Describe how your team would explain what FIRST is to someone who has never heard of it
FIRST is about service, finding a way to make a positive difference, whether it be as an engineer, programmer, artist or writer. This message, along with opportunities for hands-on, real-world learning which occur naturally during the process of building a competition robot, is what FIRST is about. Creativity, Collaboration, and Character are key take-aways from the FIRST program. These are the qualities that not only help build robots but will empower students to build a brighter future.
(10,000 characters allowed, including spaces and punctuation, or approximately 1500 words)
Judges encourage creativity of expression, but the essay must clearly deliver information and facts describing what the team is all about. The essay should draw attention to the strengths of the team. This essay, along with other information, will serve as the basis for the judges to make the decision on which team earns the Chairman's Award.
As the saying goes, 'It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness" and TechFire lives true to this motto. Rather than complain about an ailing economy, the lack of funding for school districts, or the persistent need for quality after-school programs for York's most needy students, TechFire finds ways to make things better. From building a world-class robot to helping our local community develop new ways to engage the next generation of innovators, TechFire ignites change with diehard optimism and an unstoppable work ethic.
Team 225 TechFire was sparked to life in 1999 at William Penn High School, located in the heart of inner-city York. Despite winning an Engineering Inspiration award in 2005, the school could no longer support the team and it wasn't until 2009 that 225's embers were once again ignited. In the fall of 2012, TechFire found a new home at a space donated by Coupling Corporation of America. Experienced and enthusiastic mentors joined the team along with many young and talented students from various school districts in the area. The 2013 season was the best ever for 225. The robot, TyrannoSaucer Rex, rocked the FIRST community with its precise, full-court shooting and innovative turret design, and went on to the 2013 FIRST World Championship in St. Louis.
Impact on York
TechFire strives to become a driving force for positive community enrichment. Our students' success as future leaders will be a significant contribution to a viable, high-tech workforce. Our team is an active partner in the York revitalization and re-branding effort and will strive to make the York area an economically strong and innovative place to live and work. To help get the word out about the value of FIRST and its potential impact on local school districts, the York County Economic Alliance facilitated TechFire's participation in a presentation to guidance counselors from all the South Central School districts. TechFire is listed as a resource on the York County Alliance for Learning website, allowing information about the team and FIRST to be accessed by thousands of students and parents. Additionally, TechFire is slated to participate in the 2014 International Business & Workforce expo in April where numerous organizations will be able to meet the team and learn about FIRST.
Impact on Engineering Community
TechFire takes pride in offering formal presentations and demos to businesses and organizations in the area. On-site visits to sponsors allow students to explain the mission of FIRST as well as to present details about the FRC season to groups of professionals. The team had the opportunity to learn more about the companies and were given tours and information sessions about the organizations, allowing students to learn first-hand what engineering professionals do on a daily basis. A VIP tour of the local BAE plant gave 225 students a rare glimpse of the manufacturing process of one the nation's top tank suppliers. TechFire was also honored to give demos and presentations to professional societies and organizations. These groups were excited to learn about the team and became immediately aware of the positive impact a FIRST program has on the youth of York, and pledged their support for our program.
With an emphasis on the value of serving, TechFire is continually looking for ways to be involved in community, charity, and volunteer work. Over the past several months, students worked hand-in-hand with York Habitat for Humanity, unloading trusses and other building materials. York Rescue Mission was delighted to have TechFire's assistance in collecting blankets for the city's homeless shelters. Team 225 also participated in the Children's Christmas Outreach where students joined with local volunteers to prepare and hand out gifts to York's neediest children. Many people commented they were thrilled to know that FIRST students do much more than build robots. The genuine desire to make a difference is evident in the enthusiasm and commitment TechFire team members exhibit while giving back to the community.
TechFire has developed creative ways to spread the FIRST fire. York is home to the Revolutions, a professional baseball team and a perfect partner for FIRST robotics demonstrations. TechFire was invited to "Engineering Night" and gave a presentation and demo during a regular season game. Team 225 also participated in the York County Cup Croquet tournament, a charity event which brought together multiple organizations to raise more than $100,000 to support and build the community. TechFire played croquet to help raise money for York Country Day School and Turning Point Women's Counseling and Advocacy Center. At the event, the team also gave a demonstration of the 2013 robot, shooting frisbees onto the croquet pitch during lunch. In addition, Team 225 managed to bring FIRST to a group of horse enthusiasts and gave a demo of FIRST at the York County Horse Show. Horse show attendees who had never heard of competition robotics were delighted to learn about our team and FIRST.
Inspiring Young Minds-STEAM Outreach
Recently, TechFire formed a partnership with Martin Library. Located in the heart of York City, Martin Library serves a population of students from low-performing schools. 90% of these students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. TechFire and Martin Library have applied for a grant to create a STEAM and robotics center to serve these areas in dire need of programs like FIRST. With the support of city and business leaders, TechFire is excited to see this vision become a reality in the near future. Students from 225 also help develop curriculum and lead after-school robotics workshops at Martin Library.
CREATING AND MENTORING OTHER FIRST TEAMS
TechFire's success on the field and extensive community involvement created a buzz among all of South Central PA. The team website lit up with activity and this onslaught of interest in starting and/or joining a FIRST team was the spark for a collaborative effort with Penn State York to hold the first semi-annual, "FIRST in York" info session. Penn State York graciously provided space in their engineering facility and helped advertise the event. More than 120 people attended the session which included demos on all levels of FIRST as well as info on how to find a team. The event was so successful that a follow-up session was held for the many inquires on how to start FLL and FTC teams. Following these events, 5 FLL teams and 3 FTC teams were successfully started and numerous students found pre-existing FIRST teams in the area to join. With the continued requests for information about becoming involved, TechFire developed a unique FAQ sheet for potential team members and their parents. A quarterly team newsletter, distributed county-wide, is also part of the team's extensive communication network, along with a continuously updated and media-rich blog.
IMPACT OF FIRST ON TEAM
There's no doubt that FIRST has had a profound impact on the students of TechFire. Being a part of a FIRST team has enabled students to acquire valuable knowledge and engineering skills. TechFire's programming team is known for its willingness to help other teams at competitions as well as during build season. Innovative ways to share code used by TechFire programmers includes Skype and GitHub links on Chief Delphi. Recently, the TechFire programming team received region-wide accolades for their help with a high school 1:1 laptop program which involved writing software to build a master image which was pushed from a server to dozens of other computers simultaneously in less than 10 minutes. Team 225's strong partnership with Penn State York has given students the opportunity to attend SolidWorks workshops specifically for FIRST students. Professors and faculty at PSU also provide career and academic guidance for students as they navigate the college selection and application process. FIRST participation has also allowed team members to gain powerful life lessons, improve their self-confidence, and learn to effectively communicate their ideas. Mentors from TechFire sponsor, Penn Air & Hydraulics, have worked with the team to create and deliver an "FRC Leadership and Teamwork" curriculum. Team building exercises and communication skills are the focus of these weekly sessions which fit seamlessly with the build season activity. This program has received rave reviews from both students and mentors alike and has enhanced team efficiency, effectiveness, and camaraderie. Participating in FIRST has made a significant impact on students' educational opportunities. Last year, 100% of TechFire's senior team members were accepted into top-ranked colleges and universities. Team members also earned a total of seven scholarships and seven internships. The majority of team members plan to continue participation in FIRST after high school by founding and mentoring other teams.
With a vision for a strong and sustainable progression of FIRST programs in the York area, Team 225 created a nonprofit organization, TechFire Robotics of York, whose mission is to support FRC Team 225 and help create and support other FIRST teams in the York area. With a steady financial base and strong leadership, TechFire's flame will burn steadily for many years to come. 225 will continue inspiring and empowering the innovators and problem-solvers of tomorrow to make the world a better place. The TechFire flame is lit and the future is bright.