FIRST Chairman’s Award Submission – 2017
Team 2539 – The Krypton Cougars, Palmyra, PA
Team 2539 – The Krypton Cougars, Palmyra, PA
- Briefly describe the impact of the FIRST program on team participants with special emphasis on the current season and the preceding two to five years
FIRST has inspired our team to grow in ways we didn’t know we could and to become passionate about something we might not have known existed. Our team members come from a variety of different backgrounds, but we are all joined together through our love for robotics and through our love of the program. Many of our team alumni have had their future impacted by first, and have gone on to post-secondary environments with a clear idea of what they want to do in the future. Several of them have future plans to go into engineering or have already graduated and are currently pursuing their dreams. As for our students now, they learn new skills such as leadership and cooperation, not just how to design or assemble parts. We form friendships, practice skills that will be useful later in life, and find our passion when we come to our team. All of us are entirely grateful for the opportunities FIRST has given us and how deeply it’s impacted our lives.
When some of our team were asked this question, they responded:
Hannah (9th Grade) – I’ve learned how to use tools. Being part of the team has taught me communication and teamwork.
Max (10th Grade) – I am now interested in becoming a mechanical engineer. It has given me the confidence to take on extra responsibility.
Abby (11th Grade) – I’m inspired to be more creative. Since being on the team, I’m less shy and have made lots of new friends!
Joe (12th) – Being a part of a FIRST team has taught me self confidence and leadership, along with a passion for engineering. I’ve made great friendships.
Samantha (Alumna) - FIRST taught me engineering principles, but also, critical thinking, strategy, teamwork, leadership, time management, attention to detail and most importantly, Gracious Professionalism. Gracious professionalism is something that I do every single day at school and in the workplace.
- Describe the impact of the FIRST program on your community with special emphasis on the current season and the preceding two to five years
This year marks the 10th anniversary of our FIRST Robotics Competition Team. What started as an idea between a group of friends working in a parents’ basement has grown into a group of passionate individuals working day and night, from five different school districts. A few years ago, our team noticed that there were no other FRC teams in the area around ours. That left a large group of kids all across the county without any good engineering opportunities. Not only did we open our team to other districts, but we started Lego League teams and participated in community events, like a pumpkin chunkin competition to bring the community together in celebration of engineering.
There are very few STEM opportunities in our area. The team visited schools to make presentations about FIRST and we now have team members from five school districts. This last year we started and mentored two FLL Teams in another town where no FIRST opportunities existed. In starting the new FLL teams we gain new sponsors for FRC and FLL which include The Ames Companies, NRG, and Palermo's Pizza. Team members can apply for Internships through two of our sponsors - TE Connectivity and Ames. The team volunteered at two events for the Four Diamonds Fund for pediatric cancer. The team boasts 23 active team members - our most ever! This year we have gained a total of six new mentors from our sponsors - TE, Ames, and Comcast.
Describe the team’s innovative or creative method to spread the FIRST message
Our team has always believed that the key to innovation and the future lies in our children. Not only the ones at the high school level, or associated with FIRST, but kids with a whole range of different interests and inspirations. This is why we have devoted our work to spreading the FIRST message to children, and giving them a chance to develop and grow. Our team created yard signs that advertise our efforts and the FIRST program to our neighbors. We reached out to a number of high schools and presented our robot and what FIRST is all about. The team attend the Hershey High School’s community day and the Lebanon County Career & Technology Center’s open house. We created LEGO League teams, and participated in community events like the pumpkin chunkin competition. Our team members volunteered at events for Four Diamonds Fund, which is an organization devoted to curing pediatric cancer and supporting children and their families. We believe that every child deserves a chance to develop FIRST ideals and become passionate about something like FIRST. New team members and mentors have found us through our website and our Facebook page is nearing 600 likes.
- Describe examples of how your team members act as role models and inspire other FIRST team members to emulate
Over the course of developing our Chairman’s award application, our team members have learned to grow and take on more responsibility. A great example of this is the development of the FIRST LEGO League teams. When asked to help lead and mentor the kids, a number of our team members were hesitant. They had never created or lead something of that caliber before. The students who were on board with the teams eventually roped some of the others into mentoring with them, and soon the change became like night and day. The team members who were hesitant about joining became passionate about the kids, and would go consistently to every meeting to mentor them. There was a large increase in responsibility. Instead of helping in the background, our team members took on active leadership positions. They grew and changed to be passionate about something more than just robots. They became passionate about the kids.
Team’s initiatives to help start or form other FIRST Robotics Competition teams
Our team tried for several years to get other high schools to start teams in the area. When met with constant refusal, we changed our approach on how to go about forming new teams. Although we are still a low-budget team without a large number of team members, we created a system to help get children from other districts passionate about FRC. By focusing on getting children from other areas involved in FIRST, we will be able to successfully help start an FRC team in the future. We opened our doors to the students from other districts who were interested in being on our FRC team. We created FIRST LEGO League teams in another district to get children interested in a young age in robotics. Our hope is if we get children passionate about FIRST from a young age they will grow and form their own FRC teams and continue to spread the FIRST message. Our plan is to start additional FLL teams in other areas around the community, start an FTC team, and eventually more FRC teams.
- Describe the team’s initiatives to help start or form other FIRST teams (including FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, & FIRST Tech Challenge)
As part of our team’s plan to get the community more involved in FIRST, we have started two FIRST LEGO League teams in a separate district with no other FIRST Opportunities. Our team members not only travel to a different town weekly to help mentor the team, but help lead what the children learn and act as teen coaches for them. The original plan was to start a single LEGO League team, but because of the overwhelming interest we received from the community, we ended up creating two. We are still receiving a large number of inquiries about the teams, and are planning on starting new FLL and FTC teams in the future.
- Describe the team’s initiatives on assisting other FIRST teams (including FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, & FIRST Tech Challenge) with progressing through the FIRST program
Our team mentored and created two LEGO league teams this year, but last year we assisted two other teams in our district by sending team members to answer any questions the kids may have and help them grow. It was very rewarding to know we could assist with the next generation of engineers and help them further their FIRST education. We are working with our sponsors and universities to start more FRC teams in the Harrisburg area. We have also signed up to help the Girl Scouts with a STEM Expo.
- Describe how your team works with other FIRST teams to serve as mentors to younger or less experienced FIRST teams (including FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, & FIRST Tech Challenge)
Our team not only created and completely led and mentored two FIRST LEGO League teams in another district, but some of our team members serve as mentors for two existing FIRST LEGO League teams in our own district. Our mentors were able to not only aide the two new teams, but completely ran the program for the children and directed their FIRST education. Our team members became the coaches, and helped the kids learn more about robotics and the core values of first. This opportunity not only made our FLL teams learn to be better leaders, but also taught our team members valuable lessons about organization and leadership.
- Describe your Corporate/University Sponsors
Our team is working hard to partner with new corporate and university sponsors. We have corporate sponsors from TE Connectivity, Comcast, The Ames Companies, and The Hershey Company, all of which help us grow and develop our team. They generously donate not only money, but great experiences for our team members to get involved in, such as TE Connectivity hosting an open house for our team members and generously offering their machine shop to us. TE Connectivity and The Ames Companies also offer internship opportunities for our team members after high school.
Here is a brief list of how our sponsors help the team:
TE Connectivity – Mentors are: Drew, Albert, Dave, Huadong, and Jay. The machine shop helps the team fabricate parts. TE provides team members with internships. The team attends the annual Open House and has met with corporate executives.
Comcast NBCUniversal – Mentors are: Troy and Rich. Comcast has increased their funding two years in a row!
The Ames Companies – Mentors are: Craig. Ames is a new sponsor for this year! Ames provides the team members with internships.
Hershey – Mentors are: Brian and Karen.
NRG and Palermo’s were new sponsors for FLL
- Describe the strength of your partnership with your sponsors with special emphasis on the current season and the preceding two to five years
Our team has many mentors who have come from the companies who sponsor us. We have learned and grown with these mentors to the point where they aren’t just volunteers or sponsors, but another member of our family. They even join us for pizza parties and movie marathons and we attend each other’s sporting events. In addition to our team’s close relationship with our sponsors’ mentors, we have also had many opportunities to go visit their companies. Last year, a group of our team members were able to visit TE Connectivity and speak with the executives about the team and what FIRST is all about. TE and The Ames Companies have also offered graduating seniors on the team internships to develop real world experiences.
For FIRST Robotics Competition teams older than 5 years, briefly describe your team’s broader impact from its inception
Our team started as a group of high schoolers sitting in a basement. Over the last 10 years, our group has grown and developed, and we now strive to create something much more important than robots. We strive to create a community. From the outset, our team’s goal was to get anybody involved in the wonders of engineering, especially those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Our team may be relatively small and low-budget, but we reach out to districts beyond our own to give kids a chance to experience engineering. We’ve gotten more involved in our community recently, working charity events and making new FLL teams, but our original goal, to make sure every child can experience FIRST still rings true.
- Describe how your team would explain what FIRST is to someone who has never heard of it
FIRST is basically the coolest program in the world. It’s a program made to make robotics and engineering competitive, and promote STEM to kids in a way that’s both challenging and entertaining. Any child with a passion for engineering can join FIRST, and every moment working on the team there’s another opportunity to learn. Kids learn teamwork, leadership, and professional skills while working on building and programing their own robot for a variety of challenges. FIRST allows kids to learn, have fun, and make friends while tackling real-world design challenges.
Our team described FIRST in their words:
Joe- Super cool, Promote STEM to kids, organize robotics to give kids an opportunity to learn and have fun and make friends.
Tory- Allows you to meet new people and build a robot with them, learn how to do a real-world design process with guidance from real world engineers.
Rory- Working with new technologies to improve your skills/
How would you explain your FIRST experience? What does FIRST means to you?
FIRST is a company created by the top engineering minds in the world, devoted to inspiring youth of all ages to become interested in engineering and STEM, not only through hands on application and development of real engineering skills, but also through core values needed to succeed in adult life. Team members of all ages get various challenges to complete by working together as a team to create something none of them could do alone. They develop communication skills and interpersonal skills to succeed, and learn how to graciously and professionally interact with others, especially at competitions. Due to this, many children involved in FIRST grow to love robotics and engineering.
- Briefly describe other matters of interest to the FIRST Judges, if any
Our team has always had broad feelings about family and loyalty to each other. We’re not just a team, and we don’t just come together to build our robot. We’re friends. We have team taco nights, movie nights, game nights, and ping pong tournaments. We support each other and help each other grow. We don’t separate our team into groups. We’re able to get our work done and do the jobs that suit us best, but also try new things and further our education in robotics and engineering together. Our team members have a welcoming and evolving environment to learn and grow in, and we’re all on this journey together.
Our Chairman’s Award Essay
Recently, our team has been thinking about legacy. Why do we do what we do? What are we leaving behind as we leave this program? How can we continue to make things better for our community? This year marks the 10th anniversary of our team. They say time flies when you’re having fun, but to some of our mentors, it feels like yesterday we were a rookie team comprised of kids in a basement with nothing but a love for engineering. The past 10 years this team has brought together a number of kids with that same love, kids who are constantly striving for more. Learn more. Make more. Give more. Our team members are dedicated to making our community a better place, and giving back to those who gave so much to us. That is why this year, for the first time, we have decided to submit for the FIRST Robotics Competition Chairman’s Award, to document our accomplishments in spreading the FIRST message within our team and our community.
Due to the lack of FRC teams in our area, many of our team members travel long distances just to have an opportunity to experience FIRST robotics. To remedy this, our team tried to start more FRC teams in the central Pennsylvania area. Despite a lack of success, we kept trying. We decided to change our methods and began taking a more progressive approach to developing FIRST programs in the area. Instead of starting at the top, by creating FRC programs right away, we’re going to increase the number of children who will grow into FRC teams and help create them as they come into demand. To go along with this, we’ve created FLL teams for children in areas with no FIRST programs, such as Hershey, PA. Our plan is to develop more programs as the amount of interest increases, including creating more FLL and FTC teams in the next few years. The end goal is to create a chain of FRC teams with a strong support system between each other in the central Pennsylvania area.
While our team is very dedicated to developing more teams in the central Pennsylvania area, we are also committed to supporting our own team members and making sure they have the support to grow and learn throughout their FIRST education. We have a variety of team members who come from different backgrounds, who are able to come together due to a passion for engineering. Our team members go on to pursue a multitude of post secondary opportunities, such as studying Mechanical Engineering at Penn State and participating in internships with companies such as Phoenix Contact and TE Connectivity due to their involvement with the FIRST program.
The students are able to learn the design and manufacturing process without being restricted by compartmentalization. We make sure our program is efficient, but we are strong believers that students deserve the chance to try every aspect of the engineering world. Due to this, we not only allow but encourage exploration in different parts of the robot creation process.
Our team is relatively small, but we have always been centered around the idea of family. To encourage this, we have monthly events for our students to attend, including pizza nights, star wars movie marathons, and ping-pong tournaments. We not only make robots, but lifelong connections. We also teach them about the importance of the phrase “more than robots.” Our team members are not only encouraged to explore engineering but also improving the community and the world around us. We’ve pursued a variety of activities outside of robotics, such as reaching out to nearby school districts to present about the FIRST program and volunteering for nearby charities like the Four Diamonds Fund. Through these opportunities, we have learned the importance of organization, teamwork, and leadership outside of engineering. Our members are not only intelligent, but passionate, kindhearted, and devoted to making our community a better place.
A few years ago, as our team was expanding and a new generation of team members joined, we reconsidered our values as a team and what we stand for. Team culture and identity is very important to us. We wanted something that could unite us, and we could all strive towards. As we explored the idea of our team culture, we found a theme that we kept returning to was providing engineering opportunities to the children of our community. We took every possible opportunity we had to get kids into engineering, and we continue to do so today. We volunteered for the Four Diamonds Fund’s Conquer Run in September, which is a charity that uses proceeds to fight pediatric cancer and provide support for families struggling with it. We built a 12-foot-tall trebuchet and brought it to a pumpkin chunkin competition to show the children in the community what can be accomplished through STEM. However, most of our team members agree that the most rewarding thing we’ve done for the kids in Central PA has been FIRST LEGO League.
At the end of the last season, there had been talk of possibly creating FIRST LEGO League teams in nearby areas. Our district has two FLL teams which we assisted with, but we had never directly created a team. By the summer of 2016, this had become a reality, and our team had already begun laying down the floorwork for what would be our FLL teams in Hershey, PA. The plan had originally been to create a singular team at the Hershey Public Library, but after overwhelming interest shown in the program, we ended up creating two. From our first meeting on August 31st, our students showed their leadership skills and commitment to the program. The team members had created a presentation to explain FIRST LEGO League to those who hadn’t heard of it before, but due to technical difficulties the presentation would not work. Our team members created an impromptu explanation and presentation of FIRST LEGO League on the spot, with no support besides their research and each other. From then on, our team members went to the library weekly for two hours mentoring twenty children from grades three to six. They established themselves as the leaders of the program, stepping up and filling roles that would usually be completed by adult mentors. Every week they met up for a half hour before each meeting to discuss what they’d teach the kids that day, and coordinated teaching them all of the aspects of FIRST LEGO League and preparing for the competition. After 5 months of mentoring the groups, the children were not the only ones who had learned new things. Our team members learned invaluable lessons about teaching, mentoring, and organization. They also had the pleasure of meeting and bonding with a very special group of kids!
We have accomplished so much in the recent few years, and we have no intention of slowing down. As long as there are children in the area that have a passion in their hearts for engineering and learning, we will be there to help them develop that passion and grow. Our team members have already discussed more service opportunities to pursue after the build season, including creating another FIRST LEGO League team. We are proud of our accomplishments as a team and everything we’ve done for our community and each other. We may be a small team, but we strive to make a big impact. As the years progress, so will we, and we will never stop building our FIRST family.