As the World Championships draws to a close, all eyes are on the robots. Earlier this week, students and mentors alike were scouring Chief Delphi, doing pre-scouting and match up predictions, engrossed in every last detail of the machines we have worked so hard to build and compete with this season. But what I find far more impressive than the bots are the people that made them.
No matter how exciting build season can be, it’s an extremely labor-intensive, and sometimes mentally exhausting, six weeks. Students juggle standardized testing, school grades, and extracurricular activities, and mentors and volunteers balance careers and family life, all while meeting regularly (frankly, sometimes longer than we would like) to collectively create something from nothing but a short video and a rule book. Throughout the build and competition seasons, teams regularly argue and reconcile, cycling through hordes of ideas to find the design they think will be the most competitive, only to redesign and modify constantly as they compete with it and learn more about its strengths and its flaws.
It is—at once—thrilling, invaluable, and exhausting.
Because of this, FIRST teams are inherently filled with some of the most driven, genuine people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. FIRST-ers are incredibly diverse—each year I see more and more meshing of introverts and extroverts, integration of art in technology, and a growing acceptance and even a celebration of the differences that define our teams and our community. Throughout the year, I see friends and teammates learning, expanding as they are exposed to new ideas and faced with challenges they don’t know how to respond to. Students and mentors alike learn how to adjust their communication skills to fit the audience and the situation, how to listen and acknowledge opposing ideas despite their premonitions, and how to deal with repeated and upsetting failure. Through working intimately with the same group of people, they learn ideal team dynamics and how to nurture interpersonal relationships. We are learning so much more than the technical skills of engineering and entrepreneurship—we are becoming good people through genuine care and respect for our teammates.
As the competition season winds to a close, it is too easy to forget the other challenges we've overcome—the ones there aren't awards for. A better measure of success may very well be not the performance of the robot at competition, or even the shiny hardware brought home, but rather the character of each and every member of the team and their readiness to support each other regardless of the outcome. If that was truly the measurement of success, FIRST teams around the globe would undoubtedly break the scales.
FRC Team 1318
The following blog post is a quick help from the members of FLL Team 2430, LOL, we will be competing at the FLL World Festival for the first time next week. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, please sign up on the schedule.
Hi, I’m Rebecca from team 2430, LOL! We are so excited to represent Girl Scouts, girls in science, Wisconsin, and our country at the World Festival, let’s go girls! Ever since our first meeting, we have dreamed of making it to Words. We are honored to be going to the World Festival! We have learned so many amazing skills in FLL! Some things that we have learned are teamwork, social skills, and working under pressure. Anyone who is thinking about joining a team should definitely do so! We learn so many important life skills and it is hard to think back to when we started three years ago! Thanks to all who have helped us along the road! Girls rock at robotics!
Hi, I’m Jessica, one of the mentors on team 2430, LOL. We can’t wait to go to the World Festival to get the chance to represent not only Wisconsin and USA, but also Girl Scouts. We’d like to thank you for all the work you do and all the support you give to us and the other Girl Scout teams. We have had so much fun in FLL through the years and hope to maybe go on to FTC like our mentor team the Patronum Bots have. Thank you again for the fun you’ve sponsored us in!
Hello everyone, I’m Janelle from team 2430, LOL. All of us are super excited to be moving on and competing the 2015 World Festival! We are so happy to be able to represent Girl Scouts, Wisconsin, and all girls in STEM this year down in St. Louis. We could not have made it this far if it weren't for our coaches and mentors. Round of applause to our four amazing coaches who were, and still are, so willing to help us accomplish our goals, amidst their own busy lives. Also, a huge thanks to Crystal Polak and Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast for being our biggest sponsor. And lastly, thank you so much Patronum Bots for being so willing to mentor us and give us so much helpful advice. They are a former FLL team, known as The 4th Motor, and are now a FTC team who are also advancing to the World Championship, too!
Hi, I’m Natalie from LOL, FLL team number 2430. The whole team is super excited to be able to participate in the 2015 World Festival! We made that one of our goals at the beginning of the year, and to be able to go and compete is an amazing opportunity and we’re looking forward to it. We definitely could not have made it this far without the guidance of our coaches and mentors, the support of our families, and the help of the veteran FLL team, Fourth Motor, who is now the Patronum Bots, in FTC. This has been an absolutely amazing season, and we strongly encourage anyone with any interest in STEM, FIRST, engineering, or robotics to join a team.
Hello, my name is Emma from team 2430, LOL. I am super excited to go to Worlds and I thank everyone for supporting me and my team. I thank Chrystal Polak for all of her time and effort spent helping our team. We are super thrilled to represent Girl Scouts at worlds. Also, special thanks to the Patronum Bots for giving advice that made it possible to get to worlds. In FLL, I have learned to have fun while still being productive and helpful. Also, our team has had so many amazing experiences that teach us so much. Great job to all the girls in robotics, represent!
Hi, I'm Lauren from team 2430, team LOL. We are all excited to go to Worlds this year! Thank you everyone who has supported our team. I would like to give a special thanks to the Patronum Bots. They have helped us so much and are great mentors! Thanks again guys!!!!! For my first year in FLL it's been pretty amazing. I've learned a lot from the team and coaches and also from the pure experience of being on the team. FLL is truly an amazing experience. Thank you everyone once again for helping us get to where we are as a team of one. X3
Hi, I'm Aleksey from FLL team 2430 LOL. At our first meeting this year, we came up with many goals for this season. Our main goal was to make it to the FIRST World Championship. Our team is very thrilled to say that we've met that goal, and will be attending the Championship. We've learned many things this season, including how to program an EV3 robot better, how people learn, and how to mentor other teams. An FTC team, the Patronum Bots, have mentored us this year and have been a great help to our team. We are also thankful to Girl Scouts for sponsoring our team. FLL is very fun and I've learned a lot of things from it that I wouldn't learn anywhere else. Our team encourages anyone interested in STEM to join one of the FIRST programs!
I would like to begin by introducing my team to you all. We are proud to be recognised as the first all girls FRC Robotics team in Australia; we consist of 26 members and come from Blacktown Girls High School. Our school has been competing in the FRC Robotics competition for the past 3 years. We have named ourselves as “Unidentified Moving Machines,” (UMM) but are widely known as Team 4802. Our team is still considered as a rookie team but we are steadily progressing from this stage. Now to introduce myself, I am Pragyna a first year member of Team UMM. Currently I am 15 years old and a year 10 student of Blacktown Girls. I was first drawn to the robotics program in our school by the unique experienced it offered. Robotics didn’t seem to be a typical program running in every school, so I jumped to the opportunity to be apart of something different, interesting and beneficial to my future. As this year’s competition was my first ever, the whole concept was something I had to adjust too and learn about.
Being a girl or being part of an all girls team, it had never once crossed my mind that we could be at some sort of disadvantage. I saw no difference between us and the other teams. Our handwork and efforts were the same of what is perceived to be the capability of only males. There was no set back; my team of girls are strong. Despite the fact that majority of our team consisted of first timers, the hours put in displayed the results. Our team had met up every weekend for 3 weeks, both Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm, often resulting in the extension of those hours. We had commitment, we had determination and we had a goal. Being a girl was nothing that had to be overcome.
Learning was the first step in joining robotics. All the components of robotics required every new member to learn brand new skills that would assist them in building the robot. We were exposed to many aspects of what engineering involved – hands on building, software programming and electrical work. A key factor in which boosted our team’s time and process was organisation. Teams were set to the girls; they had a choice of which element of the robot they would want to be involved in (build team, software team or electrical team). From there, our girls had a more clear view of what their role would involve. In each team there was a mentor from Macquarie University (enormous thank you to Adam, Joey & Griff), who guided in our process of building, programming and wiring the robot. Our team was given access to facilities at Macquarie to be of assistance with the completion of our robot. All these amazing opportunities, really inspired our girls to the possibilities involved with engineering, and also with the STEM (Science & Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program also linked with FRC. It is a known fact that these job areas are lacking in the involvement of females, with the encouragement of the FRC robotics competition it has brought our team a great deal of knowledge and awareness of what as females shouldn’t be afraid to consider just because it is a male dominate field. Another component of robotics is communication. It is important for other teams to know of your existence and to create friendly connections between the other teams. This was the role of our Public Relations & Media (PRM) Team. It may not seem essential but it is. We must learn from other teams experiences in the competition, they may have a lot of advice to offer especially as we are only a rookie team ourselves. Without the aid of the other teams it would not of been possible to compete in the competition. Our team gained friends and experience from interacting with the other robotic teams. A major connection we made was at the FIRST Ladies morning tea; we were introduced to all the other female competitors and were able to rejoice together in the fact that we as women are accomplishments.
My experience in robotics has definitely made me want to continue to participate in this program for the following competitions. I believe that everything I have learnt on this journey, will help me in bettering my future career and goals. My team and I are striving to incorporate robotics more throughout our school and to get girls excited to become involved. Further extending that encouragement to ANY girl out there that is this is something to be excited about, to be involved in! Robotics will always have a place for girls, there will never be a disadvantage for us ladies and any girl hesitant to join should be aware of the tremendous support behind them. Robotics wants ladies and ladies shouldn’t be put off from the program.
Hello, I am JJ (Jinyoung Lim) from Korea. I am a member and the Head of Construction on a Korean FTC Robotics team named Team Shatterdome (#8338). Well, I want to share my story of coming to love robotics as a woman and a Korean.
As a woman, old stereotypical view is that women are not as good as men in engineering - for our case, robotics. Especially, I could hardly see a girl working as a constructor at the World Championship the last year when my team competed there. Even more so, as a Korean, it was extra-hard for me, a young woman, to do construction part of robotics. Though Korea is known to have high technology, robotics, especially in FTC in which high school students participate, it is very unpopular. However, the story wouldn’t proceed if it ends with people giving, right? So, the story starts now.
I am a senior and go to Bugil Academy in Cheon-an, Korea. This school has a program called Global Leader Program that provides its students with U.S. top boarding school’s curriculum. Thus, I could be said to have different situation from rest of the Korean high school students. My school is a sister school of Westlake High School in Texas in sophomore year. A few of my classmates went there as exchange students and one guy participated their robotics program. He was fascinated by robotics and decided to make a robotics club at Bugil Academy. I had almost no interest in the club when he was trying to get some members. However, he heard that I had little robotics background (I took a special robotics program when I was in elementary school, but had no idea what robotics was because I forgot all about it) and tried to scout me. I said no. I was more into my academics, the volunteering club I had made, and Lacrosse. I told him that I had no time or energy to expand my interest into the robotics. But, he kept bugging me and I gave in.
So I became a member of my school’s first and the only robotics club. Starting from the second semester (Korean school system starts second semester in August or September), we started to prepare for FTC Korean Round that would be held in January 2014. At first, none of our team members, except for Steve (the guy who made the team), had knowledge of robotics. We didn’t even know what wrenches were! So we started with little things: bolting and nutting, and accelerating and decelerating with big and small gears. We devoted our holy weekends and winter vacation to robotics. As a result, in January, we could make our robot. However, every time we had a meeting, problems suddenly emerged from what we thought would be perfect, and we painstakingly disassembled and remade the robot over and over. The robot got its final shape one or two weeks before the Korean Round and was finalised the night before the competition. At the competition, we struggled a little bit but surprisingly did well in the semi-final. But, our final round sucked and we couldn’t get any awards. After the competition, all of us knew that if we are qualified for the World Championship, it would be a miracle.
So what’s next? The miracle happened. Two teams are qualified to represent Korea in the World Championship and we ranked the fourth. The two other teams gave up their qualifications because of their school works (they went to normal Korean high schools) and Team Shatterdome was able to go for to Worlds!
Still then, I was not very into the robotics. I certainly liked building the robot, but it was just that. That was because I was in love with Lacrosse. I was the captain of the school team and a part of Korea U17 Girls’ Lacrosse Team and was to go to Japan in April to compete against Japanese college and high school girls’ lacrosse teams (Just like robotics, lacrosse is very unpopular in Korea. Japan is the strongest Asian country for lacrosse.). Every second of my existence was devoted to Lacrosse, I even played lacrosse in my dreams every night. So the robotics was not the priority for me. But, after our robotics team went for the World Championship in April, robotics became larger part of my life and I devoted my time on both lacrosse and robotics.
Things changed in May. At the first competition of the season, I got injured. When I was drawing the ball for the first game against the second ranked team, I had a good feeling and was certain that my team was able to win this game though the opponent was much stronger than our team. The opponent team took the ball and I was running to get the ball. Still, I had that feeling that I could get that ball back! I improved so much after the trip to Japan. I just overcame my slump and all of my teammates were so much better too. However, I suddenly fell down. I was running so fast and so hard to get the ball, and almost got the ball. The next moment, I was lying on the ground. Somebody was screaming in pain. It took me few seconds for me to realize that I was making that screaming sound. I stopped screaming and tried to get up, but could not. I was removed from the field. Still, I wanted to run so much. I begged my coach to put me in the game during the lunch, and I went into the second to the last game after lunch. I fell down again and went to the ambulance.
Later next week, I found out that my ACL was fully ruptured and that my lateral meniscus was also torn. My heart was broken and I could not do anything. I came home to do the pre-surgery rehab and had a surgery in June. So I lost the biggest part of my life - lacrosse. And I could not even do the second biggest thing of my life - robotics. Team Shatterdome was qualified Asia-Pacific Invitational and was to go to Australia in summer. It was scheduled to be two weeks after my reconstruction surgery. I really wanted to go and fulfil my responsibility as the Head of Construction that I could not do because I was out of the school and my entire life. I really wanted to grab something that was precious to me. I didn’t want to lose another precious thing too. The teammates were willing to help move around with me in wheelchair. However, right after the surgery, I was in a great pain and I just knew that I could not do that. I do not regret that decision. I could not do anything even if I went to Australia with my team and my knee would have been worse.
I wanted to get back to my normal life as soon as possible. That was why I scheduled the surgery so hastily because I had to wait two more months to get surgery from best doctor who does ACL reconstruction. It was a bad idea. I had a bad prognosis after the surgery and my rehab didn’t go well. (Later I found out that it was the problem with the surgery. I saw few more people who did ACL recon surgery at that hospital in my rehab center and they all had bad prognosis like I did) After summer vacation, I went back to school, but, not long after, had to go back to the rehab center. I returned to the school in the fourth quarter but could not walk like a normal person. I soon scheduled to have another surgery in December, right after the school year ends (this time in another hospital where the best surgeon was).
Now, I can walk like a normal person and even jog. Then, I look back. What held me up when I was falling down? I wanted to give up everything. No, I thought about giving up everything when I failed to stay at school after the summer. I thought about quitting school also and actually told my homeroom teacher and my parents that I quit. But I am in school writing this little story of mine to
share with FIRST Ladies. What held me up? I say it was my teammates. It was Team Shatterdome that held me up. They named the robot JJ because I couldn’t participate API with them. I told my teammates that I wanted to resign from the title of “Head of Construction”. I hate being not able to fulfil my responsibilities. So I hated not being able to help the team when
everybody was working hard to get the best out of the competitions. However, again, my teammates help me up. I know that, without my teammates, I would have been failed to overcome the hardship I had last year. I never had chance to thank my team, Team Shatterdome.
Thank you Team Shatterdome and thank you robotics for not giving me up. Now, I say our loud that robotics became one of the two biggest parts of my life. I found myself exclaiming in happiness when the lift finally worked when we were preparing for our second Korean Round’s Cascade Effects over the last winter break (we devoted entire 48 hours every weekend and some time during the week for preparation). I love robotics now.
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