Deep Space - 2019
Written By: Chairman's Team
In just over a decade, Huskie Robotics has expanded from a club of 6 members to a team of 100+ students, 20 mentors and 10 sponsors, spreading the FIRST message and Core Values to thousands of people within our community and beyond. Huskie Robotics has always put an emphasis on core values and this year’s new FIRST Core Values are no exception. They are the lenses through which we focus our efforts.
Our annual “Keep, Fix, Try” (KFT) team-wide discussion is the root of our team’s growth. Similar to a SWOT analysis, the KFT allows us to reflect on the past season and prepare for the next one.
After one KFT a few years ago, students proposed a leadership workshop for current and future team leaders. This workshop was then run by mentors, who taught us concepts such as servant leadership and facilitated team goal setting by guiding us through a team SWOT analysis. As a result, our team leadership has been significantly strengthened over the past 3 seasons. The team defines the annual goals in this workshop which are: improve productivity, maintain and build relationships with the community, prepare for the future, attend 2019 Championships, and strengthen our robotics family.
Last summer, several leads met to develop a new team structure with the goal of highlighting team strengths while creating a wider distribution of responsibility. The structure created 3 main sections within the team: business, robot and strategy, each overseen by a captain. While the captains and team leads are the main decision makers, it is also important for every member to have an area of responsibility. In order to ensure that every team member feels that they are included and contribute meaningfully to the team, the captains defined a wide variety of tech roles. Every team member can apply for various tech roles at the start of the season. While members are not restricted to these roles, everyone now has areas of responsibility and a focus for learning.
A Huskie’s time with the team begins with exploration. Each September, seasoned members spend 10 weeks during preseason introducing new members to FIRST and our team. Each week, a subteam engages new members through a workshop; here students discover their interests. As a result, 84% of students who expressed interest in joining the team have done so this year, the highest percentage in our history.
If the team is to advance, each student should as well; setting individual goals is just as important as setting team goals. During preseason, veteran members work with new members to set personal goals, sharing their robotics experience. Using this advice and what they learned in the workshops, new members set their long term goals, join the subteam of their choice, and apply for a specific technical role.
Over the years, Huskie Robotics has established a culture of inclusion and collaboration, providing a safe place for students to grow no matter their skill level or other commitments.
One way we promote this is through Kickoff with the entire team. Through a small group discussions of robot rules and then a team-wide discussion of game strategy, each member’s thoughts are heard. This is followed by a similar process for robot design, where groups discuss potential designs and then build and test prototypes. Ideas from all members are explored, allowing the perspective of both rookies and veterans to be combined into a balanced plan. Throughout the season, we leverage collaboration tools (Trello, GitHub) and Agile processes to coordinate the efforts of our large team.
The importance of friendly competition is a constant theme among our team. We are proud to have won the Gracious Professionalism Award at the Midwest Regional last year and 3 of the last 6, demonstrating the internal culture of coopertition that our team fosters. In 2018, 3 software members sat in the stands for hours teaching LabVIEW to students from Team 4702. 10 students helped Team 2725 build a cube collection system. 3 students helped Team 7237, Unibots, get their drivetrain moving. However, Gracious Professionalism doesn’t end when a competition does. We continue to help Unibots by sharing information about our team structure and a variety of technical skills.
Beyond competition, our team shares resources and experiences with a variety of FIRST teams in our area. Last year, we held a workshop for FRC Team 3488 and FTC Team 13530. We explained how our team operates, discussed previous challenges, and shared resources such as our robot code and vision library. Additionally, our team connected FRC Team 2704 Roaring Robotics with a new build space and team members.
Mentors and coaches are an integral part of the team culture. They facilitate design reviews of complicated systems and provide insight on advanced topics. They also ensure that institutional knowledge built over the team’s history is passed to new generations of team members.
As Woodie Flowers himself says, fun is the foundation for a meaningful life. One of our team goals is to strengthen our robotics family, and the best waywe can only do that is if we are having fun. From dancing to Bohemian Rhapsody while robot-building, to hosting Friday game nights, to pumpkin carving parties, our team is infused with fun. Sledding on snow days and playing games during bus rides bring us closer together.
We undoubtedly have fun building robots, often combined with learning and a competitive spirit. While they are meant to update the team and provide discussion of roadblocks, dinner meetings create a fun atmosphere to share a meal before heading back to work. Our friendly service hour competition and inside jokes fuel our desire to grow together.
Our team has learned to take all struggles in stride. Software debugging in the hotel lobby at regionals, trailer repairs in Indiana, and subsystems breaking days before Stop Build Day have shown us that we will never meet an obstacle we can’t overcome. Turbulence is part of the ride, and Huskies are ready for whatever is next.
Our discovery, innovation, teamwork, inclusion, and fun drive our ability to inspire the world around us. The skills we learn through our leaders, mentors and sponsors are the impetus of our community impact. Through a variety of FIRST events and outreach activities, we spread the mission and values of FIRST to our community. Over the past 7 years, we have developed a comprehensive program to create and assist FLL teams. Our program includes the following annual events:
In May, we organize a “How to Get Started in FLL” Info Session. Started in 2015, this event encourages parents and students to start new teams by providing information on registration, budgeting and team logistics. Over the past 6 years, we have started 18 FLL teams. In 2015 we provided $2000 in grants to a district elementary school to start 4 FLL teams.
We ran an “Intro to STEM” Summer Camp to get junior high school students interested in FLL. Huskie Robotics members used FLL challenges to introduce kids to design, programming and teamwork. In less than a day, all 32 slots were filled. This past summer we learned we could reach more students by partnering with other organizations, so we worked with our district’s robotics summer camp and joined forces with FRC 5125, FTC Team 13413, and FTC Team 11392 to run a weeklong STEM camp in conjunction with Social Works—Chance the Rapper’s youth empowerment organization. In total, we reached over 150 students.
In September, we run an annual “FLL New Coach Clinic” which trains coaches and students about team management, core values, project research, programming, robot design and strategy. Since the clinic’s inception in 2013, 140+ FLL teams have gained support or been started through the event. We have helped other FIRST teams start their own clinics by sharing our workshop materials with presenters and teams throughout Illinois including FTC 7129, FRC 5847 and FLL 7075. We also created a website with our materials for teams to reference, which has been used around the country. We have received hundreds of positive comments from various attendees throughout the years.
Throughout the FLL season, we focus on mentoring teams in our community. Since 2012, we have mentored 16 different teams.
The most exciting part of the program is our FLL Double Qualifying Tournament, run each December since 2015. It is rewarding to see how the teams who attended our Coaches Clinic have grown. This year, we had over 80 students volunteer 600+ hours to make this event possible.
The last part of our program is the Robotics Showcase. Each February since 2013, we have hosted this event to show our community the FRC experience. There are 2 sessions: the day session is for local FLL teams and 8th grade students to encourage them to continue in FIRST, while the evening session is for school administrators, corporate partners and parents to emphasize the value of the program. Huskies talk about game strategy, design process, robot subsystems and outreach to promote FIRST throughout the community.
We are excited to be starting an FRC team in the Rich Township school district this summer, helping them train coaches and work with new students. We are currently assisting them to apply for grants in the coming year. To introduce them to FRC life, we invited future coaches and their grant coordinator to tour our build space and get a sense of our team operation during our Kickoff.
Huskies also participate in a variety of outreach events throughout the year. From STEM nights and science fairs at district elementary schools to sponsor-held events, Team 3061 is proud to promote STEM and FIRST.
FIRST Core Values are an integral part of our team. Each day during dinner, we celebrate a member or group who has positively contributed to the team through their embodiment of a FIRST Core Value. Each day, our whole team is inspired as we recognize a concrete example of FIRST Core Values in action.