Team 1403 2020 Chairman’s Essay

Dedication. Family. Quality. These are the fundamental pillars that form our team’s mission and drive our team to sustain and expand the frontier of STEM education. Our team began with only 35 students building robots, but over the past 17 years, expanded to 115 students, stretching our intentions to include a diversity of STEM-related outreach. We start from within and work our mission outward; moving from our team, to our school, into our district, and finally to our international community. We recognize the importance of STEM advancement and are working to contribute to this global community. Who are we? 1403!

OUR TEAM

Our team is run by 2 Team Captains with Robot and Logistics Managers. The team has 8 subteams with 20 captains as shown in the Chairman’s Binder.

We hold 6 Cougar Classes where members learn life lessons that will help them both in and out of robotics. After a presentation, members are given challenges that utilize the lessons learned. Our first one was for captains and included a presentation on leadership skills. The final class expanded upon cultures through brief presentations done by members on their heritage, helping our team have an open mind concerning diversity, and enhancing the culture of FIRST. Other topics included Intro to Robotics, Ethical Decisions, Social Media, and Business Etiquette.

The team website is our primary method of communication with members, mentors, parents, sponsors, and other FRC teams. It features our 6 weekly newsletters, which discuss the team’s current activity and progress throughout the build season. Other pages detail the team’s programs, outreach, and resources including those maintained by The Compass Alliance.

We use our Facebook and Instagram accounts to reach more people. With a total of 1,733 followers, we post about our events, sponsors, and progress.

Last year, Team 1403 expanded our technology with a Virtual Reality (VR) system. We made animations of our robot and displayed them during kickoff, competitions, and other school events. At the 2019 FIRST Championship, we demoed our VR to General Abramson from Picatinny Arsenal.

Our team created and published “Cougar Echo” on our website, a public Java recording library designed to create and load autonomous paths without needing to hard-code each path. We also published the 1403 Belt and Chain Calculator on our website, helping teams with power transmission calculations.

During build season, meals are served by members and parent volunteers. Throughout the meal, students play a Kahoot quiz designed by other members. While it is competitive, it relieves stress from the build day and creates bonds among students. Topics include the FIRST game rules, team facts, and etiquette.

Since 2014, members have been able to earn varsity letters based on team contract requirements. The letter shows the students’ extended efforts and commitment to FRC. Since 2014, 144 letters have been earned.

The Montgomery Township Board of Education (BOE) is our largest sponsor; team-purchased machinery is used in engineering classes, giving back to the school. Every year, our team presents our robot and team to update our progress and achievements at a BOE meeting.

Picatinny Arsenal is another sponsor of ours. Every year, female team members attend their annual “Women in Engineering” event. Other sponsors include Slalom, Bristol Myers Squibb, Google, DoDSTEM, A&K Equipment, Integra, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson Foundation.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

We repurposed 2 FIRST field carpets for children at our elementary school; 1 in a general and 1 in a special needs classroom. We also helped the school guidance counselors prepare for a career fair by folding 500 brochures last-minute.

Members assisted in 3 Boy Scout Eagle Projects which involved 12 students contributing 88.5 hours at our local schools. These projects were a “MakerSpace”, outdoor classroom, and garden beds.

Last spring, our team assisted a national “Go Baby Go” event for the Children’s Specialized Hospital of Toms River. This program allows young children with disabilities to move independently and promotes developmental growth. We retrofitted 5 donated power wheel vehicles to accommodate their needs and are currently working to assist another “Go Baby Go” event.

At our 7th annual food/toiletries drive, subteams competed against each other to donate the most amount of items to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, collecting over 350 items, and bringing our 7 year total to over 2,000. We also collected over 10,000 can tabs over this time to donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

STEM IN THE COMMUNITY

For the last 6 years, our team has helped at our district’s annual Science and Invention Convention. This year, 26 members volunteered as judges for 216 students. The team also set up a booth where children were able to explore VEX robots and our VR system. It was so popular with visitors that the convention was extended an hour.

For 3 years, members taught children with special needs the basics of EV3 LEGO Robots at the Rock Brook School of Skillman NJ. For 2 years we have worked with our school’s special education program, assisting them in creating a Raspberry Pi face-tracking program.

We volunteer at an After School Robotics Recreation program for kids grades 5-6 under the technology teacher, Mrs.Young, helping them build and program LEGO EV3 robots.

For the past 5 summers, members mentored students grades 4-8 at the Student Opportunities for Academics and Recreation Program. For 382.5 hours, 32 members taught how to make and program LEGO robots.

Since 2017, our team has been assisting the district’s Family STEM Night. Our VR and VEX robots were available at our booth. This year we are collaborating with the Montgomery High School’s (MHS) Computer Science Club to start a STEM event for kids grades K-8. This event is slated for April.

We encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM fields. For the last 3 years, we ran 5 events: 2 at Skillman Kickoff and 3 at the Montgomery District Event. We have a panel of successful women in STEM fields who discuss their achievements and struggles, inspiring others to pursue futures in STEM. At this year’s Kickoff, we had 6 presenters, 2 of whom were alumni. For the 2020 District event, we have 12 women planning to participate in the panel, greater than before.

FIRST

Team 1403 was instrumental in starting FLL Teams 26361 and 26362 4 years ago. This year, 28 of our members mentored these teams for a total of 731 hours before the qualifying event. Mentoring these students inspires them to join our team. We also mentored FLL Team 42298, Star Scouts, and helped them earn Girl Scout badges, as well as a FLL Jr. team for a total of 170.5 hours.

Our team began the Skillman Kickoff event 15 years ago and we have been running it since. This year we had 800 attendees and distributed 35 kits. We ran 7 workshops including Intro and Advanced Autodesk Inventor, Linear Motion and Pneumatics, Mechanical Power and Power Transmissions, Bumpers, Sensors and RoboRIO, and Women in STEM. We raised over $700 for our Sister Team 3132 in Australia to distribute to other FIRST Teams affected by the bush fires.

We hosted Monty Madness for 10 years, leading us to start and run the Montgomery District Event 5 years ago. In 2019, we had 35 teams and 180 volunteers including team members, parents, and alumni. Our parents ran our biggest fundraiser, selling food/beverages.

Our alumni are still a part of FIRST: 4 mentor our team, 9 mentor other teams, and 1 started FRC Team, 5125, Hawks on the Horizon.


TCA

Our team was asked to be one of the founding core teams of The Compass Alliance (TCA) in 2017 and we continuously contribute to the sustainability of other FIRST teams. Our team has been a part of many different services including Help Hubs, in which we answer questions regarding awards, administration, and team structure. In 2019, we introduced a “Hear For You” station through TCA at our District Event and Lehigh District Championship. This was a designated area away from teams where students could go to destress with quiet and coloring. We also provide written and video resources for other teams to use; last year, FIRST officially published 4 of our resources on their website.

This year we have added 2 more resources: 1 on how to organize a team and 1 on Autodesk Inventor, bringing our total to 9 written and 52 video resources. We also monitor the call center at specific times of the week, answering questions including how to be a better human player, belt calculations, and how to start a rookie team. This year we will introduce our team’s “Service Stations” at competitions, where members of 1403 will walk through the pits, offering service assistance and items to teams who need it.

Team 1403 participates in video calls during preseason and build season with other TCA core teams to create new initiatives and further the progress of the current ones. We also call Team 3132 weekly during build season to discuss progress and help each other with issues.

To strengthen our local FMA community, 1403 hosted our first TCA Workshop in September 2019, where 18 teams of all experience levels attended to share resources. The event included 12 workshops presented by our team and 5 by other teams. Topics included swerve drive, judging advice, and running an off-season event with a focus on helping teams. The event also gave mentors the chance to directly communicate with the FMA Board of Directors.

Since our team’s inception, we have been growing at a steady rate through which we incorporate new and innovative STEM ideas and solutions for education. At MHS, 1 in every 14 students is a robotics member. This season, members have dedicated 10,482 hours to our team so far. Members share the same motivation, passion, and fundamental pillars that help drive our team, expanding the limits of what we are able to do.