Though going on a tour of the laboratory wasn’t necessarily about learning about something for FTC specifically, it was great to learn about a different STEM field. One of the key points that we took away is patience. It takes a very long time to make significant advances in the forefront of hard sciences. Though we have increasingly cutting edge machines, we are still limited by technology from a practical standpoint. For example, the electron microscope that we had the opportunity to see was only put in use five years ago, yet takes ten years to process the data that it collected, so a zebrafish brain hadn’t actually been imaged yet. Another point was that the simpler the organism, the more we can learn about, but as the animal gets increasingly complex, it gets harder. For example, the zebrafish are tiny animals and we can study their entire brains, however we can only attach minimal electrodes for rats. It was awesome to get exposure to this area of this science.
Overall, this event was successful as we accomplished our goals of getting at least 10 people interested in starting an FLL Jr, FLL or FTC team since we got 27 people interested! We had lots of people come by who wanted more information about starting or joining a team! Although we brought our mecanum drive robot, we didn’t bring a battery usable with the REV system, so we ended up using a USRA pushbot that we had brought with us from our last outreach event. We luckily got a robot demonstration up and running. From there, lots of eager kids came by to drive the robot. We hope to attend this annual event next year!
We are attending the annual offseason FIRST Robotics Competition event, the Battle O’ Baltimore. At this event, we will be giving three different training sessions: FIRST LEGO League EV3 Programming, FIRST LEGO League FLL Project and FIRST Tech Challenge Connections, Configurations and Coding. Below are details and summaries of each of our three trainings.
FLL 6 out of the 25 people that signed up attended. The teams and coaches who attended were either rookies or coaches with no programming experience, so we helped primarily with the basics (primarily connections). We went on to moving the robot and turning. We also discussed more advanced ways of doing these. We also discussed the underlying behaviors of the EV3 brick, which was especially useful for returning coaches who had no idea why their robots were acting weird in their last season.
FLL Jr. The coaches and parents at this session were very engaged as we presented and asked specific questions about the presentation and how to conduct research effectively. It was awesome to see their level of interest and excitement. There was one coach particularly, Ms. Kaushika Patel, who was thinking about starting an FLL team of her own but she wasn’t positive, and she said that we convinced her that it was feasible and registered her team. Also, it was great to present with Sharkbait in our first sessions! They competed in FLL last season and attended the trainings that we hosted last year and provided experiences that differed from ours, so the coaches attending were able to see multiple points of view. They said they were excited to be on the other side of the presentation, as this was their first time doing something like this. Their mentor, Ms. Roberts, was appreciative of the opportunity. It was interesting to see the contrast between our first session, with 25+ people and our second, with only 2 attendees. In both sessions, the coaches were very enthusiastic, but it was a good learning experience for us to be able to adapt the same presentation to two different environments.
FTC The coach of the team who brought 9 members to the morning session talked to us after the session. She loved our presentation and said that she wants to bring us to train the rest of their team.
The afternoon session was much more diverse. I thought this would pose a challenge, as people didn’t know each other as well, but everyone was able to collaborate, even with total strangers. There were both adults and kids, and after the session, multiple adults came up to tell us that they were very impressed with how we presented on a technical subject, and that our session was incredibly helpful. They also said that they are planning to use our material to make sure every member on their teams are able to configure and program a robot.
A rookie team sent us the below email to thank us, and let us know that they went home and were able to connect, configure, and program their own drivetrain. This was really amazing, because we were able to see the impact that we made.
There were a lot of kids who drove the omni-directional robot and immediately said “I want to do this!” They brought their parents over, we talked to them about starting an FLL Jr. team at the school, and they were very enthusiastic about getting their kids into the program. However, it will be a challenge to find an adult willing to mentor the team. We made a large impact on the kids and got lots of hype for a after school club.
Overall, the training was a success, since we covered everything we wanted to, but it was not without its challenges. One was that we had was that people came early when we were setting up, and this means that for next time we should be extra early to be prepared. Another challenge was keeping all of the kids engaged. What would usually end up happening is that someone was a tiny bit behind, and then one of us would have to help them, and then the rest of the room wouldn’t focus well so we couldn’t keep the attention of the whole room. Despite these challenges, people liked the content, learned a lot, and look forward to the next training.
On May 19th, we attended an event by the Young President’s Organization at the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. After seeing a multitude of FIRST teams, the school was interested in starting a robotics program for FLL Jr, FLL and FTC. Their science department head, Kim O’Shaughnessy, and their FTC team captain, Andy Harris, came to discuss FTC.
This event was impactful to us because we were able to help a rookie FTC team get on board for starting off their first season, and we shared some tips that would have been useful to know in our first season, since they aren’t all stated in the FIRST guides online. Ms. O’Shaughnessy signed up for our Blockly programming session on September 23rd at the Battle o’ Baltimore to learn more about Block Programming, as well as for our FIRST LEGO League session to develop the school’s FLL team.
One thing that stood out to me about this event was the duration of time each parent that I spoke to spent with our team. Some of these parents were very enthusiastic about starting an FLL Jr. team, even pointing out parents who could be good coaches, and discussing other logistics with each other. There were two little girls who were waiting in line to drive Luna, and we so excited when I told them that they could build their own robot, that they ran to find their parents to get more information. Their mothers talked about how they were girl scouts and that they had heard many other troops were getting involved in robotics. After I mentioned that our team did some girl scout training last year, they asked if we could help them start teams as well.
The positive response we received to this presentation was overwhelming. Throughout each session, audience members were engaged and asking questions. One thing that we did really well was adapting our presentation with the feedback we received the night before. I think this speaks to how well our team dynamic has evolved over the summer, because I don’t believe this would have been as easy for us to do last year. We did not stick to a scripted presentation, instead we let it flow more, and the result was much more interesting and easier for people to listen to. Ironically, the information I was presenting about telling a story actually helped me with this. Our presentation moved away from presenting information that can be found in Game Manual 1, and added more insight and experiences from our team. This was well received because after the session many people stayed behind to ask us additional questions and compliment us on our presentation.
We gave 2 Block Programming sessions in the morning, and one in the afternoon. We also gave two sessions of our judging presentations in the afternoon. We got the contact information of several people that were interested in coming to our scrimmages and wanted to know more about our presentations.
This event was a great way for us to thank our sponsor, Catylator Makerspace, for allowing us to use their space and equipment. It felt really good to be able to help Mr. Morris out by showing how the makerspace could be used in real life. Hopefully the visitors will stay involved with his makerspace and use it. We need to follow up with the parent who was interested in FIRST LEGO League Junior and invite her to our future informational sessions.
This event was a definite success. We were able to talk to about 200 people about FIRST and also got 3 corporate contacts. Planning for this event was really tough because Ms. Rocke could not confirm our participation until the week of the event. At the event, there was a period of about 30 minutes when our robots were out of battery. That was poor planning on our part. We did not anticipate that we would not be able to use wifi at the event and we did not have a printed out sign-up sheet, so we were not able to get contact information of the people we talked with.