On December 1st, FIRST Team 3061 visited Navistar’s engine plant in Melrose Park and Steve Coan’s Create, Cut, Invent shop in Naperville.

There is a photo gallery of pictures taken by Navistar during the field trip.

Navistar published the following article internally:

Through its community outreach efforts, Navistar is inspiring children to achieve their full potential in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to help build a workforce for the future. The company’s sponsorship of the FIRST Robotics competition in our world headquarters community is just one example of that. Recently, a team of budding engineers from Naperville North High School kicked off its new season, with numerous Integrated Product Development (IPD) employees offering their expertise as mentors. The mentors use their engineering and math knowledge to coach the students to make a fully-functioning robot that will compete in a regional robotics competition, sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a global math and science education initiative.

“It’s a bit of an ego boost to see these kids get excited about what we do for a living,” said John Baldauf, Navistar engineer, and a second-year volunteer. “During the competition, the students look to us to be leaders on the spot.”

Since 1992, FIRST Robotics has inspired careers in math, science and technology by engaging high school students from around the world in an annual competition. Over the years, the competition has grown from 28 teams competing to more than 2,000 teams. This is the fourth year that the Naperville North team has competed.

Last week, the team toured the Melrose Park engine plant to see robots at work—and gain some inspiration.

“The tour was great,” said Rebecca DiOrio, a Career and Technical Education teacher for Naperville North and faculty adviser for the team. “It gave our students a chance to see how a company is run and the collaboration of multiple occupations working together for a common goal.”

Each year, FIRST reveals the challenge guidelines six weeks prior to the regional competition, then the team prepares the robot, from concept to build. Using parts from previous years’ robots, donated parts and parts included in the assembly kit provided by FIRST, the team constructs a robot that attempts to achieve the goal of the competition. For example, to complete last year’s challenge of hanging inflatable shapes to pegs on a wall, the team constructed an arm that was able to scoop the shapes off the ground and lift it to the peg to earn points.

While awaiting the challenge assignment, Navistar engineers attend after-school sessions with the team where they teach basic engineering principles using last year’s robot as a learning tool.

For the mentors, helping the students do well in the competition is just as rewarding for them as it is for the students.

“As mentors, we do a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, and we learn a lot,” said Dan Levenson, special tools manager, Navistar Defense, who has been helping FIRST robotics teams since 1998. “They say if you want to learn something well, teach it. It definitely applies here. I have the chance to work on engineering functions outside of what I do for my day job.”

The competition also allows students to explore new interests outside of the classroom setting.

“I like the competition because of what the kids get out of it from a learning standpoint, but it’s still fun and competitive,” Rebecca said. “This is real-world application of the engineering and math they learn in their core classes and a chance for them to get hands-on experience.”

Naperville North Junior Carissa Cesaroti was able to explore the mechanical and electrical work last year during her first year on the team. She developed a strong interest in those areas.
“I like getting into the greasy part of the robot,” she said. “I literally knew nothing about robotics last year, but I learned and became a vital part of the team. Everyone gets really involved; there’s no useless person on our team.”