Recycle Rush - 2015
Written By: Media Team
Huskie Robotics: Home
Megan sat eating her sandwich as Andrew stood, for the third night in a row, to say, “the robot will definitely be finished tonight!” The whole team rolled their eyes and laughed. The room listened and chewed as different sub-team leads went over the day’s progress, all while glancing at the door waiting for Mr. Rowzee to call seconds so they could get more cookies. Just a normal 6pm dinner for Huskie Robotics, a group of committed, curious, creative students who strive to innovate and inspire. For us, FIRST is more than just a club. It is a lifestyle, and the values it has taught us form the foundation upon which our team is built.
In 2009, we were only a group of 6 students and teachers, determined to start a FIRST community. Now, with over 80 students and teachers, 20 mentors, and 9 sponsors, Huskie Robotics has been able to build upon the universally important skills of FIRST and build a solid foundation for sustainability.
We invite students to join Huskie Robotics by participating in events throughout our school, such as letting kids drive our robot during our Homecoming Carnival and introducing it during our Freshman Jamboree. We found, however, that managing a larger team was quite difficult. To address this, we developed an organizational structure consisting of six sub-teams (Mechanical, Electrical, Software, Fabrication, Scouting, and Media) to accommodate all of the students that we welcomed. Through this structure we create leadership opportunities that promote confidence in students. We build upon this organization by centering our preseason activities around educating new students about the function of their sub-team. We then have everyone come together to apply their knowledge to different projects, such as designing a new drive system or fabricating an expansion board for the roboRIO.
The growth in the number of sponsors we have, has been integral to our technological growth as a team. For example, our relationship with Midwest Printed Circuit Services has allowed our Expansion Board team to design new circuit boards that the sponsor will fabricate. These boards are for the roboRIO expansion slot that we plan on commercializing. Exelon got involved after Executive VP Bryan Hanson heard stories about the robotics team from his daughter. “I watched and listened to her stories from the practices, the teams and the collaboration that occurs.”, Hanson said in a release. Our relationship with Molex has provided us with new connectors for our electrical board, a mentor that assists us in review of our electrical connections, and funds that will allow us to build a practice robot for the first time! Sponsor relationships have also given our students the opportunity to explore possible futures in STEM through tours of manufacturing plants and headquarters of Create Cut Invent; Motorola Solutions; and Navistar. Connecting with sponsors also allow members of our team to participate in activities that provide us with transferable skills, like a visioning exercise led by the CEO of Grid Connect, a local embedded networking company, that taught us to set goals for not only our upcoming 2013 season, but also through 2023. We used this new knowledge of forecasting to our advantage when creating our team’s business plan.
In addition to our partnerships with sponsors, our growing presence at Naperville North High School (NNHS) has earned us the school’s 2013 Club of the Year award and several grants from our school. Before our Booster Club provided us with new fabrication equipment, we had to send everything to Create Cut Invent, a fabrication service company. Now students are able to fabricate many parts by themselves and gain valuable experience in the process. School district grants have also given us access to the use of 3D printers to make pieces for our robot. When we need a complex, non-structural part of the robot, we are able to print it in hours at a relatively low cost. Without our printers, such pieces would be expensive and time-consuming or impossible to make.
We were honored for our exemplary partnership between education and business at the Naperville Education Foundation’s Business Partnership Breakfast for our relationship with Navistar. We were invited to speak at Navistar’s community open house to unveil their new corporate headquarters. We embrace opportunities to thank our sponsors by hosting an open house during the final week of build season and presenting our progress and success.
Huskie Robotics’ recent growth has allowed us to spread the message of FIRST to other teams and throughout our community. Our increase in members has allowed us to reach farther. We take many opportunities to show students the wonderful world of STEM: showcasing our robot at the Cowlishaw Elementary Science Fair, the district’s Summer Science Camp at Kingsley Elementary, and having several graduating seniors volunteer to give presentations on our robot and FIRST to elementary students throughout the DuPage County area. When we asked a boy at one of the science fairs what he wanted to be when he grew up, he excitedly said, “I wanna build cool robots!” This is the moment we realized our time was well spent.
The Boy Scouts STEM-O-Rama is where we invited students to participate in the action. They were able to act as a human player, loading and catching balls shot by our Aerial Assist robot, Annie. Other students were catching Frisbees fired by FRC Team 2451’s Ultimate Ascent robot. In a different division, they watched FLL Team 115’s robots move in autonomous modes, and even got to drive FTC Team’s 5037 and 7089’s robots themselves. We also collaborated with FRC team Porterbots and at the Boy Scout’s Airfest to showcase both of our robot’s driving and cooperation abilities. Here we demonstrated that participating in FIRST is not just about winning but about uniting with other teams.
This year, we hosted our first ever FLL Clinic at NNHS for rookie teams. It was our first time hosting such a big event, and the outcome was phenomenal. About 50 rookie coaches and over 45 students attended the clinic where we guided the youth through programming sessions led by our members and showed them what it means to be on an FLL team. Our further involvement in FLL ranges from helping out at qualifiers, scrimmages, and regionals to collaborating with other FRC members to build 18 new FLL competition tables for both regions in Illinois.
As with any teacher-student relationship, as we mentor the kids we learn from them. Our members are constantly learning to interact with a diverse group of students, and learning various teaching and organization skills. One of our current members was among the first senior class to have participated in FLL. He found it “intensely rewarding” to go back and help build the program that inspired him to go on to become an engineer, and said, “I enjoy FLL mentoring because it is a chance to pass on the skills that I learned. Basically, that is what made me fall in love with engineering.” We have had more than 8 mentors for FLL in 5 different teams for a total of 10 years. This outreach to FLL throughout the district has gained us 3 new team members, showing that that our outreach to younger students involved in FLL inspire these students to continue the cycle.
Our outreach events allow each team member to become more and more experienced in teaching others about their skills. As we learn from our mistakes, we become more organized, more productive, and better able to spread our knowledge to new members within the team. When asking the current team leads about how the team has changed since their freshman year, they were all taken aback by how much we have grown. Before, our electrical team was given a box and told to fiddle around with it and hope for the best, and only three people on our mechanical team were familiar with CAD software, resulting in our CAD model being finished late after competition season. Now, each team is able to show more care in everything that we design, and we have gotten better at developing the leadership skills needed to guide a team to victory. Our head coach was proud to see our team leads take the same hands off approach as our mentors do, recalling when he saw our electrical team lead teaching the team something once, and then letting them work at it themselves. Our scouting team lead was also proud to say that he did not write one line of code this season, because he spent all of his time guiding new members to fill his shoes.
We like to encourage leadership throughout the whole team, encouraging underclassmen to fill leadership roles so that they can teach other students in years to come. This trust allows the newest members to raise the bar; having a sophomore lead our expansion board project, or trusting in a freshman’s abilities as she fulfills her role as safety captain. With these teaching methods, we foster a culture where you can be certain that no matter what skills you bring, you will leave with not only the knowledge of building a robot, but also how to communicate and form relationships with people that can sustain an entire team. Over our 7 years as a team we went from being taught to being able to teach others, and have learned that there is always something to be learned. The family culture of our team creates a sense of belonging that makes students feel part of something unique. They now have the confidence to inspire other students like FIRST has inspired them.
This year we will be saying goodbye to a lot of seniors, and they will be saying hello to a world of wonderful STEM opportunities. While all of their time and duties on robotics may vary, we all have the same love for FIRST. With all of our seniors attending college and most pursuing a STEM field, they are all looking forward to spreading their passion and inspiring others. Thanks to FIRST, not only we have built a team that can build robots, but a place we can call home.