How to Join Downingtown Area Robotics

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Thank you for your interest in Downingtown Area Robotics! Here you'll find everything you'll need to join DAR as a student, parent, mentor, and/or sponsor.

How to Join

Joining as a Student

4th & 5th Graders: To join Downingtown Area Robotics as a 4th or 5th grader (the in FIRST LEGO League program), sign up for FIRST LEGO League through the Downingtown Area Recreation Consortium (DARC).
6th-12th Graders: To join DAR as a 6th through 12th grader, simply come to one of our meetings on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8:30PM at the Downingtown Educational Center (DEC). See directions to DEC for details.
9th-12th Graders: Similar to the 6th-9th graders, 9th-12th graders are welcome to come to come to one of our meetings on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8:30PM at the Downingtown Educational Center (DEC). See directions to DEC for details. Students will be able to experience both the VEX Robotics (grades 6-12) and FIRST Robotics Competition meeting (grades 9-12) and decide which program they would like to join.

Joining as a Mentor

Downingtown Area Robotics prospective adult volunteers to attend a meeting and experience the opportunity first-hand.

  • Any adult is welcome, regardless of profession or skill set
  • Contribute as much or as little time as you’d like
  • Learn & practice new skills through Mentor Training
  • Join the team & start making a difference in kids’ lives!

Joining as a Sponsor

How you can help as part of our sponsor family:

  • Offer monetary and/or in-kind donations
  • Involve employees as mentors and/or volunteers
  • Provide equipment and/or facilities
  • Offer scholarships
  • Provide internships
  • Enjoy recognition and hospitality benefits

Downingtown Area Robotics sponsors are advertised on the t-shirts, FRC robot, VEX field, and program banners and media. The teams travel to dozens of competitions and see thousands of people every year, throughout the local and regional area as well as out of state. Donations are tax-deductible.

Directions to the Downingtown Educational Center

Why Join?

“I'm standing in front of some of the best and brightest in the U.S. and from around the world, and I know you're going to do things that people said could never be done.”
- Joe Astroth, Ph.D, Vice President of Learning and Education, Autodesk (about FIRST Robotics)

Benefits of Becoming a Student Roboteer

In addition to the individual program benefits, FIRST alumni:

  • Become eligible for over $11 million in scholarships
  • Are significantly more likely to attend college (88% versus 53%)
  • Gain increased understanding of science & technology (89% of participants)
  • Learn new practical and work-related skills (90% of participants)
  • Have an increased understanding of teamwork (95% of participants)
  • Gain self-confidence (89% of participants)
  • Are almost 10 times more likely to have an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op their freshmen year (27% to 3%)

Downintown Area Robotics alumni in particular have gone on to prestigious universities including Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, New York University, Boston University, University of Pittsburgh, Penn State's Schreyer Honors College, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Arizona Honors College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Drexel, and The United States Coast Guard Academy. Every graduate has gone on to college, and most have majored in a STEM or business subject. Several alumni have come back to mentor the team, and many partially credit their acceptance and/or success in college to their robotics experience

“The most important part of the FIRST experience for me was being part of a team and getting to know, meet and interact with new people on a personal and professional level.” - FIRST Alumnus
“They get to go all the way from concept to competition and see their ideas play out. There’s nothing better as far as practical application.” - Downingtown Area Robotics Parent

Benefits of Becoming an Adult Mentor

  • Make a difference in students’ lives
  • Be a role model
  • Share your technical and/or professional skills
  • Empower the next generation of STEM professionals
  • Network with like-minded citizens
  • Help celebrate science & technology!
“Mentoring an FRC team has been a great way to keep my design skills current, while challenging my project management capabilities.” - Downingtown Area Robotics Head Mentor
“The students can teach me as much as I can teach them.” - Downingtown Area Robotics FRC Mentor

Benefits of Joining Our Sponsor Family

  • Build a technologically literate workforce
  • Increase employee volunteerism
  • Provide employee team-building and training opportunities
  • Renew inspiration to company engineers and employees
  • Strengthen company reputation in the community

Downingtown Area Robotics sponsors are advertised on the t-shirts, FRC robot, VEX field, and program banners and media. The teams travel to dozens of competitions and see thousands of people every year, throughout the local and regional area as well as out of state. Donations are tax-deductible.

  • 95% of FIRST sponsors believe their company’s involvement with FIRST benefits the firm’s reputation
  • 77% of employees indicate their firm’s support of FIRST made them feel more positive about their employer
  • 66% of sponsors believe support for FIRST would help attract and retain good employees
“At Motorola, our continued success depends on our ability to hire a world-class workforce. We know it’s critical for tomorrow’s workforce to be technologically literate. That’s why we are investing in FIRST.” - Gary Tooker, Vice Chairman, Motorola, Inc.
“FIRST isn’t about building robots, it’s about developing life skills. The kids learn skills in relationships, teamwork, finance, fundraising, budgeting and project management. The partnership between academia, the community and industry…will build our future employees and future citizens.” - Steve Sanghi, Chairman of the Board, President & CEO Microchip Technology

FIRST LEGO League (Grades 4 & 5)

Meeting Information

Our FIRST LEGO League (FLL) club is run through DARC and held at Lionville Elementary School. See the DARC catalog for meeting times and club registration.

Program Description

FIRST LEGO League students learn STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills, problem solving, and teamwork by participating in an annual Robot Game and scientific Project. The Game and Project are based around a real-world type Challenge, like protecting the environment in "Arctic Impact" and helping those with disabilities in "No Limits". The Robot Game involves assembling and programming an autonomous (computer-controlled) LEGO robot to complete Challenge-based tasks, while the Project lets students investigate the actual science behind the Challenge and develop a solution.
Read more about the FLL program on their official site. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international organization with over 250,000 students and 101,000 adult volunteers and mentors in more than 50 countries. (Overall FIRST Site)
“The workplace of today and especially tomorrow needs a diverse group of individuals who are comfortable solving complex technical problems in a team setting. It is rewarding to see these skills demonstrated in abundance with such passion in the FIRST LEGO League.” - Dennis Roberson, Vice Provost of New Initiatives, Illinois Institute of Technology

Student Benefits

VEX Robotics Competition (Grades 6-12)

Meeting Information

Time: 6:30-8:30PM Wednesdays throughout the year
Location: Downingtown Educational Center (now in the process of becoming the Downingtown STEM Academy)
Our VEX Robotics program meets every Wednesday throughout the year from 6:30PM-8:30 in the VoTec wing of the Downingtown Educational Center (now in the process of becoming the Downingtown STEM Academy). The club entrance is at the base of the loading dock immediately to your left. (The building entrance is a one-way loop starting on the far side of the building from the Rt 30 bypass.) Please knock on the door if it is not open and feel free to park behind the building towards the athletic fields.

Program Description

Students in the VEX Robotics Competition use the VEX platform to design, build, and compete in an annual game challenge. Teams attend VEX local, regional, and international tournaments at which they compete with and against teams from all over the world. VEX game matches consist of two randomly chosen alliances of three (student-driven) robots competing on a 12 foot square field. Check out this year's game description and animation here.

Student Benefits

  • Experience imagining, creating & competing with their own ideas
  • Practice cooperation, sportsmanship, problem solving & basic engineering documentation
  • Examine engineering principles with minimal assembly
  • Apply classroom principles to construct real devices
  • Experiment with robot designs & tactics
  • Learn basic mechanical skills by building the robot

FIRST Robotics Competition (Grades 9-12)

Meeting Information

Time: 6PM-9PM Wednesdays throughout the year with extra meetings during peak build/competition times
Location: Downingtown Educational Center (now in the process of becoming the Downingtown STEM Academy)

Program Description

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), known as the "varsity sport of the mind", is the capstone program in the FIRST Robotics curriculum. Each year, teams of high school students led by adult mentors have six weeks to design, build, wire, program, troubleshoot a 120lb robot meant to meet the year's game challenge. After those six weeks, teams compete at local, regional, and international competitions with and against teams throughout the world. Like VEX, FRC matches consist of two randomly chosen alliances with three robots each competing head-to-head in both autonomous (computer-controlled) and driver-controlled play. Check out this year's game animation here. The FRC program also includes many non-technical subjects, such as art and animation, award submission writing, media and promotional materials creation, fundraising and charity work, team scouting, and much more.

Student Benefits

  • Employ teamwork, leadership, time management, sportsmanship & problem solving
  • Strategize how your robot will compete, technically & tactically
  • Prototype, Test & Analyze concepts, designs & tactics
  • Design the robot in 3-D CAD
  • Program the robot, controller & support functions
  • Learn Mechanical & Electrical Skills from welding to vacuum forming and wiring to soldering
  • Apply Your Work by testing the robot & training the drivers

Deciding Which Program to Join

For Students

Students in Grades 9-12
These students may participate in either VEX or FRC (or both). VEX is a more basic platform, allowing students to investigate fundamental mechanical and programming principles in a less time consuming way. VEX robots are 18 inches cubed, and an average VEX robot can be disassembled and reassembled in a matter of hours. FRC is a more technically advanced program, allowing students to develop technical and professional skills while working directly with STEM professionals. Students need not participate in VEX before joining FRC, and are welcome to try out both before deciding. The two programs are held in the same place with overlapping meeting times (6:30-8:30PM Wednesdays). Advanced FRC students also act as junior mentors for the VEX program, sharing their own skills and developing their leadership abilities.
Students in Transition Grades Over the Summer
Students entering 4th, 6th, and 9th grades at the beginning of fall term are welcome to join the older program over the summer. For instance, a rising ninth grader may participate in FRC during the summer before his 9th grade year. Alternatively, students can stick with their current program until the beginning of fall term.

For Adult Mentors

Any adult is welcome to join DAR, regardless of profession or skill set. You need not be a STEM professional or a team parent to join. However, if you are looking to teach (or learn) your technical skills, the different programs provide different opportunities to share your abilities.

Mechanical: FRC includes machining work, such as welding, pneumatics, polymer forming, woodworking, lathing, milling, composites, etc.
Electrical: FRC requires technical electrical work, including using the National Instruments' cRio and various light and touch, etc sensors.
Programming: VEX robots are programmed in ROBOT C, while FRC robots can use C++ or NI LabVIEW. FLL programs with LEGO NXT.
Computer-Aided Design: FRC computer-aided design (CAD) is done in Autodesk Inventor, similar to the also-available SolidWorks. CAD mentors are also welcome in VEX.
Computer Animation:FRC animation is done in 3ds Max.
Suggested Technical Areas Suggested Non-Technical Areas
Machining (FRC) & Mechanical Finance & Fundraising
Electrical (FRC) Logistics
Programming (ROBOT C for VEX, C++/LabVIEW for FRC) Media, Writing & Promotional Materials
Computer Aided Design (chiefly FRC) Arts & Animation (FRC includes two animation competitions)
Woodworking (FRC) Transportation
...And many more! ...And many more!