my life: I mentioned how Boy Scouts really taught me basic leadership skills and also how Boy Scouts got me into robotics in the first place

In a surprise turn of events, one of the judges was an Eagle Scout.... that probably helped a lot....

During the awards ceremony I found out I was a Dean's List finalist. I was proud since as lame as it sounds, I feel like we won it as a team. 449 really has a great culture of student leadership, and I felt like winning the award was a reflection of that.

I also went to champs that year. Since you guys went yourselves, you pretty much know the deal. :)

Final Thoughts

  • Be yourself, I can't stress how important that is.
  • Practice interviewing: It's an important life skill (guess what the main way you get a job is...) so learn it well
  • Give concrete examples of what you did
  • Evan's advice analysis was spot on for me, honestly, I think most team leads on 449 are good enough to be Deans List Finalists.