Gracious Professionalism

Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the term “Gracious Professionalism.” Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended. In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.


Coopertition produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. Coopertition involves learning from team-mates. It is teaching team-mates. It is learning from mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can

We define Gracious Professionalism as…

  • Winning the competition, but not wanting to win at another team’s expense
  • Congratulating the opposing teams when you lose, and not bragging when you win
  • Respecting everyone around you
  • Being polite to others while still trying to do our best
  • Being a team player towards everyone
  • Not doing things that would help only your team, but trying to help out as many other teams as possible
  • Respect the ideas of others, and graciously accept criticism
  • Being able to work hard and accomplish something as a team with minimal arguing
  • Respect and fairness
  • Helping your opponents
  • Working while respecting others
  • Having a positive attitude and not doing anything that will affect others in a negative way
  • Wanting to win, but not at anyone else’s expense
  • Meaning team spirit and helping others who need help and seeing people’s true potential
  • Helping and supporting those around you whether they could be an opponent or an ally
  • Not being a sore loser nor a sore winner and to help those that need help even if they are not on your team.
  • Cooperating, inspiring, and caring for others in everything we do

Coopertition has always been encouraged at FIRST, and Team SPORK has been doing so by mentoring the younger students in Pine Lake Prep and elsewhere in FIRST robotics, math, science, and/or engineering. We also spend much of our meeting time teaching other team members what we have learned in order to make a stronger overall team now and in the future.

Core Values

The FIRST philosophies are expressed our Core Values

  • Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
  • Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
  • Impact: We apply what we learn to improve our world.
  • Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
  • Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
  • Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!