DEWBOT VIII Chairmans Award

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The FIRST Chairman's Award

FIRST writes about the award

"The FIRST Robotics Competition is about much more than the mechanics of building a robot or winning a competitive event. It is about the partnership among people who are part of the FIRST community and the impact on those who participate in FIRST programs with a united goal of achieving FIRST’s mission. The FIRST mission is to change the way young people regard science and technology and to inspire an appreciation for the real-life rewards and career opportunities in these fields."
"The Chairman’s Award was created to keep the focus of the FIRST Robotics Competition on our ultimate goal to transform the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology, as well as encourage more of today’s youth to become scientists, engineers, and technologists."
"The Chairman’s Award represents the spirit of FIRST. It honors the team that, in the judges’ estimation, best represents a model for other teams to emulate, and which embodies the goals and purpose of FIRST. It remains FIRST’s most prestigious award."

(Note, submissions are limited to 10,000 characters in the submission. That is why you'll find numbers as digits, not words, we try to cram as much robotic goodness into our limited space. Likewise with the Summary Answers, space is very limited. So put down your red marking pen!)

Also see our general Chairman's Award page, and compare this year eight-year submission to first year DEWBOT I.

2012 Award Summary

Briefly describe the impact of the FIRST program on team participants with special emphasis on the 2011/2012 year and the preceding two years

Several students were accepted by colleges for higher programs due their experience with FIRST. A student, initially rejected from Penn State’s Honors, was later accepted after discussing her involvement with FRC. In addition, many students applied their knowledge with FIRST in their research in college. An autistic student first joined Team 1640 as a programmer. Over time, the programmer learned to communicate his ideas effectively, as well as lead the software development team as a senior.

Examples of role model characteristics for other teams to emulate

Team 1640 strives for excellence in providing STEM education and open sourcing novel ideas for the benefit of society. The Pivot Drive Train, pioneered by students and mentors, found success not only in competition, but also in education. By releasing documentation, students from an Ohio High School were able to utilize the information in their physics class. Team 1640’s open source efforts allowed further improvements through open forum discussions that supports the ideal of Coopertition.

Describe the impact of the FIRST program on your team and community with special emphasis on the 2011/2012 year and the preceding two years

Six members were privileged to serve on the committee for the construction of a STEM Academy. The new STEM Academy features a robotics class thanks to support from FIRST members. The STEM Academy fosters the philosophy of collaborative pedagogy and hands on learning, both tenets of FIRST’s mission. Before, students interested in STEM simply learned but did not experience. Now, with the establishment of STEM and Team 1640’s initiative to promote STEM education for all, aspiring students rejoice.

Team's innovative methods to spread the FIRST message

Team 1640 collaborates with schools and local municipalities to spread FIRST’s philosophy. The district participates in a monthly radio show that broadcasts all over the county. Team 1640 had the privilege of sharing recent activities twice. Furthermore, Team 1640 attends community events to spark interest in kids about FIRST and STEM. Team 1640 excited visitors at the Franklin Institute. Team 1640 also attended a science fair to spread the ideals of gracious professionalism and teamwork.

Describe the strength of your partnership with special emphasis on the 2011/2012 year and the preceding two years

Growth in the partnership between Team 1640 and businesses, schools, and the neighborhood help support STEM education. The school district continues to sponsor robotics through promotion. Boeing, a key sponsor, provided the team with funds as well as opportunities to share the products of hard work at seminars and symposiums. Through Bentley, Team 1640 presented our robot and program at FIATECH’s (a technology panel) annual meeting, emphasizing the importance of business, education, and STEM.

Team's communication methods and results

Team 1640 is known for its information and media rich website. Educators all over the world access the information. In addition, Team 1640 leverages the vast social networks to bring in experienced scientists and technicians. Team 1640 actively participates at Chief Delphi and markets itself through the eye catching blue and yellow tshirts as well as the large screw driver, a replica of our mascot. Statistics show that the messages has been spread: a net gain of over 70 students and mentors.

Other matters of interest to the FIRST judges, if any

Nietzsche once said, “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. Team 1640 started as a humble team of handful students who loved their work. The team was forced to move many times. Yet, Team 1640 looked forward and found temporary spots to continue on. The team expanded beyond one high school to many school districts. Now, Team 1640 draws students from the entire county. Despite lesser resources and lack of funds, the FIRST mission persists. We don’t give up, we just get stronger.

2012 Chairmans Award Essay

No one expected a student-managed club to spearhead an educational revolution – one of science and technology. No one expected the student minority to preach the gospel of a great scientific awakening that would spur the rise of STEM initiatives across the region. The significance of a robotics team can be, at times, undermined by economic and political problems; but the story, which generations will continue to pass down, is legendary. Team 1640 was the shift to the paradigm.

The last two years marked key milestones in Team 1640’s history. First, the team produced a vital creation through an innovative engineering cycle and robust documentation that would help solidify Team 1640’s role as a leading open source force. Second, team members participated in the construction of a new local high school based on the principles of STEM and collaboration. Finally, Team 1640 also presented at various seminars and symposiums to spread the robotics and FIRST message. Throughout the process, STEM education was a key facet of the message spread. However, Team 1640 also wanted to uphold the philosophies of FIRST – gracious professionalism and coopertition. Students and mentors shared their experiences and instilled FIRST mission along the way. For 1640, science and technology education is the body that does the work, FIRST’s philosophy is the soul that breathes life into it. Without one another, the message would fall apart and the process would be meaningless. But together, Team 1640 strives to increase interest in STEM and open doors for many.

Through the FIRST program, Team 1640 unlocked the doors of opportunity for many alumnis. Penn State is a dream school for many, but there are those who strive for acceptance at the prestigious Stryer’s Honors College within Penn State. The requirements are strict and the acceptance rate is low. Students make then separate themselves from their cohorts and demonstrate their factors that make them unique. FIRST was, and still is, a factor that drew the difference. FIRST was the factor that propelled Siri into the prestigious Honors College. She was accept to Penn State but couldn’t enter the Honors College; however, when Siri told the acceptance officer about her experience with FRC, Penn State accepted her. Siri was captain of the robotics team and sought to get more girls interested in STEM fields. She’s commitment to robotics brought her back year after year as an alumni mentor. At Styer’s Honor, Siri traveled to Africa as part of an exchange program. And FIRST was the factor that got her in.

[Editor's Note: This story is an accidentally inaccurate compilation of the stories of two former Team 1640 captains. It will be clarified in next year's submission; apologies to Siri and Ben (no relation to the Ben hereinbelow).]

Another student, Ben, started out as an anti-social programmer. Ben was autistic and had trouble communicating his ideas with fellow programmers. His irritability at times caused conflict between members who did not understand the internal problems Ben faced. One year later, Ben would overcome his problems and stand out as the head programmer who led his subteam towards victory. He learned to socialize with other members and students. By teaching new programmers how to program, Ben gained experience in mentoring as well as patience. On competition day, Ben learned to manage the stress load and worked with the programming team to resolve code bugs promptly. He developed his leadership as effectively as he developed his code. Through robotics, Ben became interested in RIT and applied there. He was accepted.

Knowing the benefits of FIRST, Team 1640 realized that education was the best method to spread FIRST’s initiatives. At the time, the school district researched and considered building a third high school, one based on STEM. The school district sought for local scientists, engineers, and educators with a background in STEM to help ensure the new style of education would meet the future’s demands. Team 1640 had seven members apply to the committee and all were accepted. Most interestingly, two of the members were students. DASD formed a committee of teachers, administrators, businesses, residents, politicians, and students to discuss the development of the school. Team 1640 encouraged a robotics program at the school and promoted the Engineering by Design program. In addition, Team 1640 encouraged closer integration of education and the robotics program. To ensure students were truly prepared, Team 1640 supported implementing an International Baccalaureate program with STEM because future students needed communication and world knowledge to penetrate the future world market. The new STEM Academy incorporated the philosophy of FIRST: teamwork, mentorship, collaboration, and professionalism. Unlike the traditional way of teaching, students at the STEM Academy worked together to solve a common problem, similar to FRC. Juniors and seniors could apply for internships where through mentorship will gain hand-on experience. The guidance and career center department listed STEM opportunities such as jobs, college visits, and more. When STEM was off the ground, the connection between education and robotics has never been greater.

Team 1640 is well known for many things: that giant screwdriver, a photo-filled wiki with more documentation than most companies, and an innovative Pivot Drive system. What makes Team 1640 a role model, however, is not materialistic, on paper, or even tangible. Rather, it is a remarkable methodology developed and remastered over the years to continuously innovate and create. It is a methodology that upholds the ideals of gracious professionalism, mixed with the ideals of democracy and fueled by the open-source platform. The radical Pivot Drive came from years of testing, input, design, and construction from many people. And when Team 1640 made a breakthrough with the Drive, Team 1640 continued to innovative and improve. Knowing well that others may have ideas, Team 1640 published documentation for the system online. Schools around the world have used the documentation to teach students about design and robotics. Forums on the public net have talked about ways to make the Pivot better and more reliable. Team 1640 embodies the idea that great things come from collaboration and open knowledge. It provides opportunities for students to interact and put their minds to work. It builds leadership and communication skills that stay with students for life.

Not only does the FIRST philosophy spread, it is incorporated through the various activities of the club. Because of the deep integration, the message sticks and continues to spread. People start to notice the uniqueness of Team 1640 and sponsors love to invite the team for public presentations.

Bentley Systems invited Team 1640 to the prestigious FIATECH conference in Philadelphia to share the latest creations as well as explain the concept of FIRST. The audience was intrigued and astonished that most schools did not share the same style of pedagogy and mission. They were thrilled that the robotics program existed to help many students succeed. Team 1640 also attended the science fair at the Franklin Institute, where the team presented to families and young children. In addition, Team 1640 excited the elementary students of Sugartown Academy. Team 1640’s presence expanded from a single high school in one school district to many high schools in many school districts. Throughout the expansion, the message of FIRST continued to seep into new territories. The team helped spark several FTC and FLL teams around the region and hosted many robotics events.

As Nietzsche once said, “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. Team 1640 started as a humble team of handful students who loved their work. The district, through poor judgment, kicked the team out at times in the economic depression. However, the school respected the FIRST philosophy to the point of incorporating parts into the STEM Academy’s mission. Team 1640 looked forward and found temporary spots to continue on, knowing that the message must be spread. Future generations will need a productive workforce of scientists and engineers to solve the problems they will face. The team realized the importance of education and breathing life into it through collaboration. The team expanded beyond one high school into two high schools, and then one district to many districts. Schools around the world study the open source documentation on the website and perpetuate the idea of gracious professionalism. Businesses love the work of the robotics team and help encourage others to adopt the powerful mission of FIRST. They work closely with the team to inspire. There may be a larger family, lesser resources, lack of funds, and lack of a home. At times, the shop may get ice cold with little heating available. The team may have to move twice in a year. Still, the FIRST mission persists. We don’t give up, we just get stronger.