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Documents | 2011 Chairmans Essay

2011 Chairman's Essay Response

After our most successful season yet, our entire team was bursting with enthusiasm for robotics, ready once again to take FIRST Team 1912 Combustion to the next level. This success had shown us only a bit of our vast potential in spreading the FIRST message and becoming a model team. We aim to harness our team's contagious enthusiasm and "spread the wildfire" in our community, making everyone just as excited about science and technology as we are. Our years of community service had already made us the face of robotics in our area, but we wanted to explode out of our boundaries. Our growing reputation opened new doors for us, allowing us do more demos, workshops, camps, mentoring and volunteer activities. We especially tried to expand this offseason by maintaining our local demos but also graduating to more influential events.

Following FIRST's lead, we planned to make a difference by influencing our lawmakers. In our most important trip, we traveled to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge this summer. Our students eagerly showed off what they learned, demonstrating the immeasurable worth of supporting FIRST and other STEM programs for young people. Setting up in the Rotunda, we demoed our robot to an enthusiastic crowd of politicians, aides, and spectators. Senator Jack Donahue generously acted as our sponsor; and as seen in our photo, Sen. A. J. Crowe particularly enjoyed driving our robot and learning about FIRST. The Louisiana Senate even issued a Proclamation in our honor. On the local level, both the Slidell City Council and the St. Tammany Parish School Board recognized us at their meetings.

We enjoy inspiring children, as well as adults, with the values of FIRST. At the week-long Science Camp this summer, Team 1912 acted as counselors to over 120 kids, all of whom learned about FIRST and drove our robot. Similarly, we demonstrated our robot to excited crowds at both the Fit as a Firefighter and Children's College leadership camps. At our 2nd appearance at Truth 180's Teen Summit, our team inspired troubled youths with a robotics workshop featuring animation, web development, and robot building. Our driving support behind NDEP's Bonne Ecole's Science Night, as well as a strong presence at STEM-ulate for the Boys and Girls Clubs at the Stennis Space Center, has established 1912 as the face of FIRST robotics in a greater and more diverse community than ever before.

We sought to spread love of science and technology in our community through volunteering and community service. We built on our tried-and-true demos that made us the team we are today through work at our 5th Slidell City Clean-Up and our 4th Independence Day demo at the Slidell Heritage Festival. We participated in Relay for Life, and collected old school uniforms for Christian Community Concern. For the past 3 years, we donated competition flooring that we helped take down to Habitat for Humanity. We began a new partnership with Slidell Women's Civic Club, donating toiletries for homeless women, adopting three low-income students for their Christmas giving program, and marching in the Krewe of Slidellians Mardi Gras Parade. Tens of thousands lined the streets to receive our throws and cheer at our truck float and banners. The parade put the words "FIRST" and "robotics" on the lips of everyone in Slidell. Wanting to assist the BP Oil Spill cleanup, the team found our most fun activity yet in the form of planting marsh grasses and squelching around in waist-deep mud at Big Branch National Wildfire Refuge. Our experience with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana will color our memories and stain our shoes forever.

As a two-time Beta Test team, we enjoy every chance to apply our experience for the benefit of other FIRST teams. Our website is a particularly effective tool for providing technical tutorials, past award submissions, team structuring ideas, and fundraising help in the form of presentations and brochures. Completing Dean's Homework, media references to our team all include the word "FIRST." We utilize Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and email to communicate within both the team and community. At all 4 of the local Jumpstart builds, we work with rookie teams to go from a box of parts to a driving robot in one day. This year was our most successful hosting ever with 11 rookies building and 4 veterans mentoring. Our assistance continues into the build season with personal visits and phone calls at all hours of the day. When 1912 mentors teams, it is not a matter of simply lending a hand, but extending the lasting bonds of friendship that are the backbone of FIRST. The 7 FRC teams we have been strongly mentoring are some of our closest family. Seeing rookie friend 3337 win the Rookie Inspiration Award at the Bayou Regional was as thrilling as any success of our own. We continue to try to restart FRC teams in other local high schools. In this 4th year of mentoring for Lego League, we cranked up our efforts from 1 to 3 teams. To show our increased support for FLL, we volunteered at the State Competition for the 3rd year, helping officials and cheering as our mentored teams soared to new heights. While continuing to volunteer at regional FRC competitions, we took our field diagnostics and queuing work to the championships. To further enhance everyone's Bayou experience, we have partnered with Team 2771 of Granville, MI to provide the first ever webcast of the Bayou Regional. 1912 is providing the technical expertise, webcast monitors, and chat room moderators while 2771 is providing the equipment.

Understanding as FIRST does that teaching creates independent scientists and engineers, 1912 aims to provide people everywhere with an invaluable set of skills powering them for life. This summer we organized and hosted biweekly classes in Autodesk Inventor and Animation programs. Our open invitation lessons were taught by members and returning alumni passionate about sharing their expertise, and attended by teams seeking to enhance their skills. In fact, our statewide efforts to apply FIRST's ideas were rewarded in our exciting experience at the 3D South Camp hosted by Vector Graphics in Lafayette, LA, in which 1912's resident animation expert gave a workshop attended by students from across the state and covered by local TV station KATC 3.

Without the support of our invaluable sponsors, however, 1912's success would not be possible. Our primary funding comes from corporate and government sponsors: NASA, NRL and NDEP, Textron, QinetiQ, SAIC, Jacobs, PWR, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, St. Tammany Parish School Board, ERC, Qualis, Sierra Lobo, JCPenney, IEEE, Signs Now, and Tropical Smoothie. As a NASA house team of four years, our team's success is a testament to the steadfast support of this appreciated sponsor. We have a special bond with QinetiQ, who graciously allow us to build in their facility for the past 3 years. To show our profound appreciation for our sponsors, we visit them to thank them for their generosity and show off some of our achievements. We demo our robot, talk about our season, educate them about FIRST and STEM, and give them commemorative plaques to show our appreciation, proving that robotics teams are always a good investment. These demos teach students about professional engineering in the real world, and are a tremendous help to our members, many who go on to intern for these companies. While we have always stayed personally connected with our sponsors, this year we rolled out a triannual newsletter with updates and articles about team activities for even better communication. In addition to bonding with big corporations and government agencies, we demoed at the Slidell Business Expo and worked with Tropical Smoothie to enhance local involvement. Each partnership we make is valued, no matter what the sponsor or its size. At the conclusion of the build season, we will host our 2nd annual Open House at QinetiQ. We invite our sponsors, legislators, media, faculty, family, and friends to admire our completed robot and accomplishments.

Of course, our appreciation does not end with our sponsors; it thrives within our team. Every year, 1912 holds end-of-season pool parties complete with honorary spoof awards. We pride ourselves on our experienced mentors, including Woodie Flowers honorees, who guide students while encouraging them to do most of the work. 80% of 1912 alumni have steered their lives into STEM fields, and 73% of those are studying engineering; many now mentor other robotics teams as college students. Another point of pride for 1912 is our diversity. Of our past 6 outstanding presidents, 5 have been strongly involved women who have gone on to become scientists and engineers. Six team members, including one male, are Society of Women Engineers Award recipients, and among them one received the prestigious NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. As ambassadors for USFIRST Girls, we seek to spread our demographic success to other teams as well. At our high school, 1912 maintains a club bulletin board and made its 6th appearance at our annual Club Day, where interested new members discover the values of the FIRST message. In fact, our love for FIRST inspired our high school's newly formed engineering class, so that anyone can learn about STEM.

Even after many years of community service and mentoring, we continue working tirelessly to realize FIRST's dream of a society that reveres science and technology. The core and central focus of all the work we do- in the community, with other FIRST teams, and within ourselves- is to always promote the love of science and technology. All of our work stems from that fundamental truth, and we expect that any successes we may attain as a team will also advance the love of science and technology in our society. After a long history of consistent work in our community and with other robotics teams, we hope to be FIRST among equals.

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