Behind our green shirts and khakis is a team that we call a family. A group of diverse students unite with the same passion for STEM and community. Our members have contributed over 10,000 hours this season for a greater goal in mind. Established in 2004, Team 1403 began as just a team building a robot. Throughout our past 18 seasons, we have transformed into a force that is not only innovative, but one that creates an impactful change within our community.
Team 1403 currently has 105 members across 9 subteams, making it the largest extracurricular group and varsity team within our district. Our team is led by 21 Subteam Captains, supervised by 4 Managers and 2 Team Captains. Our team’s family would not be whole without our 20 mentors, 7 of whom are alumni of FIRST.
Two seasons ago, we introduced the Big Cougar Little Cougar (BCLC) initiative to build bonds and promote teamwork by pairing veteran members, Big Cougars, with new members, Little Cougars, who together complete activities in and out of robotics. We introduced a new initiative this season called “Cub Swap”. Through this latest addition, the BCLC pairings attended meetings of different subteams, which helped them learn new skills and bridge the gap between the robot and logistics sides of our team.
Every preseason, our team holds 5 Cougar Classes to teach members valuable life lessons and promote an environment of team bonding through team building STEM challenges and presentations on topics, such as Business Etiquette, Negotiating Tactics, Mental Health, Time Management, and Team Culture. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our school psychologist has presented at our Mental Health Cougar Class, teaching members about the importance of mental health and its effect on a student’s academic and social life.
Team 1403 maintains a strong relationship with our sponsors. They include Google, Precision Technologies Corp, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, DoDSTEM, Picatinny Arsenal, A&K Equipment, Rodeo, and Qualcomm, with the Montgomery Board of Education (BOE) as our largest supporter. We present at an annual BOE meeting, highlighting our robot and achievements both in and out of competitions to advocate for the importance of STEM programs across our district.
To maintain a public presence, Team 1403 utilizes social media to provide updates related to our sponsors, outreach events, and Build Season progress. Through our posts and Linktree platform, we have been able to reach 3208 individuals whom we frequently engage with. Recently, our team incorporated the use of Instagram Reels to enhance our digital outreach efforts with upwards of 60,000 total views. Even after our members graduate, Team 1403 continues to interact with them through our monthly alumni newsletter, the Cougar-Catchup. Over the team’s 18 seasons, we maintain contact with 266 alumni and follow their college and career progress through LinkedIn. Twelve of our graduates continue to be involved and work with FIRST.
Our team website is regularly updated with useful resources such as the Belt and Chain Calculator, Cougar Script Editor, Kickoff slideshows, and mechanical tutorial videos. We also make our Chairman’s documentation, subteam standards, and robot manual available to other teams.
During Build Season Saturday meetings, our Safety Subteam holds workshops with presentations followed by interactive activities to promote physical safety and mental health including stress management and competition safety. We play Kahoot! games centered around FIRST, safety, and Team 1403 trivia during lunch breaks, allowing members to learn more about the team, bond with others, and unwind.
Since 2015, 201 Varsity Letters have been earned by team members in accordance with the requirements outlined in the team contract, which include attendance, volunteer work, and involvement throughout Build Season.
Our annual Women in STEM event took place on January 7th, during the FIRST Kickoff. Several female panelists presented their journeys as women working in the STEM field, giving members from the 33 attending teams an insight into a career in STEM while also getting first-hand advice about future college and career opportunities. Overall, Team 1403 has held 11 Women in STEM events, 5 at our Kickoff events, 5 at the Montgomery District Competitions, and 1 virtual event during the pandemic.
During our Women’s Tech Nights, hosted during the 2020-2021 season, veteran team members taught younger women about CAD, Java Programming, and Power tools, instructing and empowering them in their respective interests.
This year, our annual Toiletry Drive took place during the winter holiday season to collect donations for the Montgomery Food Pantry. Our team had some healthy competition to see which of our subteams could raise the most donations. Over the past 8 years we have collected over 4100 items to donate to the Montgomery Food Pantry and Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.
This season, our team took part in our high school’s Trunk or Treat event for Halloween. During the event, our team’s repurposed and decorated robot handed out candy and showed off the magic of robots to those of all ages.
Our team holds an Earth Day initiative in which we clean up around our high school property through mulching, planting, and weed pulling to beautify our school building, showing our school pride.
For the last 13 years, our team has mentored the Student Opportunities for Academic Recreation (SOAR) Robotics program. For students in grades 2-8, our team teaches building and programming skills using LEGO SPIKE kits. Throughout the 3 weeks of camp, students are presented with different STEM challenges created by our mentors. At the end of each week, campers received a certificate and a personalized LEGO block created in our 3D Printer.
Over the past 4 years, our team has mentored at the Rock Brook School, a school within our community for students with special needs. Using software such as LEGO NXT and SPIKE, team members teach students how to program and build robots.
Team 1403 also mentors several FLL teams within our community. For the past 7 years, we have mentored our local middle school teams 26361 and 26362. During the 2021 and 2022 seasons, we mentored Girl Scout Team 50704 and Team 55776 respectively. All together, we spent over 3200 hours teaching the future generations of FIRST.
Team 1403’s Audio/Visual Subteam (A/V) offers their videography and photography services to our community. This includes taking footage for events such as graduation, musicals and community holiday events while also making promotional videos for organizations such as our school’s marching band and fencing team. In the summer of 2021, the A/V Subteam spent 77 hours creating a virtual high school tour for our incoming freshmen. This video was also used to train local police officers about the layout of our high school.
We assisted FRC Team 303 and invited them to work in our lab after the loss of their workshop due to flooding from Hurricane Ida. We trained them on our machinery using our training videos to start their new season.
In the fall of 2022, Teams 9015 (Questionable Engineering), 5310 (Mecha Ravens), 9094 (Friends’ Central Robotics) and another potential rookie team received our aid through the donation of our robots from previous FRC games along with batteries, functional code, build materials, and additional support. This allowed them to utilize a working robot to compete in off-season events and facilitate their training for the CHARGED UP season, repurposing our robots for a greater cause.
Our Strategy Subteam redesigned the Cougar Scouting App from last year with a new layout for this season’s game. The app allows us to eliminate the need for old laptops, excel sheets, and printers by using a powerful cloud-based tool within mobile devices.
To promote sustainability, our team maintains resources for future seasons. Among these are team and robot manuals, team standards, subteam curriculums/lesson plans, and standard operating procedures. Our safety protocols ensure the proper use of machines and team equipment. Currently, Team 1403’s A/V and Safety subteams work together to create safety videos including the Fire Safety Guide published on our website.
Since 2017, Team 1403 has been a part of The Compass Alliance (TCA), in which TCA’s leadership teams have held bi-weekly meetings across the globe with other teams, discussing the progress of robots during Build Season. Team 1403 is in the process of updating the Pathways that guide teams to success. These Pathways cover topics such as awards, electrical, fundraising, outreach, pneumatics, rookie resources, and scholarships. As of this year, we have worked with TCA to publish 62 resources for other teams to utilize, including 10 written and 52 video resources.
This fall, Team 1403 interviewed multiple FRC judges about what it means to be a volunteer judge for FIRST events. We compiled the judges’ responses into a video, which was published on the FIRST Judge portal and distributed to all teams in the FMA District.
At our 17th annual Skillman Kickoff event, we ran workshops for Autodesk Inventor, Pneumatics and Sensors, Cougar Script Editor, Mechanical Transmission and Power, Women in STEM, Bumper Construction, and a new addition, Mentor Workshop. The Mentor Workshop brings new and veteran mentors together to share knowledge and experiences about everything FRC.
Team 1403 has hosted 6 FMA Montgomery District Events, supported each year by a total of 75 volunteers sourced from the community, team members, and alumni.
Every year, Team 1403 leaves behind a path for future generations to follow. We iterate, build upon, and improve ourselves each season, striving to be the best we can be. Our local, community, and international outreach impacts are our testaments to the team’s dedication to changing the world for the better.