Hi! I’m Sojeong Lee from South Korea, and I’m currently a member of FTC Team Shatterdome. One of our team’s major outreach activities is promoting robotics and FTC through volunteering work. Every once in a while, we visit Samsung Seoul Hospital’s Children Cancer Center and introduce robotics to the children there. We offer mini-robotics classes in a small school that is run by the hospital.
We planned three activities: demonstrating our last FTC season’s robot, making simple robots, and flying drones. The purpose of our robot demonstration was to promote our team and the FTC. We hoped that we could implant a dream for robotics by introducing the competition to the children. After the demonstration, we let them make their own small robots. We bought small and easy robot kits for each of them. Although the kits were simple, it could have been a great chance for the children to take a quick glance at what robotics is like. The last activity was flying drones. For safety reasons, we couldn't allow the students control the drones, but the drones could show them how robotics is applied in our everyday life. At the end of each class, we distributed small presents, such as our team badge and cute bracelets.
Before our first visit to the hospital, we were not sure if we have the ability to teach young children. For me, I was not confident with taking care of younger kids. For another team member, he was not sure if he could clearly explain the activities to the students. Overall, our common concern was children not having interest in the activities that we prepared. Since robotics is not a widely spread subject in Korea, we were afraid that the children might not pay much attention to our classes. On the other hand, we were also excited by the fact that we can spread robotics in Korea, so we prepared hard to make our classes as meaningful and as interesting as possible.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were surprised by a warm welcome that we received from the children. They were eager to learn something from us. They were curious and passionate. When making small robots, one student finished one robot and asked us for another kit. Although the class was over, he stayed in the classroom until he finished making the robot. There was also a child who was a drone expert. He knew more about the drones than us!
After two visits to the Children Cancer Center, we realized that we were paying too much attention to the stereotypes of our country. Children’s passion towards robotics helped us recognize that we were the ones who were placing ourselves in the stereotype that Korean society is ignorant and indifferent to robotics. Interests and demands for robotics exist in Korea. By sharing our activities with the children, we could see the bright future of robotics in Korea.
What I’m going to write about is not a famous person nor a professional review on technology or science—as the title suggests, it’s about my twelve-year-old brother, Minjae.
Minjae and I share a lot of things: we like playing with LEGO blocks, we love to make things with our hand, and most importantly, we are both aspiring engineers of our age.
Minjae started making robots with simple kits since he was 10 years old—a young age to start such an activity, compared to my experience since I started robotics in my first year of high school. He could only make really simple robots at first: the robot basically moved around with no other function, and he hadn’t even programmed that by himself. As time passed, though, he began making robots with more complex movements, such as making beep sounds and moving along a more complicated path.
As I was also learning more and more about robotics as he was, I rejoiced at the fact that my brother could experience such a creative activity at his age. I was sure that he would enjoy his days at the robotics lesson, because he had had so much fun making new things with LEGO blocks and I thought that those robotics lessons were great for him to do those things. Also, he would learn new skills from a professional and, ultimately, be good at this!
One day, when I went home for the weekend from my dorm, Minjae suddenly said to me that he didn’t enjoy his lessons anymore. ‘Oh gosh, this is something serious,’ I thought, and I sat down with him, trying to talk about what the problem was. And the problem came from a rather unexpected place: he couldn’t make the robots that he wanted to make. At first when I heard this, I thought it was because he lacked the skills to make the really complex robots that he wanted to make, but that couldn’t be true! He attended this program for more than a year and I saw him build wonderful robots.
It was the lack of room for creativity—in the program, the teachers were so obsessed with following the directions in the instruction packet. Yes, the students would develop some kind of skill, connecting channels and handling tools, but how can they build a robot if they don’t know what they want to make?
Almost every program for gifted students in Korea contain the word “creative” in their names. Here I want to raise a question, “how much room do you actually give these students to come up with something, design it, and actually make it?” People are so obsessed with being “creative”, but they’re abusing the word for a completely unoriginal and non-creative education.
As a student who was previously educated through “cramming”, I feel that robotics is an activity where you can truly shine with creativity: creating a robot out of nothing requires you to think of what you want to make, how you would design it, and building it. Whenever I discuss mechanisms with my dear teammates, I am grateful for the fact that something in my head is created in the reality, and that I can apply the things I learned to make something I really want.
This reminds me of a question I was asked last year when I got to talk at a talk concert with Korean high school students: “When you watch robot movies like the Transformers or the Pacific Rim, do you laugh at those absurd robots or do you feel inspired by them?” Without doubt I answered that I am awed by all of those robots. The response was a laughter from the crowd: they must have guessed that since I make practical robots for competitions, I don’t think of flying, transforming robots as importantly. The truth is, I don’t care how pragmatic those robots are—I mean, they save the world from evil alien robots! Isn’t that practical enough?—but I get surprised at the imaginations of the creators of the film. Technology has developed so much that we can make almost anything that we imagine into a real object—who knows there will really be flying and transforming robots in a few decades?
Creativity, even though people try to stress it now and then, is being overlooked in many places. I resent at my brother’s failure, but this gave me a chance to look back at what I’m doing in the robotics team and a chance to appreciate the opportunities for realizing my imaginations.
This blog post was written by Anne Kil from FTC Team 8338 Shatterdome from South Korea. If you are interested in writing a blog post for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.
Our FTC team, the Loonatechs, is a rookie team composed of eighth graders. None of us have ever been involved in any FIRST team. So, we didn't know what all of our roles would be. We didn't know what we were doing either....but that's another story.
I believe that in the beginning, figuring out everything was the hardest part of the whole season. For a long time everyone was trying to do everything because we didn't have a specific role on the team. And it took an especially long time to brainstorm because we all thought our own ideas were better than everyone else's. Eventually we had to build something and tried to compromise. But still not everyone was happy. The main problem was not everyone's ideas were considered and we still hadn't figured out how everyone's strengths could be used for the good of the team.
Luckily there were two high school teams that helped us learn how to do everything. As they taught us, we began to figure out what are strengths were to help the team. We still disagreed on the design of the robot, but as we took on our own roles, we were able to compromise more and add to it. We began to realize more that it didn't matter whose idea it was, but more importantly that it was for the good of the team.
One quote that we believe describes our team (and any team really) we found on a fortune cookie:
"Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest." - Kemmy Nola
We love this quote because the beginning was really hard, but once you get through it your stronger. Just like on a rainy day after the rain stops, comes a rainbow. This is a lesson we learned, that everyone's ideas count.
This blog was written by FTC team 9575, the Loonatechs. If you are interested in blogging - sign up on the schedule.
Every FIRST student knows that FIRST stands for: For Innovation and Recognition of Science and Technology. They also know that nowhere in that statement is there any room for discrimination based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. It’s 2015 people, these differences between us shouldn't change the way people are treated, and it shouldn't interfere in their ability to be part of a team.
FIRST successfully embodies this principle of inclusion to achieve a common goal; this is the dictionary definition of the word team. And that definition also has no window for discrimination. This means that people of both genders, of all races, of all backgrounds, and all sexual orientations have a place on the team as long as they are dedicated to the same goal. I have never seen this principle so vividly acted out anywhere but on a FIRST robotics team. And my team is no different, there is an unspoken understanding that we are a singular unit, a uniform force working together toward a common cause.
Five years ago we had only 5 girls on the team, now nearly half the team is female. This amazing growth can be attributed to our policy of no waste. We believe that to waste is to ignore the benefits that a resource may provide. An amazing idea can come from an incoming freshman or a girl in a male dominated sub-team, it doesn't matter. They are still valuable assets to the team because they bring a unique perspective to the problem. Every individual has a place and a say. This enables our final project to become a conglomeration of the individuals who created it. Every year we have a moment when we look at the robot and just talk about the stories associated with each part of it. The time when the arm fell on Ellie or when Steve dented the chassis because he went backwards instead of forwards, etc. These individual memories are all part of the robot and therefore the team becomes a single unit.
Also, the common adage of, “Two Heads are Better Than One” is always true. I can’t tell you how many times our coaches have recommended to work in duos because that ensures that are directions are correctly followed, all parts are correctly measured, and all safety tips correctly implemented, not to mention that it is more fun to work with others. These two heads are the important part, whether the head is male or female is irrelevant but the fact that they can work together in harmony is important. This sense of team is the basis of FIRST robotics and that team is a team of everyone, not just boys.
This blog was written by Deepthi Thumuluri. Don't forget to sign up to blog on the blog schedule.
Be a guest
Do you want to be a guest blogger for FIRST Ladies? You can write about a topic of your choice! Please email us the completed blog and track your creation using this link: