Category Archives: FIRST

FIRST Robotics Season 2015

Lots has happened since the last post at the beginning of the build season. The team has completed a robot, completed a practice robot, went to regional competition and learned quite a lot. I’ve learned quite a lot, too.

[Want to see the team’s progress? We have video updates here on YouTube.]

Our team, System Meltdown (FRC 2357), did great at competition this year.  They really came together as a team at the end.  We ended up moving on to the playoffs and making it to the quarterfinals.  We almost made it to the semifinals as we tied for points.  The best part was that our team and our robot performed very well in the playoffs especially.  It was the other teams who had trouble this time.

Aside from the expected learned bits of taking more time and commitment than expected, navigating the politics of the local school system, and keeping teenagers on task, there have been some unexpected lessons:

  1. Parental support makes a huge difference.

This one is a little obvious if you think about it, but other than bringing kids and picking them up, our team parents not only bring food to each of our shop sessions, but one of them organizes the whole effort of doing so.  They show up in large numbers to any outing we have, help mentor the team, and donate everything from cleaning supplies to workbenches.  Amazing.

  1. There’s a wide spread of commitment between students.

Some students are very committed and productive, but others are only casually there.  I figured this would be the case, but there really is a very stark difference.  However, there were a few cases of students who just needed some direction and latched on as soon as we found it for them.  In many cases, the age of the student matters little.  We have some very committed freshman, and some marginally committed seniors.

  1. This would use almost every facet of my engineering knowledge.

I naively thought that the technical leads from previous years would have this down by now.  But they all still need help somewhat to fairly frequently.  Within a single shop day, I would find myself helping with software, explaining the actions of mechanisms, demonstrating how to solder wires, how to work a spreadsheet, and checking for essay grammar.

  1. There are teams out there who work with much less than we have.

I knew we had it pretty good with the financial support we get from our school district.  However, we really don’t have enough space for all 35+ students trying to make a shop, computer lab, etc. out of a standard classroom.  But at a scrimmage this year, I spoke to a mentor who said their team stores their robot and equipment in the science classroom closet, and getting zero support from the school district.  Talk about making the best of your situation!

  1. Goals are important!

Last but certainly not least.  It may seem obvious, but I believe this point cannot be overstated.  Our team had 3 goals this year.  We achieved two, and almost the third.  However, the overall success we realized was definitely a result of working toward those goals.

And that’s it for this competition season.  But it doesn’t stop here.  I will continue to keep meetings going in the off-season and we will continue to work on projects for fundraising, community outreach, team training, and other technical activities.

Catch ya later!


FIRST Robotics 2015

Yesterday was the 2015 kickoff of the FIRST Robotics Competition. What’s that, you say? Well, watch this video and listen to the soothing voice of Morgan Freeman while he explains it to you:

Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to finish before I continue…

…done? Okay.

FIRST Robotics is a way for me to give back to the community, and a way for me to help further Science and Engineering in the U.S. You see, for a long time I’ve read the articles and seen the statistics of the state of decline of Science and Engineering within the U.S. and how all these jobs and proficiencies are going off-shore. It’s disconcerting, to say the least. Then I came to the realization: What am I doing about it? I’ll save you the platitudes about how even one person can make a difference, blah, blah, but the fact remains that if I’m not doing my part, I can’t get all preachy about other people not doing theirs. That would make me a hypocrite, which is something I vowed I would never be.  It’s a worthy goal, and lots of people in the public eye agree, for once.

Who would have thought you’d see Snoop Dogg and the like bestowing the virtues of Science?  Did I mention that Will.I.Am performs at the FIRST Robotics Championship basically every year?

He’s doing his part.  I guess I should do mine.  That’s why for the last 2 years I’ve been involved in FIRST Robotics as a Judge and a Mentor.  That’s also why this year I accepted the primary coach position for the Raymore-Peculiar High School Robotics team, at which I’ll be spending at least 3 days a week coaching and mentoring 30-40 students every week, getting ready for the Kansas City Regional on March 13-14.

More on the actual kickoff and design later!