“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.” As spoken by Samuel Ullman, describing the importance of youth. This year, the idea of youth has been an important factor in our team. Many of our leadership positions are being held by younger students, such as Ben Hughes, our current president. Being only a Junior, he has broken the longstanding tradition of senior presidents. With this idea in mind, we have been able to spread motivation in many new ways.
Students are, of course, what make the team run. This year we have an outstanding 21 rookies out of a total membership of 50 students, almost half the team! Putting a bit of perspective on that, we only have 3 seniors this year. When asked, the students on team 1209 described many things they have both learned and taught. One student, in particular, said “Despite just starting [the program], I have already gained more experience in trying to be a leader and keeping each member of my team active and involved. I am excited to learn more about electronics on the technical side this year too, especially with the introduction of pneumatics” (Isaak Mitchell, 2nd Year). Our president even had a few words: “When I was a freshman two upperclassmen taught me programming from nothing, I came in with no knowledge at all and am now the head programmer on the team.”
Our students help in more ways than just teaching. As one of our rookies said “People had bad days. I listened to them. Then, they were able to focus on building,” allowing for work to be done even as the flow of youthful emotions may run rampant. The youth inspire us all, and make the team what it is, more than just a few friends hanging out after school, but a family.
Much like the students, this team could not run as well as it does without the help of our generous sponsors. Our largest two are the University of Tulsa, which provides many things to the team, such as work space, tools, and mentors, and the Booker T Washington Foundation for Excellence, which provides us with an average of $8000 every season. This year we recruited six new sponsors: Valley National Bank, Tulsa Plastics, Helmerich and Payne, Williams Company, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, and Southwood Garden Center.
Our Sponsors give tons of help with the main aspect of the build season: building the robot, but there are still other things to worry about. Three years ago a group of parents decided to get together and form the BTW Robotics Booster Club. These parents help in all sorts of ways, big and small: from bringing food for the students during build season to raising money to pay for trip costs. The Robotics Booster club, while still relatively young, is a valuable sponsor for team 1209.
FIRST. “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Inspiration can come from many places, be it an older mentor throwing a random idea out there or working with a good friend to solve one of the many problems that come with building the robot itself. But inspiration can also come from the less experienced. One of our rookies, a freshman on the team, is leading the design and production of our robot’s arm. Another example is our “Pneumatics Master” who was given the title despite this being her first year with the team.
In 2015, FIRST changed the robot operating system from cRIO to roboRIO. Team 1209 was the only Oklahoma team selected to test the new system before it was rolled out in January. After that test, we posted to Chief Delphi and made presentations at our local kickoff, being sure to answer any and all questions other teams had.
This year, like many before, Team 1209 volunteered at the University of Tulsa FLL Qualifier; however, unlike previous years, this year we also sponsored our own event. Our staff consisted entirely of team 1209 members, many of whom had never been to a qualifier before. Many of our members and the teams that participated enjoyed the experience, and we hope to continue sponsoring these events. This event hopefully inspired the younger generation to become the future of engineering. Not only that, it is our hope that this event helped inspire our rookies with the sheer enjoyment and excitement these youths displayed. As we said before, even the young can inspire the old.
Earlier this summer, a group of our members, one of them being a rookie, helped the Hawthorne Elementary School summer program by mentoring the children as they formed an FLL team. We gave the students the parts, instructions, and a clear goal for them to achieve, be it using a color sensor or completing tasks from last year’s FLL competition. From that summer program came the Hawthorne FFL team, which participated in the BTW Sponsored FLL Qualifier earlier this year. It truly was an honor to experience this, as this was the first time any in the group had mentored before, and inspired them to seek out more ways to find the joy that comes from helping a smaller team succeed.
Besides Hawthorne, a separate group went to Dream Center, a community center that provides many social services, such as children’s education, medical care, legal help, hot meals, weekly groceries, clothing, tutoring, GED classes, team sports, and many others. This summer they sponsored a three week STEM summer camp. The first week the group focused on FLL, teaching them how to build the LEGO robots and programming the EV3 blocks. The second week was learning about STEM, what all the letters mean, and how they can be applied. The last week of camp challenged these students’ problem-solving skills by teaching them about Rube Goldberg machines and had them build various mechanisms.
The RoboHornets do more than just FIRST related help. We team up with our school’s Hornets against Hunger club, working extensively with the Food Bank by packing food for family distribution. The Food Bank helps over 800 children in Tulsa with one of the basic necessities of life, and team 1209 is proud to be a part of that.
During the summer team 1209 often works with TU on a variety of projects that serve the community. One of the best projects was to design a robot for the children at The Little Lighthouse, a local program for special needs children. We met with the physical therapist to find what type of skills she wanted the children to learn with the robot and then designed and built a robot that could pick up toys in a sandbox, named Rusty. The second major project the RoboHornets worked on for the Little Lighthouse was what we call “bumper-bots.” These bumper-bots help the children understand cause and effect by using a touch sensor to move backward after bumping into a wall, or any other solid surface. Some of our students made a “wizard’s coat” with lights and sensors that responded to the children’s arm movements. Delivering these items and watching the children play with them was very emotional for the RoboHornets who were involved.
To conclude, the youth mindset, the new ideas, and the innovative designs, even the small ways they can help, are all important ways our team embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST. By working with younger students and graciously accepting the help of our mentors we are aspiring to be the next generation of leaders.
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
The FIRST program has had a positive impact on all of our members. When asked, rookie Honey Wilson said, “I have learned to take initiative and seek out challenges rather than sit there,” and 2nd yr Christine said “I learned the importance of complete participation. A team isn’t a few devoted members and others who might care less; it’s a group of people equally invested in their task.” By starting an FLL team and hosting a tournament the team experienced the joy of mentoring younger students.
Describe the impact of the FIRST program on your community with special emphasis on the current season and the preceding two to five years
1209 participates in the annual Tulsa Mini Maker Faire to show those in the greater metropolitan area what the FIRST program offers, inspiring others to start a FIRST team. Because of the impact of FIRST on our team, we also help those who might not otherwise learn about STEM by making learning materials for the Little Lighthouse, a school for special needs children, and volunteering at Hawthorne Elementary School, inspiring future engineers and spreading joy throughout the community.
Describe the team’s innovative or creative method to spread the FIRST message
The team spreads the message of FIRST in many ways. We visit freshman Biology classes at Booker T Washington to gain new members. We also visit local middle schools and show off various robots and talk abou FIRST. Last year we demonstrated robots at many Football games and the robot was featured at our homecoming game halftime show. We taught robotics at two summer camps for elementary children at Hawthorne Elementary and the Dream Center to help underprivileged children learn the joys of FIRST.
Describe examples of how your team members act as role models and inspire other FIRST team members to emulate
In the Fall our senior members teach a course we call Robot101, to give basic training in Safety, Programming, proper tool usage, CAD, and even communication. A good role model on our team is Ben Hughes, who said “When I was a freshman two upperclassmen taught me programming from nothing, I came in with no knowledge at all and am now the head programmer and this year I taught programming classes to the entire team.” Ben has inspired others to teach with these classes, especially our rookies.
Team’s initiatives to help start or form other FIRST Robotics Competition teams
Team 1209 helped start team 5889, the Commandobots from Cascia Hall Preparatory school. Beyond just visiting and helping them during their startup year, their head coach was a former team 1209 mentor, who accompanied us to the Championship competition to use this experience as a goal for his team to work towards. This year we’ve also invited three students from Holland Hall to join our team. They plan to use this experience to start an FRC team next season at their school.
Describe the team’s initiatives to help start or form other FIRST teams (including FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, & FIRST Tech Challenge)
Over the summer a small group of our students helped out with a summer program at Hawthorne Elementary school. The students there mentored younger kids for a few weeks. That small summer project turned into a full FLL team, and even an FLL Jr. team that students still help mentor. We also played a role in organizing the new FTC team at the Tulsa School of Arts and Science. Some of our members went to meetings to give tips on building and programming a robot and making their engineering notebook.
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
This year, team 1209 hosted our first, of many we hope, FLL Qualifier. A total of 28 teams, 24 FLL and 4 Jr. FLL attended. While there, our Judges and Referees not only did their job, but made sure teams understood what went wrong and tried to provide tips on how to improve many aspects of their team. This event was not only a fun experience, but a chance to inspire the future of engineering. We also helped Cascia Hall start an FTC team and two years later assisted them in adding an FRC team.
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)
A few of our members, along with their Boy Scouts troop, started STEAM Explorer Post 26 in 2016 as two FTC teams. This year our members still mentor there and have even allowed growth within the program, adding four FLL teams. Last year, this group made it to Worlds, and our members hope to do the same next year. STEAM Post went to TSAS for a couple of days to help with programming, building ideas, and small tips and tricks. TSAS and STEAM Post now work together, doing scrimmages.
Describe your Corporate/University Sponsors
TU-eng mentors and build location, BTW Foundation-funding, Hydra Service- mentor and parts, AEP-funding, Boeing-funding, DoDSTEM-funding, ESDC Engineering-mentor & funding, Persimmon Group-funding, Russelectric-funding, JLL-funding, Gardner Springs-springs, Valley National Bank-funding, Helmerich and Payne-engineer mentor,funding,& computers, Williams Co.-computer engineer mentor & funding, Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers-funding, Southwood Garden Center-funding
,Describe the strength of your partnership with your sponsors with special emphasis on the current season and the preceding two to five years
TU has provided us with engineering student mentors & workspace since 2002, giving us access to a larger building this year to accommodate our ever growing team. TU has sponsored a summer programs to help students improve their engineering skills. The BTW Foundation has been one of our largest monetary sponsors for 16 years. AEP has funded the team for 14 years. Boeing and DoDSTEM continue strong support. This season we have received six new sponsors, many who have also supplied mentors.
For FIRST Robotics Competition teams older than 5 years, briefly describe your team’s broader impact from its inception
In our early years of being a team, there was no Oklahoma City Qualifier, meaning a ridiculously long travel elsewhere to compete. With the help of teams 31, 932, and 476, the first four Oklahoma teams, including us, we gave presentations at State and Area Education Conventions that eventually resulted in more FRC teams being started. However, that wasn’t it. Along with theses new teams, an Oklahoma Qualifier was established, which we continually participate in.
Describe how your team would explain what FIRST is to someone who has never heard of it
We asked our teammates and received many different responses. Some of the responses were more about the robotics aspect of things, “People build robots in groups to compete against other groups,” (Elliott McMahon, rookie), while others were more profound, looking into the deeper, truer meaning of FIRST. “It’s not only an organization and an extraordinary opportunity, but an experience. It’s immersive and surreal, and the perfect blend of learning and having fun.” (Christine Do, 2nd year).
Briefly describe other matters of interest to the FIRST Judges, if any
1209 has been competitive for 16 years adding more students each year. We have grown from 11 students our rookie year to over 50 members this year. Our students take some of the most rigorous courses taught at BTW. 1209 team members have gone on to further their education at schools throughout the country including TU, OU, OSU, OCU, TCC in Oklahoma and out of state schools such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, UCLA, New Mexico State, and Ohio State.