Chairman’s Essay and Executive Summaries


1209: More than a Robot

Engineers are the problem solvers of society. The solutions to some of humanity’s largest problems can be credited to the efforts of STEM; as such, any effort made towards advancing STEM education equates to an investment in the future of civilization. FIRST is one such example that gives students an essential experience for utilizing an intense passion for discovery and creation on scales greater than the robots they work on. While only six weeks of the year are dedicated to the robot, FIRST contributes to a building of values and zeal for being part of something bigger and helps foster inventing, innovating, and investing in other communities. Members of Team 1209 dedicate every day to the community and beyond, applying the ideals of FIRST to something more than just robots.


A superficial look into robots may just reveal a moving chassis with an arbitrary purpose, but rarely does the average person investigate the work that is required behind the scenes. Team 1209 harbors an educational environment where students learn these “behind the scenes” ideas of the industry. There are valuable skills to be learned in making a robot, not all of which involve a drill and a computer. These STEM abilities are supplemented with a prowess that many hold as FIRST’s greatest achievements, skills that derive from the core values of FIRST: Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition.

Team 1209 embodies this chassis. The team has gained significant experience over the 14 years it has operated. It started with around 10 members and a coach and has evolved to 50 members, over 10 mentors, and 6 sponsors. All of these numbers comprise one team, a robot in itself, that strives to represent FIRST and have fun.


Without students, no team would be able to function, just as a robot cannot function without a battery. In order to charge this “battery”, the RoboHornets go through team building activities before build season as a way to boost hype for FIRST and the group itself. This year, the students for the first time held summer meetings in order to get a head start on team building with both old and new members. During these meetings, the team did activities that involved using critical thinking skills, teamwork, and getting to know each other. Not only that, but the team discussed future plans on how they want to further interact with their community. The influx of new members at the start of school increased the charge of the team by revitalizing the summer activities in a new way.

Just as with a robot, there are changes in batteries within the team. As students graduate, new ones join in order to keep the team functioning. Every year the team aims to diversify its membership, with students from all backgrounds, activities, and interests. With more unique members, more creative ideas can be spread, further developing the team.


Team 1209 is also filled with amazing mentors. These mentors, like sensors on a robot, help guide the team. Mentors provide members a glimpse into the engineering world, and inspire their passion for discovery and creativity. They instruct the team without telling students what to do, allowing members to learn from experience. They come from many backgrounds: from teachers to machiners to hobbyists to college students. Their dedication to the students allows the team to move forward and know what is ahead.

Power Distribution Panel

The battery and sensors of the robot would be pointless unless there was a way to distribute its energy through the robot. This is where the Power Distribution Panel plays its role, as it powers the robot similar to how committees drive the team. Committees are a way for all students to get where they need to go, to use the most energy to do the right things.

Like the PDP distributing all the power from the battery, the committees distribute the members. The committees of Team 1209 use member’s strengths to the best of their abilities. To begin, members that display a high commitment and ability to lead are developed into true leaders by being “Committee Chairmen.” These members are in charge of organizing students and schedules within their own committee, like the microcontroller of the robot. The committee members are then students that display interest and ability in their different fields, while also being placed outside their comfort zones to help them grow as individuals.

Committees get everything done on the team. From outreach to fundraising to artistic design to spirit, everyone has a place on a committee of their own and each committee has their own set of tasks. Because of the committee system, the team was able to expand membership while maintaining a certain level of productivity. New projects were added to previous tasks, like maintaining a public school calendar and re-organizing the BTW robotics room.

Wireless Router

Similar to the role of the cloud in connecting the world, the wireless is essential to the robot. It connects the robot to the world. The team’s wireless is their outreach into the community. A strong connection is crucial in spreading the message of FIRST. Just as the internet facilitated the widespread distribution of knowledge, the outreach efforts of the team stimulates the development of the STEM community.

For the past three years members have operated a booth at the Tulsa Mini Maker Faire, a gathering place for local innovators and hobbyists to show their interests to the community. The team was a part of the event on its first year, and has been attending ever since. Here, team members demonstrate robots, allow children to interact, and speak with adults about what FIRST is, why it is so important and how to get involved. At the event the team even sells hand-made bracelets as a fundraiser, giving attendees a memento of FIRST while helping support the team. Through this event, we have inspired more than 3,000 Tulsa citizens over the past three years.

Team 1209 also participated in STEM outreach to over 450 FLL and 150 Jr. FLL students at this year’s state and local FLL tournaments. Another way the club “improves connection” is by growing FIRST itself. Team 1209 has helped start FIRST teams from the different divisions. They mentored The Cascia Hall Commandos FRC and FTC teams on each of their rookie years. There are two RoboHornet FTC teams, Teams 5180 and 10156, started specifically for a school class. The team has helped to start one other FTC team and three FLL teams.

To spread FIRST in schools, the club participates in a variety of events. There are members present at major school night events, like Back-to-School-Night, Open House, and Freshman Orientation, to attract new members to join FIRST. Much like the Maker Faire, the members show off robots and talk to parents and students about how to get involved. The team also organizes an event called “Carver Day” where a group of the team drives to a nearby middle school to talk to their 8th grade students about becoming involved with FIRST in high school.

Robot Interactions

The unique robot that is the team even has its own competition: its interactions with the world around it. Unlike FIRST’s competition, the team’s interactions do not have to change from year to year, but they still make an impact with those other robots.

One of the most frequent robot to robot interactions is the team with the Little Lighthouse, a pre-school designed to teach physically and mentally challenged children from birth to around age 6. Team 1209 has participated in a partnership with the University of Tulsa to help the Little Lighthouse through engineering. Three summers ago, the team built Rusty, a crane type robot to allow the children to play in the sandbox. Two summers ago the team built the BumperBots, small, tablet controlled robots to teach the children cause and effect, and the Coat-of-Many-Colors, a gyroscope controlled light-up cloak to be used at the children’s storytime. Last year, the team worked on Rust-free, a Rusty re-designed to be easier to transport and to provide even more fun for the children. The team’s participation in a local gym’s Row-a-Thon helped raise over $6,000 for the Little Lighthouse demonstrating 1209’s dedication to improving the community.

Another robot the team interacts with is the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Last year, the club partnered with another Booker T. club, Hornets Against Hunger. In the past year, robotics has branched out on its own, and now volunteers once a month at the Food Bank to help those in need. Several times, the RoboHornets have helped put together over 5,600 lunches for the “Food for Kids Program”. The team also bagged over seven tons of potatoes to distribute to families.

Team 1209 also interacted with robots across the FIRST community the year before. The group was tasked with the beta testing of the then brand-new RoboRIO control system. The objective entailed working through various tasks such as testing configurations and code samples. Any difficulties, successes and concerns were reported to a FIRST Beta Testing website, which included a web forum to communicate with other teams having issues with the process. The RoboHornets hosted presentations and workshops for Oklahoma teams to attend in an effort to relate the newest features of the system to the Oklahoma FIRST community.

More than a Robot

Team 1209 is more than just a robot. It is a body of people that embraces the paradigms of FIRST; it is a community that strives to create an impact; it is an instrument for igniting a fervor for STEM. As every season passes by and robots are used to overcome their challenges, the RoboHornets’ family continues to grow. While they may function similarly to a robot, the team’s work encompasses more than building robots; 1209 is building students’ futures.




Executive Summaries

Briefly describe the impact of the FIRST program on team participants with special emphasis on the 2014/2015 year and the preceding two to five years

Being involved in a real engineering project has made a huge impact on our team. The FIRST program has given our members incredible opportunities; we learn to use powerful tools efficiently  and apply mathematics to real-world situations. We compete with each other to develop the best design for robotic arms to align totes, yet collaborate to smoothly integrate two designs. FIRST is a program that cultivates leaders, inspiring many of us to pursue STEM careers after high school.

Describe the impact of the FIRST program on your community with special emphasis on the 2014/2015 year and the preceding two to five years

Team 1209 visits local middle and elementary schools, introducing students to our robotics team. We promote the values of gracious professionalism: cooperation and competition. We inspire kids to pursue STEM, showing that engineering can be ‘fun’ and ‘cool.’ Additionally, we have fostered an ongoing relationship with The Little Lighthouse and the Food for Kids Program, giving back to our community. We also participate in the Mini Maker Faire, introducing FIRST to over 3000 Tulsans.

Team’s innovative or creative method to spread the FIRST message

Team 1209 has spread the message of FIRST by being the first robotics team to participate in the Tulsa Mini-Maker Faire. As a result, we have been interviewed by News On 6. We have also appeared in the local newspaper discussing what FIRST means to us. Our team also contacts local schools to schedule presentations to promote FIRST and STEM education. We willingly demonstrate our robot at a variety of community events, from breakfasts to dinners and numerous summer camps.

Describe examples of how your team members act as role models and inspire other FIRST team members to emulate

This year, two Seniors, John Athens and Connor Paris, led our FTC team. These two members took in rookie members to teach them the values FIRST promotes while building the FTC robot. They held meetings four days a week to ensure that the most members could attend meetings. They led the team through three competitions. The team qualified for state, and later for the super-regional competition. By being great leaders, these two individuals have served as role models for the rookies they taught.

Describe the team’s initiatives to help start or form other FRC teams

Most of our influence in starting other teams has stemmed from our presentations at meetings such as the State Superintendent’s Math and Science Conference. Throughout the years we have seen teams such as Bartlesville and Bishop Kelley form as a result of the seeds planted during our community presentations. The TulsaTech team was started after their mentor left our school and started working at TulsaTech. Our two teams have maintained a close relationship.

Describe the team’s initiatives to help start or form other FIRST teams (including Jr.FLL, FLL, & FTC)

The Robo-Hornets have formed our very own FTC Team that has qualified for state for the past three years. We have helped start the FLL Tech-No-Logic Teams at Carnegie Elementary. We also helped the Cascia Hall Commandos FTC team in their rookie year. By helping these teams get past the initial obstacles that all first year teams experience we hope to better the community of FIRST teams, that will continue to grow as a team in experience and ability.

Describe the team’s initiatives on assisting other FIRST teams (including Jr.FLL, FLL, FTC, & FRC) with progressing through the FIRST program

Our team was selected as the only Oklahoma team to participate in the beta testing for the new RoboRio. Our team posted findings about the new system on FIRST forums to help FIRST learn about problems with the new system. We then hosted multiple workshops for other teams to learn how the new system works. Once at a competition, our robot toppled onto another robot at the Oklahoma City Ultimate Ascent. A group of our members went over and helped the other team rebuild their robot.

Describe how your team works with other FIRST teams to serve as mentors to younger or less experienced FIRST teams (includes Jr.FLL, FLL, FTC, & FRC teams)

In FTC, we have helped newer teams write a proper autonomous program or lent them a battery charger or battery when they are missing one. At those times we help to showing younger teams how this program works or lending out extra equipment. Our team also goes out to school-hosted practice matches to offer insight into problems we experienced and help other teams. We also mentored the University School FLL team and assisted them at their first competition their first year.

Describe your Corporate/University Sponsors

Booker T. Washington Foundation for Excellent and the University of Tulsa are our primary sponsors. We are also sponsored by 13 local and national companies: AEP, Boeing, National Defence Education Program, OKSDE, Brown Patent Law, Fronteir Electronics, Wallace Engineering, ESDC Engineering, Hydra Service, Omni Air International, Gardner Springs, Reasors, Mattress Firm. All are deeply involved in our local community. Additionally, we are sponsored by a PTSA Grant.

Describe the strength of your partnership with your sponsors with special emphasis on the 2014/2015 year and the preceding two to five years

With the help of the University of Tulsa, we have a large area for which to brainstorm, build, program, and test our robot. TU also has given students the opportunity to work on projects over the summer and even take some summer classes. TU is home to many student mentors who are alumni of our team. We help with fundraisers and make presentations for The Booker T. Washington Foundation for Excellence meetings. All of last year’s sponsors returned and we have gained more this year.

Describe how your team would explain what FIRST is to someone who has never heard of it

FIRST is a national organization that creates competitions that inspire students to solve a new problem each year in different and creative ways. FIRST requires dedication, ingenuity, and teamwork to make a hand-built robot that will compete against other teams from around the world. It is challenging and fun and it fosters a unique relationship between competition and camaraderie that you would be hard pressed to find in other high school activities.

Briefly describe other matters of interest to the FIRST judges, if any

The University of Tulsa has given our team the opportunity to work on projects for the Little Lighthouse. Rusty was a crane robot built to allow the handicapped children to play in the sandbox. The Coat of Many Colors, a light-up cloak controlled by a gyroscope, and a lighted top hat were designed to inspire creativity during the children’s storytime. Our team also partners with BTW Hornets Against Hunger, volunteering at the Food Bank to help feed over 800 hungry children in our city.


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