A Robot Runs Through It: Generation Z and America’s better future.

fullsizerender-1“The melting pot of America was not seething with resentment, anger, conflict or division in building that robot.

It was boiling with cooperation, collaboration, leadership, vision, community and purpose in building that robot.”


Much has been written and talked about with respect to the so-called Millennial Generation.

Depending on your perspective they are either the most ridiculous, lazy and self-entitled generation in history, or the most creative, empathetic and well-rounded generation in history.

Somewhere along the line of generational history I suspect the G.I., the Silent, the Baby Boom and the Baby Boom generation were either celebrated or dismissed for one reason or another.

For those of you keeping track the Population Reference Bureau goes back to the late 1800’s to describe the Hard Timers and New Worlders generation.

I can only imagine what people at the time thought of those generation of young Americans!

The next generation that will come after the Millennial Generation is the group that my children, The Dude and The Daughter, occupy:  Generation Z.

Or, as Wikipedia alternately refers to them:  Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, or the Homeland Generation.

Further, in describing the characteristics of Generation Z, Wikipedia states  “A significant aspect of this generation is the widespread usage of the Internet from a young age. Members of Generation Z are typically thought of as being comfortable with technology, and interacting on social media websites for a significant portion of their socializing. Some commentators have suggested that growing up through the Great Recession has given the cohort a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.”

I can’t tell you whether my kids have a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.

I know that many Americans have feelings of unsettlement and insecurity with respect to the future of this country.

I am here to assure you that those concerns should be allayed when contemplating the future of America in the hands of Generation Z.

This past weekend I had the distinct honor and privilege to join with hundreds of parents at a suburban school outside of St. Paul for the First Tech Challenge/High Tech Kids Challenge.

The event featured scores of school teams engaged in a high-tech competition involving robots that they built, programmed and operated through multiple rounds of required tasks to demonstrate their technological skills and abilities.

This post isn’t, however, about robots.

It’s about the young boys and girls that built them.

To be sure the robots were amazing.  They hummed, whirred, spun around, moved back and forth, lifted platforms, carried objects and threw them into small confined spaces.

To a guy with a C minus intellect whose vision of creating a drawer of dressers devolved into a wobbly corner shelf during carpentry class I was blown away by the accomplishment of these young people in their robot creations.

But, I was more blown away by the hundreds of people inside that auditorium that day.

If we viewed the world only through the lens of the television news, read about it in our newspapers or learned about it from the radio, it would be easy to imagine America on fire.

We could be excused for believing that our nation’s diverse tapestry is being torn apart by a clash of race and civilization that is rooted in hate, fear, disrespect and intolerance.

Not being naïve I know that there are times and moments in America where that tapestry has been torn.

It has become frayed in some corners of America.  In fact, the middle of that fabric has become weaker as its strands have been pulled and pushed apart by conflict, anger and misunderstanding.

Still, in the room that day were boys and girls of every size, color, shape and ability.  Big smiles, handshakes, high-fives, hugs and words of encouragement came and went from black kids to white kids.

Joy and disappointment, celebration and despair, were in the shoulders and steps of every child that day from kids born in America, those born elsewhere and those whose ethnicity spanned the globe.

The robots they built were amazing.

The effort that went into building them is even more amazing.

Because to be successful at the end, one must be successful in the beginning.

Success, defined for this story, is children making the decision to work together to create something good and meaningful.

To work together without regard or consideration for the color of the fingers of the boy or girl using a tool to put two pieces of metal together.

To work together not noting the accent of the girl or boy who is reading them instructions about the next steps to program a robot.

To work together not caring if the boy or girl next to them was born in America or came to America who is trying to manage the controls to move the robot’s parts in a way that makes it move back, forward, right, left, up and down.

In every auditorium in America that pot boils.

In every classroom.  On every playground.

That pot boils.

I believe every generation of Americans is the greatest generation.

Every generation has its flaws, weaknesses, shortcomings and success and failures.

It’s not being the perfect generation that has made America great.

It’s the imperfect generations that strive for perfection that has made America great.

In that auditorium that day I was reminded of that as I nearly fell over from screaming and cheering that a little robot that my Generation Z Daughter and her friends and classmates had conceived and conspired together to build lifted a big blue ball up off the ground.

It will be the same generation that someday will lift the big blue ball called Earth ever further.

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