I am 14, and have spent over half of my life around robotics. Most of my time has been spent inside a felt green piranha suit. That’s not even a joke. I was a mascot for my older sister’s robotics team, Fish in the Boat, for 5ish years. It was a sweaty job, to say the least. Before even competing on a robotics team, I had been to FLL state tournaments, FTC regional, state, and super regional tournaments, and four successive world championships. All of which I spent in a fish costume. I feel my experience has been a tad unique, and maybe a tad fishy.
Lakeville has had competitive representation at the FIRST World Festival for the last five consecutive years, and has brought home trophies for the last three. (My sister Erin and I both have world championship wins under our belts.) Yet robotics is still Lakeville’s best kept secret. Yeah...I don’t get it either.
So here’s how we’ve grown to that point: Had Erin not joined Fish in the Boat when she was an eighth grader, FLL in Lakeville, Minnesota would be nearly non-existent. My sister’s introduction to FIRST sparked my Mom’s (Maureen Carrigan’s) introduction to FLL, the creation of teams in Oak Hills Elementary school, the creation of my team, and eventually the continued creation of FLL teams today.
Fish in the Boat was the beginning. A FLL turned FTC team, they were the first major competitive team in our community. Not only were they competitively extremely successful, they cared about FIRST and all it supports: mentorship, creation of teams, coopertition, gracious professionalism, and sharing experience to make your competition better. They were the team who initially introduced the school district to robotics. Then, Erin introduced Mom to robotics. Once Mom found out what Erin was doing spending so much time in someone else’s basement, and saw what her daughter could do on a robotics team, she was impressed. Also impressed was Erin and my elementary school gifted and talented teacher, Holly Traub, now head of the gifted and talented program in the district. Mrs. Traub then came and asked my Mom if she wanted to co-coach robotics in 2011 within the Ignite! gifted and talented school run inside Oak Hills Elementary. And thus, Coach Carrigan was born! My mom has now coached 13 FLL teams--because she had once recognized what robotics had done for Erin, and wanted to spread the opportunity to other kids. Ten of her 13 teams have advanced to the FLL State Tournament, including her team this season.
Then came my team! AKA: The Story of How My Dad Lost His Man-Cave to Middle School Girls With LEGOs. The summer of 2013, Mom asked me if I wanted to start a robotics team in our basement. She will try to convince you that I asked HER if we could start a team, but that was not the case. (Hi, Mom.) So I gathered my five closest friends, and we formed Caught in a Brainstorm! The first year, we were a rookie team with veteran help. Our first season as seventh graders we won second place creative presentation for our research project The REAL Real Housewives of the Red Cross, a judges award, and placed 9th at the state tournament. Our second and final season as eighth graders, we won 1st place creative presentation, 2nd place core values, and 2nd place champions award at the state level, and then won 3rd place creative presentation internationally at the 2015 FIRST World Festival for our slam poem research project. We were also the FIRST Ladies FLL partners!!! As a team, we did outreach whenever possible. We demoed at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Works Museum, the Minnesota State Fair, the Minnesota Red Cross, the Dakota County Technical College, for the Mayor of Lakeville, and for every school district employee in isd 194. Even after aging out of FLL, we are a team still actively involved with mentorship of FLL in Lakeville, in Minnesota, and even internationally with teams in Israel and Brazil. The first thing I introduce about myself when I meet people is that I am on a robotics team. The second thing I do is hand them a business card.
Through the successes of Fish in the Boat, Caught in a Brainstorm, and Mom’s many teams, robotics in our community has been growing in a big way. This year, there are 13 competing FLL teams. Eight of which advanced to their sectional tournaments, four of which advanced to the MN FLL State Tournament. Most of these new teams are run through Community Ed, which allows for coaches and teams to sign up, pay a fee per team member, and receive the field kit, a robot, and the regional tournament registration fee. Many of these new teams are rookies this year, and have team members that are former competitors of one of the Oak Hills Elementary School teams. Mom and I have had an active part in aiding all of these teams through practice judging, mock tournaments, organized scrimmages, house calls, coaching seminars, loaning out equipment and supplies, sending out valuable online and literary resources, and answering any and all questions.
Our focus is all on extending the opportunity to compete on a robotics team that Erin and I both have received, and my mom has observed for the last seven years to new and more students. We, as FIRST competitors, coaches, and team members, (and piranha mascots) know why FIRST is important. The next step is to share it with anyone and everyone. My family, quite frankly, is first and foremost a robotics family. I am always proud of the work we’ve done to spread FIRST. But I know that there is way more room for Lakeville robotics to grow.
The amazing thing about FIRST is that there is a place for everyone. FIRST has created the most accepting and fun community I can ever say I’ve been a part of. I am who I am because I’ve been on a robotics team. I know what FIRST can do for kids my age, and I know how many students would benefit from competing on a team. In Lakeville, robotics is bigger than ever. But we’re not slowing down!
This blog post was written by Anna Marie Mitchell, alumnus of FLL team 29, Caught in a Brainstorm. If you are interested in blogging for blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
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