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ARM Institute Interviews Lily Sand on Robotics Win

June 9, 2023

Philadelphia junior, Lily Sand, is quite literally aiming for the stars. When asked what she wants to do with her future, she shares that she’d like to be an aeronautical engineer. She’s quiet for a moment and clarifies the true dream: an astronaut. She says this with conviction, and given all she has accomplished so far, it’s not difficult to see why. In mid-2022, the ARM Institute interviewed Lily and her sister Molly on their experience within their respective robotics teams, and a lot has changed since! Lily recently competed in the most senior age bracket of FIRST Robotics, and her sophomore year has drawn to a close. As for Molly, she graduated high school and is currently working in a lab, with big plans to study neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania next school year.

Lily has been interested in robotics for as long as she can remember. When asked what prompted this interest, she says, “I’ve just always liked solving problems, and from a really young age, STEM was the perfect place for that.” Given this, the presence of a strong robotics team was imperative to her high school experience, which is what led to her choosing Philadelphia’s Central High School. And when it comes to robotics, the problem-solving Lily mentioned is an absolute must-have, which is why the ARM Institute has included it as an essential skill relevant to robotics careers.

From Districts to Worlds

Lily and her team of 170 members, the RoboLancers, designed the robot pictured below for this year’s FIRST Robotics competition.

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This robot, like all robots competing in FIRST, was designed to accomplish a specific task. The game for this competition was called Charged Up, lending itself to the competition’s theme of electricity, and the goal was to get as many small cubes as possible across the playing field and onto shelves. The greatest challenge Lily’s team had to overcome? Not troubleshooting the mechanics, working in such a large team, or finding the time with already busy schedules, but something greater than them: socioeconomic circumstance. Lily astutely observes that having access to such high-quality STEM programs is not the norm, which is something many competitors are actively working to change.

While the robots are impressive, what makes FIRST Robotics Competitions different than others, is that it is largely centered around community outreach. One of the ways FIRST demonstrates this is with one of the biggest awards of the competition: the FIRST Impact award. Given the emphasis Lily’s team places on outreach, even going so far as to register as a nonprofit to help fund other robotics teams, it’s no surprise that they cruised through the district and state levels of the competition regarding their impact. But in Houston, at the Worlds’ level, Lily and the RoboLancers were shocked when their team was announced as one of six FIRST Impact finalists from across the globe. Reminiscing on hearing that they were finalists, Lily shares, “We had never gotten this far. We were just happy to have made it to Houston, because even just seeing that environment is so incredibly life changing.” When she shares details from their team’s name then being called as the winner, the surprise is palpable even now. She recounts feeling as though she was in a trance walking up to the stage, and muses that no one on her team could form words for several minutes. as a Resource

Lily knows she wants to continue her path with robotics, but as she’s only approaching her junior year, she hasn’t started narrowing down her future education options. However, when she’s ready, the ARM Institute’s free national resource will be there to help her search for training programs near her. When asked what she thinks of the platform, she expressed that it will be of great use when it comes time to find the education path that will lead to her future career. By using, Lily can specify which essential skills and technical competencies she’s looking to build upon, and receive matches to training programs based on those parameters. And down the line when she’s ready to find her career, will be waiting for her with thousands of relevant job listings from employers, all searching for a well-rounded, ambitious candidate like Lily.

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