Just because it’s not the competition season doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with FIRST. Whether you’re finished with school for the summer or just anxiously waiting for kickoff, here are some ideas for what to do with the other half of the FIRST calendar year.
1. Team Bonding
While many would argue that building the robot and competition are the highlight of the bonding experience, take this time to come together as a team some more. Whether it’s watching movies, having team cookouts or playing games in the team room/classroom, use the off season to come together and reflect on the year. For example, my FTC team would give out a picture of the team every year at an “end of season cookout” where the families were also invited. I know that other teams gave out awards or DVD’s of the year’s events. By seeing each other during the off season, it’s much easier to jump right back into the swing of things come the fall/winter.
As many veteran FTC and FRC teams know, the offseason is OPPORTUNE for fundraising. This is THE TIME to get your financials in order, as the competition and build seasons are often too hectic. Take these months to work on your business plan and budget; there are some great links on the FIRST website and the First Ladies website to help get you started (http://www.firstinspires.org/resource-library/ftc/fundraising-resources ). Need some advice? Don’t hesitate to reach out to veteran teams!
3. Field Trips
Now these don’t just have to be engineering, or robotics or STEM field trips- as any field trip is bonding! But as FIRST is an organization that promotes science and technology, use this time to take the team somewhere that they might not have had the opportunity to or the time to during the build season. In New England? Head to the FIRST Headquarters or FIRST Place in New Hampshire. In Florida, Alabama, Texas or California? Check out the various NASA centers and museums. Of course, there’s also LEGOLand in Denmark, the UK, California, Germany, Florida, Malaysia, and the UAE. FLL and FLL jr Teams already know what the research topic is for the year, so start some preliminary research; visit a veterinarian, an animal shelter, or a service dog organization. High school and middle school students may enjoy visiting any engineering schools or design shows that are in town.
My team had an engineering student mentor who gave us a tour of her school, Olin College of Engineering, during the summer. It was amazing to hear about what kind of classes the students take and to learn about their projects. We all left the tour saying “we can do that!” Keep in mind that many colleges in the United States are close to empty over the summer, and that a tour with a student who is doing summer research, or a professor who teaches freshman or teaches classes that sound interesting to your team (ie Robotics, Programming, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering etc) may also be a good guide!
4. Prepare for Next Season!
Take this time to prep for the 2016-2017 season, especially if you’re a rookie team. What went well? What can you improve on? FLL and FLL jr teams: have you checked out the LEGO ® website for new bricks? Since your teams can use any LEGO ® brick, axel, wheel, etc be on the lookout now for new parts that could help you during the game this season.
FRC and FTC teams will need to try a different approach since your hardware won’t be determined until the competition. Instead, try focusing on what you know you CAN improve on: CAD, electrical, programming (kind of hard I know) and game strategy. In order to do this, look back on the past 20+ years of FIRST games. How would you have designed your robot? Was your team around for these competitions? How would you have redesigned your team’s robot? What did the winning robots (for example from 2010) have that really made it stand out and win? Or you can just….
5. Go To Off Season Events
Off season events are a GREAT way to get more exposure to FIRST, especially for FTC and FRC teams that may be only able to attend one or two events a year due to budget and time constraints. Check the FIRST website for an official list. While there are not that many compared to the competition season, I’d argue that wherever there’s a robot… it’s an event! Remember, the community LOVES to see, hear and learn about your robot and your team. Smaller community events are wonderful ways to practice during the offseason. It’s a great way to get the message out about FIRST and it also provides a non-competitive way for you to practice public speaking, driving the robot and can get you funding if you meet the right people!
So go out there and make the most of your off season. Have fun and don’t forget to bring your gracious professionalism!
Team Unlimited. “2006 Sharon FVC Team Reunion Party .” Sharon Youth Robotics 2013. 26 May 2016. <http://www.syraweb.org/eaglevex/TeamReunion2006.htm>
Team Unlimited. “FVC Promotion- Blackstone, Quincy & Robonautics FLL tournaments.” Sharon Youth Robotics 2013. 26 May 2016. < http://www.syraweb.org/eaglevex/FVCpromotion2005.htm>
Gawle, Julia. “Robotics.” Facebook. 8 March 2009. 3 Oct 2015. <www.facebook.com>
This blog was written by Michelle Parziale. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
In FLL, a whole judging session and award category is set aside for a team’s research project. These projects encourage kids to utilize creative problem solving to identify and solve problems that they recognize in their own lives and share their ideas with expert communities. The emphasis FLL places on the research project encourages kids to find ways to make the world better through brainstorming, research, and presenting. The FLL research project is what I owe my research and public speaking skills almost entirely to. In my experience as a student, research and speech are subjects that are required of us, but never taught to us in the memorable, real-life ways FLL teaches us through. Furthermore, it never ceases to amaze me what ingenious concepts FLL teams come up with! Unlike in most classrooms, teams are given free reign of their research and ideas--which produces some of the coolest feasible solutions I’ve ever seen!
In FLL, it’s a judged category that’s seen as something just as important as a robot run. Even though the chances of you building a robot after high school is slightly bigger than people who aren’t in FIRST, it’s still diminutive compared to the chances of using these core values in life. Core values of “what we discover is more important than what we win”, “we display Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® in everything we do”, and “we have fun” are important lessons that will enrich our life, and make it easier (well, as easy as it gets). Coolest thing is, you can see many teams honoring and applying these core values! Teams will cheer you on, even though they’re running their robot right across your field, and will help you rebuild your robot when you drop it. Believing and understanding that we can’t truly learn without failing and to just have fun, is way more important and meaningful than any trophy or award. These core values are really important, and FLL is one of the rare sports that pushes that.
It’s practically impossible to succeed in FLL without teamwork. A creative research presentation is dependent on working together, running the robot during rounds depend on the cooperation of the driver and assistant, and many more. Not only that, but working together with your teammates and friends is a blast! You’re constantly bouncing off each other’s ideas and energy, with crazy late night sleepovers and fun meetings. Like the old saying “two brains is better than one”, well, a team full of brains, is way way better than one-- and that really comes in handy with brainstorming sessions. Out in the world, you’re going to have to work with people anyway, so it’s good practice, and a great experience. It shows you in a real life way how to respect each other, work together, listen to each other’s ideas, and find a solution as a team. In school/work environment, and just in daily life, there’s no escaping people. Training and practicing your skills to work well with others is going to take you very far in life.
At basketball, football, and many other sports, you can see the crowd booing the other teams, or putting down the other team, but rarely will you ever see them lift the opposing team up. Not FLL. FLL is not only about the robots and mechanics, but also about making friends and connections. No matter what happens, and who goes home with a trophy, you can still cheer on other teams, no matter the score. Teams are always happy to lend advice or spare parts, and will definitely share their positive energy! FLL is also the most diverse (especially at World Championships) with the most teams and most countries participating. Trying to succeed and pushing yourself is a good thing, but the experience is an awesome thing. I have created many lasting friendships--shoutout to my robotics buddy who’s 7,736 miles away, Jessica Ricci Angeles Lapena, of the Philippines FLL team Blue Oceans 10. We met at the World Championships, and have been talking/texting constantly since….even though 78% of our conversation is about robotics. Thanks to the Greek and New York team for playing hand games, the Spain team for dancing, the China team for sharing gummy worms, the Israeli team for the cool cat headband, the Aussies for saying hi to our friend back home, the South African team for the advice, and all the other teams for their positive energy and making our experience absolutely unforgettable! It's all about sharing the experience with not only your supportive teammates and “entourage,” but other teams and people who share your passion, and will cheer you on just as loud (or louder) than you cheer for them. FLL is a really friendly crowd, full of people willing to join your flash mob right before awards (MN State 2015), no matter how well their day went.
EVERYONE CAN DO EVERYTHING
At the same time FLL is intensely competitive, it is also pretty easy to understand and jump headfirst into. Because it is usually the first FIRST robotics program young kids will be exposed to, it is designed for kids to be able learn. The programming language, robot building, and research project can be taken to dramatic and complex extremes by experienced and invested teams, but can also be simplified for new members. The simplicity of learning FLL allows for generalization of all team members on a team. Granted, everyone has their preference of work they like to do, but members can easily be exposed to each part of the program and learn the basics of each part. By exposing each team member to every part of the program, FLL makes sure each member is developing the full range of skills FLL offers.
I have always been jealous of elementary/middle schools that have integrated STEM education curriculum. It’s never a luxury I’ve had in my community, but I have heard mythical tales of FLL programming use in the classroom. One of the best things about FLL is the ease at which it can be spread. FLL is like the best contagious disease ever. (Or as I extemporaneously remarked to a FLL MN State Programming Judge in my last year of competition, “EV3 is like the gateway drug of programming.”) The idea is the same: FLL is a great way to learn concepts of mechanical design, programming, and non-technical skills like research and public speaking that will carry on through your whole life. Whether in a competitive format, or in a school-day setting, FLL can teach these skills. NXT and EV3 are also used in schools to teach these skills through STEM curriculum! All around the world, schools are embracing STEM education for younger ages, some of which can be achieved with help of FLL-based curriculum. Even in a competitive format, FLL is meant to be easily accessible. Through school run teams or home based teams, FLL is simple enough that anyone can coach and anyone can join.
This blog was written by FLL Alum/Mentors Selina Woo & Anna Marie Mitchell. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
“If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family.” This is the gist of my whole experience with FIRST Robotics.
I started my FIRST experience as an active team parent, with my two girls being on the team. With this new found hobby becoming a passion for all of us, I shifted my gears to a rookie coach for a rookie team.
Moreover, I was the only lady coach in most of the tournaments that we participated then. I took it up, not just to feed my tech passion, but also to conduct the FIRST Robotics Class in a very structured way, so that it reaches out to more students.
All that we had was 1 EV3 kit, 5 kids gleaming with excitement and 10 super supportive parents. With the recent transition in technology from NXT to EV3, the whole season felt like a travel in unknown terrain. It was like a roller coaster ride, to some it gave nausea but to most of us it was very adventurous and thrilling.
Making the young team, work together was a challenge sometimes. We worked to value and respect every Team member. T.E.A.M = Together Everyone Achieves More became the mantra for the kids, rest of the season.
Team parents showed utmost Gracious Professionalism and cheered for all teams. They brought the celebrative feeling of FIRST to all the events.
What followed the success of the team, was more and more kids jumping into FIRST to have fun, just like their peers. The Best Coach Award that I received in the State Championship tournament, scaffolded parents trust and turned my self-doubts into confidence. It was a moment of self realization for me. Finally I found something, that which I love, that which I am good at and that which the world needs…….especially something in which I can be the super silly, my own self!
I would say, participation in FIRST programs is a life lesson for all kids, parents, coaches, mentors and volunteers. There are so many challenges that we face along the way. With every new challenge, we gain more strength, wisdom and character. The bigger the challenger, the bigger is the opportunity for growth.
What started as being a rookie coach, has today grown in multi-folds to several Jr.FLL, FLL and FTC teams coaching, Robotics camps and a whole brand new Robotics Academy. We have participated in FIRST World Championships, several community outreach programs and Expo. FIRST has crafted out raw talents into real leaders.
In every FIRST tournament, there is always comparatively lesser number of FIRST ladies than men. I encourage all the team moms to be equally participative in all team activities. Our team moms cheer and dance their heart out in all competitions.
For every 10 boys, we get 2 enrollment of girls in our FIRST teams. I constantly motivate the girls to never drop-out of the club, though the boys outnumber them. Girls have their own sweet ways of expressing their Robotics Skills. We have had our girls build beautiful twirling ballerina, intelligent beach house with sensors, LEGO Disney land etc.
I think, the best way to involve more girls and ladies in FIRST is by training more mothers to take up the role of coaches. I have personally seen girls thriving in dance, cheerleading and gymnastics, solely by the active participation of mothers. So right now, we are on a mission to training more mothers to take up leadership roles to be coaches of FIRST teams. We conduct free workshops to train mothers. I am pretty sure, we will reach a point very soon, wherein we will have ALL girls touched by the Midas Touch of FIRST!
Happy to be part of this lifetime of learning with FIRST. Proud to be a FIRST lady….. Three cheers to FIRST!
This blog was written by Kalai Sankar. Kalai Sankar is the founder and head instructor of Shiva Robotics Academy. The academy is the one stop solution for all the students who have been delving around for cool science exploration, hands-on learning and fun. If you are interested in blogging for blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
Hello FIRST Ladies:
I am Sunbin Kim, an alumni and a passionate supporter of Team Shatterdome (FTC 8338 – South Korea). This post is for everyone whether it is someone who is tired in the process of preparing for a higher-level FIRST competition or someone who is a family member, friend, or even a sponsor of a participant.
I would like to give all of you a piece of advice that I have learned from my experience in FIRST TECH Challenge for last 3 years, which includes struggles, tears, and frustrations, but also friendships, memories, and success. I have written a blog before to introduce the reality of starting a robotics team in Asia 2 years ago, but now I that I have graduated from high school, I have more stories to confess and share with everyone.
It all goes back to 2014 Block Party season when my team was preparing for our first World Championships. It was also our rookie year, so everyone was nervous about competing against the best teams, meeting new people, and just the fact that we are traveling to the states. But we needed money for plane tickets, hotel reservation, food, etc. There were much more to spend than we had and we didn’t want to make our parents pay for all of it. As the vice captain, I started to write, call, and even visit numerous companies that represent Korea. And guess what? Not a single company wanted to sponsor us. That might sound strange since Korea does have a lot of IT leading companies. But they all rejected me saying that “They can not trust High school students because we are too young.” I have never told my teammates –if any of you guys end up reading this, hehe I’m embarrassed– but frankly, I cried a lot. I wasn’t disappointed that I wasn’t able to get any money. I was very upset that nobody supported us. The school thought that we would not be able to succeed so they didn’t even allow us going to the World Championships at first. But we couldn’t stop. Because we were so sure that we would make unforgettable memories and build amazing network of friends there. We continued contacting them, updating our achievements and specifying our goals and dreams. We ended up getting sponsors and supporters through out the world now. We won the judge’s award last year at the Worlds, and I made great friends who are always supportive. I would never regret my choice and I hope you all gain something as special and valuable as I have.
$80,000 can afford our traveling fees, food, and all the supplies and tools we want. It would make us very happy and thankful. It might even help us win with a better robot. But that itself can’t increase the value of our team. It won’t encourage us to chase our dreams. But simple warm words will.
I would never forget the moment when I opened my emailed and saw Professor Hong’s reply that changed my mind to try harder. Dennis Hong –UCLA robotics professor– said, “I am grateful to hear that there is such a great Robotics team in South Korea. I am so proud of you all.”
Is your teammates/friend/daughter/son tired and annoyed that the competition dates are getting closer but the robot isn’t working or the motor keeps burning? All you need to do is to give a big warm hug and say, “I believe in you. You can do it!”
This blog was written by Sunbin Kim. If you are interested in blogging for blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
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