Game: FIRST Steamworks
Essay written by the Chairman’s Team
Team 3061 leads by example. We are dedicated to supporting FLL and therefore live by the same Core Values that we teach to the teams we mentor.
We are a team
Team 3061 encourages cohesion through open communication, creativity and transparency. We have many methods of communicating, tracking and sharing information including an online classroom, text messages, cloud storage and project management tools. All team members have access to each system, with information being communicated in multiple ways to ensure everyone stays informed. During build season, we use our nightly dinner meetings to share the status of projects and to allow different subgroups to coordinate work. Experienced members share knowledge with new members during a series of preseason workshops conducted by each team discipline to introduce its role.
Creativity is fostered through events such as our annual team building activity during preseason. This year’s task was an engineering-in-a-bag zipline activity, where we worked in small groups to design and build solutions. Our approach to Kickoff promotes creativity and inclusion. We gather as a team, including mentors and many alumni. We brainstorm and discuss ideas in small groups and then condense them into a game strategy. During the build season, once we have determined a strategy, robot design is conducted much the same way, with different groups creating prototypes, testing and discussing until we come to a consensus. Ideas are suggested by new members and veterans alike, because the idealistic perspective of newer members together with the pragmatic expertise of the veterans gives us a balanced plan.
Transparency is evident throughout all of our processes from how we organize and communicate information, to our decision making where everyone is encouraged to voice their opinion. Together, Huskie Robotics is a community of over 60 members, 20 mentors and 10 sponsors working as one.
We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors
We are student-led. On Team 3061, students are the decision makers. Leadership skills are fostered by coaches and mentors who encourage students to take on new responsibilities. Students gain confidence and experience by progressing through several layers of team management, from heading up a single project to being 1 of the 3 overall team executives. When challenges are encountered, team members collaborate to explore possibilities, prototype and refine solutions. Mentors help by conducting design reviews of complicated systems and providing just-in-time instruction in advanced topics (e.g., control system theory). With the leadership of Huskie Robotics driven by students along with the support of our coaches and mentors, we learn and build upon our institutional knowledge from one year to the next.
We know that our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together
When our team started in 2009, neither coaches nor students had any idea of what they were getting into. Since then, we have evolved by learning together. A good example is our annual Keep, Fix, Try session where students, coaches and mentors review the previous year. We discuss what went well, problems we had, how we hope to improve and new challenges we would like to undertake.
One of this year’s build season challenges was swerve drive. No one on the team, including mentors and coaches, had previous experience with this type of drive train. Together, we encountered and overcame a variety of obstacles, from determining swerve drive algorithms and learning new control systems to CADing new wheel mounts. Another example of mentors and students working together is the Huskie Board, an MXP board approved by FIRST this year. Mentors and students collaborated to learn what it takes to design, prototype, manufacture, sell and support a product.
We honor the spirit of friendly competition
Sportsmanship is a value ingrained in our team’s culture. From FLL teams we mentor going head to head at a qualifier to a competitive engineering challenge we hold at our first meeting of the year, Huskies strive to do their best while sharing ideas, experiences and skills with one another. We have also used friendly competition as a motivator. For example, in 2015, a group of ambitious sophomores kept a tally of how many teams each of them assisted. While we are not certain which individual won, in total we helped over 15 teams at that regional. It is through this friendly competition that we grow, learn and inspire our team and ourselves.
What we discover is more important than what we win
Trophies are exciting for an instant, but skills and knowledge last a lifetime. Huskie alumni have used their experiences and knowledge from being on the team to gain admission to prestigious colleges such as Harvard, Michigan, Cornell and MIT, to impact their teams in engineering competitions such as Solar Car and Formula SAE, and to further their careers at organizations including Google, SpaceX, Tesla and NASA. One recent Huskie alumni felt that being on the team allowed her to better understand what she was learning in class and overcome her self doubt. The skills and confidence she gained also helped her secure a coveted internship the summer after her freshman year of college.
One way we demonstrate that learning is more important than winning is by allowing team members the freedom to explore different disciplines and to change subteams at any time. While focusing expertise might increase our possibility of winning, we are focused on winning the long term game, not one season.
We share our experiences with others
Through a variety of FIRST events and outreach activities, our team spreads the mission and values of FIRST to our community. Over the past 6 years, Huskie Robotics has developed a comprehensive program to create and assist new FLL teams. Our program includes the following annual events:
– “How to Get Started in FLL” Info Session (Each May, Started in 2015)
Encourages participants to start new teams by providing info on registration, budgeting, logistics, etc. Started 14 FLL teams over the past 5 years; also provided $2000 to get FLL teams started in our school district in 2015
– FLL New Coach Clinic (Each September, Started in 2013)
Teaches coaches and kids about team management, core values, project research, programming, and robot design & strategy. Over 100 teams have gone through our program. We have helped similar programs get started by sharing our workshop materials and providing other support to presenters and teams throughout Illinois including FTC#7129, FRC#5847 and FLL#7075
-FLL Mentoring (Each FLL season, Started in 2012)
Conduct mentor clinics to train team members to become FLL mentors.
7 team members currently mentor 11 teams
-FLL Double Qualifying Tournament (Each December, Started in 2015)
Host and run a 32 team tournament. Live streamed this year’s event. 50 student volunteers worked for a combined 300+ hours to make this event possible
“The leadership and willingness to do whatever needed doing was very clear, and made the day such a success.” – Stephan M., Referee
-Open House (Each February, Started in 2013)
There are 2 sessions. Day session is for local FLL teams to encourage them to continue in FIRST. Evening session is for school administrators and sponsors to emphasize the value of the program. Team members talk about game strategy, design process, robot subsystems and outreach to promote FIRST throughout our community.
Huskies also participate in a variety of outreach events throughout the year. From STEM Nights and science fairs at district elementary schools to sponsor-held events, Team 3061 is proud to promote STEM and FIRST. This year, we participated in over 10 events inspiring over 8500 people throughout our community. This past summer, a team member and an alumni taught a robotics summer camp through the Rainbow Push Coalition for inner city students in Chicago. Most recently, the team made its second annual appearance at Barnes & Noble’s Maker Faire and joined with FRC teams 2338, 5934 and 1625 for NIU’s STEMfest. Our future plans include more science nights, participating in a STEAM camp at North Central College, and running our own robotics camp this summer.
We display Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition in everything we do
Huskie Robotics is proud to have won the Gracious Professionalism Award at the Midwest Regional 3 of the last 5 years. While our efforts in the past have been informal, we now have a Gracious Professionalism team lead whose job is to formalize and promote successful team practices. This includes putting together a reference sheet on the skill sets and expertise of individual team members to building up confidence and setting expectations for newer members when helping other teams at our regionals. Inspired by our Chief Robot Designer who won the Dean’s List Award at the FIRST World Championship in 2016, we hope to continue to foster this attitude throughout build season, competitions, and our everyday lives.
We have fun
There is no attendance requirement on Team 3061; members are allowed to come and go as they wish, yet, we enjoy our time here so much that we continue to put in our best efforts over long hours. Even in unfavorable conditions such as being stuck in an ice storm far from home, or being crowded together in a hotel without food, we genuinely enjoy our time together, and still reminisce about the blackout of 2016. The memories formed and lasting friendships made dwarf the temporary discomforts. Returning for team events has been a long standing tradition among alumni of Team 3061. They also actively seek out opportunities to continue associating with FIRST, such as mentoring FRC teams and volunteering at events in order to reconnect with their positive experiences and those who share the FIRST mission.
Wherever we go, Huskies will always take the FIRST message and FLL Core Values with them.