DEWBOT VI Chairmans Award
Chairman's Essay Overview
Every year there is a competition by teams for the Chairman's Award. This award is given by the Chairman of US FIRST to the team that has done the most across the last two years to present the ideals, goals and objectives of the FIRST Robotics program to the public. There are 60 regional awards given (we are competing at the Finger Lakes Regional). Winners from the regionals are entered in the Championships, that winner is placed in the FIRST Hall of Fame and gets to meet with the President of the United States.
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."
2010 is a milestone for Team 1640 Sab-BOT-age. We've reached the point where we are not just focused on building a robot but are building robot awareness in our schools and our community. The following is our entry. Only 10% of the 1300 FRC teams submit entries.
(Note, we 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. So put down your red marking pen!)
2010 Chairman's Award Essay
Team sab-BOT-age has experienced slow and steady growth across the last six years. From our start with a single mentor and 8 students we have grown into a team of 30 students and 15 mentors with 3 alumni mentors. At the same time our engineering skills have increased. Our robots have gone from unassuming kit-bot based robot to highly engineered ones. Students have gone from mechanical novices to building advanced drive trains and custom transmissions with tight tolerances. Mentors have gone from the basics to teaching advanced engineering. Programming has gone from simple tank drive to a pivot drive with three different modes, and an autonomous mode that can score from 40 feet away.
Our robots are doing well. Last season we won the Rockwell Control Award at Chesapeake for our unique drive train and control system and were the winner of PARC XII.
In 2005 we spent nine weeks building and driving the robot. Once our regional was over, so was robotics. Now robotics is a yearlong activity, a robot from one year is the springboard to the next robot. We do 2 regional contests and 5 off-season events. This year our robot construction has completed in time for us to attend a pre-season event!
In 2005 we were focused on building a robot. In the last 2 years we have focused on out-reach and community events. We have started feeder teams. In 2006 we started a single FVC team with a robot and 4 roboteers. Today that has expanded to 9 robots and over 40 roboteers with 1 robot qualifying for the World Championships! 3 years ago LEGO was a toy, 2 years ago we mentored other teams, today there are 2 Downingtown FLL teams with a huge clamor for more.
We have partnered with a non-profit to spread robotics to other communities. We’ve worked with them to do demonstrations and workshops. A nearby apartment complex started a robotics class for underprivileged students in their after school program. Together we are training adult mentors on how to build desktop robots so that they can then teach their students.
We recently gave an all day demo at the FLL Regional in Philadelphia. Students, teachers and parents are all looking for "what’s after FLL". We were able to show them how to move into the next level of metal and plastic robots and then on to the big robots of FRC. We’ve been asked to come back when our FRC season ends to help them plan and prepare for 2010/2011.
Our school district has also noticed our growth and maturing process. We have gone from a money sink and a consumer of space to a partner in shaping the district’s technology planning. We've been asked to help demonstrate robotics as a 21st Century school core competency. We've been instrumental in getting state funding by being a district example of STEM in action. The district is creating a new STEM Academy; 7 of our members (students and mentors) out of 20 community members are on the core decision team. We are building on this partnership as another way to spread the FIRST message. Hands on robotics programs – land, water and air - designed around FIRST ideals.
We have gotten here by following a few simple steps. First is to follow the core of FIRST, and inspire students about engineering. It's a core activity and a core focus. We try every day to inspire students. We are engineers and engineering is very cool.
Second is to look around at all of the other FIRST teams. There are a number of award winning and leader teams recognized in the FIRST community. We look at what they do, how they do it and take their best ideas. We then attempt to refine, improve and fit them into our organization. We attempt to stand on the shoulders of giants.
Third is a process of continuous improvement. We pick a small number of areas each year to improve on. We work on them and make them better. In the past years we've worked on improving our non-engineering skills. It's gotten better; this essay is an example. The Chairman’s award is a way to stretch our team, to have goals and a measuring stick on how well we are doing in reaching them.
Fourth is telling everyone about what we are doing. The old adage is that advertising works, and we advertise when ever possible. We have a wiki based website, Team1640.com. This means that roboteers and mentors can and do update the website without special skills. It's our primary collaboration tool and memory book. Everything about the team, robots, engineering, and activities is available. It is one stop shopping for everything we do.
We find that hands on demos are the best; once you drive a robot you are hooked. In our area community days are popular gatherings and we attend the four closest to us. There is no event that we are invited to that we won't go, and we have brazenly begged for (and received) invitations to others.
We've presented robotics for the Girl Scouts Girls in Gears program. We’ve brought robots and our women roboteers and mentors to the Girls Exploring Tomorrow's Technology (GETT) programs. A number of our sponsors have their own outreach programs and they have asked us to come present to the children of their employees.
Our large public exposure generates interest in robotics and the many FIRST programs. The message is getting out; we've gone from 8 to over 100 roboteers that are part of Downingtown Robotics. More importantly there are smaller robotics programs springing up around us.
So how are we doing with our key people, our students?
Two comments from new students, the first is a freshman: "Being in robotics as a first year freshman has been an overwhelming process of hard work and preparation. When I started, I was unaware of how many skills I would learn and if they would be used later in life. I questioned the importance of building a robot that could be used to kick a ball over a bump. Well, I discovered that robotics has a deeper meaning than just building robots. It is a journey of hard work that motivates students to be more than themselves and to work together for a common goal. As time progresses, I can not wait to see the final result of the robot, as well as the robots I will build in the future."
The second is a senior, but a first year roboteer: "Being in robotics as a senior makes me wish I joined the team years ago. I'm learning so much, and I've made new friends too. Being on an FRC team has taught me to think outside of the box. I enjoy spending a lot of time working on the robot, doing a variety of tasks from using power tools and testing prototypes to painting bumpers and designing team buttons. It's really exciting seeing all our efforts come together for the regional competitions. Although it's sad to say that this is my last build season as a student, I'm really looking forward to participating in the competitions."
Our current team Co-Captain and a three year robot veteran says "I’ve known about the high school FRC team since middle school because my older sister joined the team her sophomore year of high school. Now as a junior I look back at pictures of my freshman year and laugh at myself seeing how far I’ve come. All I think about while looking at the pictures is about how hands off I look, and how little I know. Robotics has taught me a lot about electronic devices, using machinery, and how many different areas it takes to successfully develop a useful product. As a junior, I am Co-Captain of the team and a member of the competition, mechanical, electrical, and media teams. After 3 years robotics feels like a major part of my high school life."
In the past three years 100% of our students have gotten into college. 90% have gotten their first choice. Last year's Captain is part of a Penn State University honors program that only takes the top 2% of students.
Mentors benefit from our partnership. One mentor says "I love teaching kids skills they won’t get in school. The best is while I watch they have that 'Ah Ha' moment where it all clicks together." On the other hand a 7-year mentor says "It's a second childhood for me with better tools."
Parents have also benefited from FIRST and Downingtown Robotics. Our total of scholarship money is increasing. Last year our graduating roboteers had over $100 thousand dollars in grants and scholarships. It’s a small reward for them giving us their children.
So our partnerships have been successful and we continue to strengthen them every day.
We continue to work the partnerships to ensure our sustainability. We have a robotics-learning path from elementary school to high school, a constant stream of roboteers for the future. Our expanding pool of roboteers means we have access to an expanding pool of engineer and scientist parents that translates into more mentors. We are also starting to see the return of former roboteers with new technology degrees to be mentors.
We are seeing repeating sponsors but more importantly new sponsors. The days of big dollar sponsors are gone, but we are able to fill funding needs by smaller sponsors. The improved relationship with the district has secured our robotics workshops and training rooms. This means we won’t need to bug out to a barn during a teachers strike like we did twice in 2008.
The founding 2004/05 team would not recognize today's team or robot. But they would be proud to know that they were a catalyst for greatness. They would be pleased that they had started us down FIRST path and that we are moving steadily and surely along that path.
Our founding mentor, who is disabled and not with us writes "I took a big risk with no mentors and little money and applied for the NASA grant with a dream of creating a team that would grow each year and become a self-sustaining entity. My greatest joy is watching that team grow in every way that FIRST envisioned."
FIRST and Downingtown Robotics – inspiring students about science, technology and engineering!