Neil Cooper, 26, is ready for the challenges ahead and whatever challenge may arise and with confidence, he is meeting them head-on. He's a mechanical engineer currently working for the United States’ Department of Defense. [FIRST] “It's incredibly rewarding,” he said recently. “I've traveled to Afghanistan and am currently working for six months in Maryland. Being a part of the team opened the doors to a world that I didn't know was out there.”
Neil was a member of the Lake Orion's Team 302: The Dragons FIRST robotics team while attending Lake Orion High School. He graduated High School in 2007 and mentored for a year after that. He's grateful for the knowledge and experience he gained after he made the decision to join the team.
As a “techie”, all the structure and pre-planned education didn't ignite his imagination. “Early in high school I wasn't focused; I didn't get the best grades and wasn't the best student,” he said. “I didn't put a lot of effort into school--It wasn't interesting” When he started in with Team 302, his attention started to change. He started to focus!“ I learned about robotics, engineering, CAD and electronics,” he said. “And, I learned about the real world.” The “real world” he learned was how to work through problems real world professionals deal with. He learned how to work in a team, how to read his teammates and, in a word, to be a “professional.
”Through his own dedication and hard work, he's had half of his Undergraduate schooling paid for and is having his Graduate studies at Duke University sponsored through his current employer. “You get out what you put into it,” he said. “When I graduated, I came back and was a mentor. Becoming a part of Dragons FIRST was one of the best decision I made in School. You really do get out what you put in. I definitely had a leg up on graduation... but you don't have to be a technical person. Students in FIRST can lean about marketing, websites, programming and how to run a Bridgeport. There's a lot there if you're willing to put some effort in.”