Game: FIRST Destination: Deep Space
Essay written by the Chairman’s Team
In just over a decade, Huskie Robotics has expanded from a club of 6 members to a team of 100+ students, 20 mentors and 10 sponsors, spreading the FIRST message and Core Values to thousands of people within our community and beyond. Huskie Robotics has always put an emphasis on core values and this year’s new FIRST Core Values are no exception. They are the lenses through which we focus our efforts.
Our annual “Keep, Fix, Try” (KFT) team-wide discussion is the root of our team’s growth. Similar to a SWOT analysis, the KFT allows us to reflect on the past season and prepare for the next one.
After one KFT a few years ago, students proposed a leadership workshop for current and future team leaders. This workshop was then run by mentors, who taught us concepts such as servant leadership and facilitated team goal setting by guiding us through a team SWOT analysis. As a result, our team leadership has been significantly strengthened over the past 3 seasons. The team defines the annual goals in this workshop which are: improve productivity, maintain and build relationships with the community, prepare for the future, attend 2019 Championships, and strengthen our robotics family.
Last summer, several leads met to develop a new team structure with the goal of highlighting team strengths while creating a wider distribution of responsibility. The structure created 3 main sections within the team: business, robot and strategy, each overseen by a captain. While the captains and team leads are the main decision makers, it is also important for every member to have an area of responsibility. In order to ensure that every team member feels that they are included and contribute meaningfully to the team, the captains defined a wide variety of tech roles. Every team member can apply for various tech roles at the start of the season. While members are not restricted to these roles, everyone now has areas of responsibility and a focus for learning.
A Huskie’s time with the team begins with exploration. Each September, seasoned members spend 10 weeks during preseason introducing new members to FIRST and our team. Each week, a subteam engages new members through a workshop; here students discover their interests. As a result, 84% of students who expressed interest in joining the team have done so this year, the highest percentage in our history.
If the team is to advance, each student should as well; setting individual goals is just as important as setting team goals. During preseason, veteran members work with new members to set personal goals, sharing their robotics experience. Using this advice and what they learned in the workshops, new members set their long term goals, join the subteam of their choice, and apply for a specific technical role.
Over the years, Huskie Robotics has established a culture of inclusion and collaboration, providing a safe place for students to grow no matter their skill level or other commitments.
One way we promote this is through Kickoff with the entire team. Through a small group discussions of robot rules and then a team-wide discussion of game strategy, each member’s thoughts are heard. This is followed by a similar process for robot design, where groups discuss potential designs and then build and test prototypes. Ideas from all members are explored, allowing the perspective of both rookies and veterans to be combined into a balanced plan. Throughout the season, we leverage collaboration tools (Trello, GitHub) and Agile processes to coordinate the efforts of our large team.
The importance of friendly competition is a constant theme among our team. We are proud to have won the Gracious Professionalism Award at the Midwest Regional last year and 3 of the last 6, demonstrating the internal culture of coopertition that our team fosters. In 2018, 3 software members sat in the stands for hours teaching LabVIEW to students from Team 4702. 10 students helped Team 2725 build a cube collection system. 3 students helped Team 7237, Unibots, get their drivetrain moving. However, Gracious Professionalism doesn’t end when a competition does. We continue to help Unibots by sharing information about our team structure and a variety of technical skills.
Beyond competition, our team shares resources and experiences with a variety of FIRST teams in our area. Last year, we held a workshop for FRC Team 3488 and FTC Team 13530. We explained how our team operates, discussed previous challenges, and shared resources such as our robot code and vision library. Additionally, our team connected FRC Team 2704 Roaring Robotics with a new build space and team members.
Mentors and coaches are an integral part of the team culture. They facilitate design reviews of complicated systems and provide insight on advanced topics. They also ensure that institutional knowledge built over the team’s history is passed to new generations of team members.
As Woodie Flowers himself says, fun is the foundation for a meaningful life. One of our team goals is to strengthen our robotics family, and the best waywe can only do that is if we are having fun. From dancing to Bohemian Rhapsody while robot-building, to hosting Friday game nights, to pumpkin carving parties, our team is infused with fun. Sledding on snow days and playing games during bus rides bring us closer together.
We undoubtedly have fun building robots, often combined with learning and a competitive spirit. While they are meant to update the team and provide discussion of roadblocks, dinner meetings create a fun atmosphere to share a meal before heading back to work. Our friendly service hour competition and inside jokes fuel our desire to grow together.
Our team has learned to take all struggles in stride. Software debugging in the hotel lobby at regionals, trailer repairs in Indiana, and subsystems breaking days before Stop Build Day have shown us that we will never meet an obstacle we can’t overcome. Turbulence is part of the ride, and Huskies are ready for whatever is next.
Our discovery, innovation, teamwork, inclusion, and fun drive our ability to inspire the world around us. The skills we learn through our leaders, mentors and sponsors are the impetus of our community impact. Through a variety of FIRST events and outreach activities, we spread the mission and values of FIRST to our community. Over the past 7 years, we have developed a comprehensive program to create and assist FLL teams. Our program includes the following annual events:
In May, we organize a “How to Get Started in FLL” Info Session. Started in 2015, this event encourages parents and students to start new teams by providing information on registration, budgeting and team logistics. Over the past 6 years, we have started 18 FLL teams. In 2015 we provided $2000 in grants to a district elementary school to start 4 FLL teams.
We ran an “Intro to STEM” Summer Camp to get junior high school students interested in FLL. Huskie Robotics members used FLL challenges to introduce kids to design, programming and teamwork. In less than a day, all 32 slots were filled. This past summer we learned we could reach more students by partnering with other organizations, so we worked with our district’s robotics summer camp and joined forces with FRC 5125, FTC Team 13413, and FTC Team 11392 to run a weeklong STEM camp in conjunction with Social Works—Chance the Rapper’s youth empowerment organization. In total, we reached over 150 students.
In September, we run an annual “FLL New Coach Clinic” which trains coaches and students about team management, core values, project research, programming, robot design and strategy. Since the clinic’s inception in 2013, 140+ FLL teams have gained support or been started through the event. We have helped other FIRST teams start their own clinics by sharing our workshop materials with presenters and teams throughout Illinois including FTC 7129, FRC 5847 and FLL 7075. We also created a website with our materials for teams to reference, which has been used around the country. We have received hundreds of positive comments from various attendees throughout the years.
Throughout the FLL season, we focus on mentoring teams in our community. Since 2012, we have mentored 16 different teams.
The most exciting part of the program is our FLL Double Qualifying Tournament, run each December since 2015. It is rewarding to see how the teams who attended our Coaches Clinic have grown. This year, we had over 80 students volunteer 600+ hours to make this event possible.
The last part of our program is the Robotics Showcase. Each February since 2013, we have hosted this event to show our community the FRC experience. There are 2 sessions: the day session is for local FLL teams and 8th grade students to encourage them to continue in FIRST, while the evening session is for school administrators, corporate partners and parents to emphasize the value of the program. Huskies talk about game strategy, design process, robot subsystems and outreach to promote FIRST throughout the community.
We are excited to be starting an FRC team in the Rich Township school district this summer, helping them train coaches and work with new students. We are currently assisting them to apply for grants in the coming year. To introduce them to FRC life, we invited future coaches and their grant coordinator to tour our build space and get a sense of our team operation during our Kickoff.
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.
FIRST Core Values are an integral part of our team. Each day during dinner, we celebrate a member or group who has positively contributed to the team through their embodiment of a FIRST Core Value. Each day, our whole team is inspired as we recognize a concrete example of FIRST Core Values in action.
Game: FIRST Power Up
Essay written by the Chairman’s Team
Huskie Robotics thinks, works and grows as a pack. In 10 years, we have expanded from a club of just 6 members to a pack of 100 members, 20 mentors and 11 sponsors. To produce a successful team, individual Huskies must be trained and nurtured so they are ready to compete. Like our namesakes, we are pack-minded, knowledgeable, supportive, outgoing and determined.
Team 3061 recognizes that teamwork is essential for success. The pack is led by 4 student executives: Captain, Chief Robot Designer, Director of Outreach and Communications, and Drive Team Coach. Together they oversee the 8 subteam leads who manage their respective disciplines. While the leads may be the top dogs, these alphas encourage cohesion through
open communication and transparency. Huskies collaborate and stay informed through many digital mediums.
For Kickoff, we gather as a team with members, mentors and alumni. We brainstorm, conduct small group discussions and distill our ideas into the game strategy. This is followed by a similar process for robot design, where groups discuss potential designs and create & test prototypes. Ideas from all members are explored allowing the perspective of both rookies and veterans to be combined into a balanced plan.
Mentors and coaches are an integral part of the team. They conduct design reviews of complicated systems and provide instruction on advanced topics (e.g. control system theory). From one year to the next, our coaches and mentors ensure that we learn and build upon our knowledge together through our “Keep, Fix, Try” meeting at the end of each season where we reflect as a team to prepare for the following season.
Huskies learn the technical and professional skills needed to succeed in FRC and beyond. During preseason, we strengthen our leaders so they can develop the rest of our team. We run a leadership workshop to set season goals, discuss the qualities of an effective leader and learn teaching philosophies such as the EDGE method & servant leadership. Those philosophies then help us strengthen our team and teach others new skills.
This year, over 75 members went through subteam training over the course of 10 weeks. In November, members joined the subteam of their choice, and discipline leads began in-depth training for their subteam so that all members would be ready for Kickoff.
Throughout build season, leadership skills are continually fostered by coaches and mentors, who encourage all members to take on new responsibilities. Huskies gain confidence and experience by progressing through layers of team management, from overseeing a single project to eventually becoming a team lead.
Using experiences and skills gained from being a part of the team, alumni have gained admission to prestigious colleges such as Harvard, MIT, Michigan, Cornell, Northwestern and Columbia. Once there, they have impacted their teams in engineering competitions including Solar Car and Formula SAE. The alumni’s FIRST skills are recognized by others through internships and job offers from Apple, SpaceX, NASA, Molex, Grid Connect, CERN, Tesla and Google.
We understand that FIRST is not about the trophy, it is about the journey. In 2015, a group of ambitious sophomores kept a tally of how many teams each person assisted at the Midwest Regional. From fixing chain to debugging robot code, the Huskies helped over 15 teams. It is through this friendly competition that we grow, learn and inspire ourselves and other teams.
Our team has a tradition of living out the values of FIRST. At the 2016 FIRST World Championship, an alum won the Dean’s List Award for his dedication to FIRST. We are also proud to have won the Gracious Professionalism Award at the Midwest Regional 2 of the last 5 years, which shows the internal culture of coopertition that our team fosters. While our efforts in the past have been informal, we now have a Gracious Professionalism lead whose job involves organizing members to best help other teams at competition. This also includes putting together a reference sheet on the expertise of individual team members, building up confidence and setting expectations for newer members when helping other teams.
Our team has shared resources and experiences with a variety of FIRST teams in our area. This year, we held a workshop for FRC Team 3488 and FTC Team 13530. We explained how our team operates, discussed challenges we have faced, and shared resources like our robot code and vision library. Our team connected FRC Team 2704 Roaring Robotics with a new build space and team members. Via email, we helped rookie FRC Team 7237 from the Universal School of Chicago by sharing information about our team structure. We hope to continue to foster this attitude of selflessness throughout build season, competitions and in our everyday lives.
A Huskie is active both on the team and in their community. We believe every student should be able to experience FIRST, regardless of whether or not they become a Huskie. 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 FLL teams. Our program includes the following annual events:
In May, we organize a “How to Get Started in FLL” Info Session. Started in 2015, this event encourages parents and students to start new teams by providing information on registration, budgeting and team logistics. Over the past 5 years, we have started 18 FLL teams. In 2015 we provided $2000 in grants to a district elementary school to start 4 FLL teams.
In June, we run an “Intro to STEM” Summer Camp to get junior high school students interested in FLL. Huskie Robotics members used FLL challenges to introduce kids to design, programming and teamwork. 32 students attended the summer camp, which sold out in less than a day.
In September, we run an “FLL New Coach Clinic” which teaches coaches and kids about team management, core values, project research, programming, robot design and strategy. 120+ FLL teams have attended or have been started since the clinic’s inception in 2013. We have helped other FRC teams start their own clinics by sharing our workshop materials and providing other support to presenters and teams throughout Illinois (including FTC 7129, FRC 5847 and FLL 7075). We have also created a website with our materials for teams to reference during the season. Throughout the years we have received hundreds of positive comments from various attendees. One rookie coach even commented, “I was so very impressed with the level of training available… It was amazing… [My co-coach and I] both walked away that day thinking, OK we COULD do this.” They went on to win at State.
Throughout the FLL season we focus on mentoring teams in our community. Since 2012, we have mentored 16 different teams. One team mentor cited that the most rewarding part of his experience was “helping out the next group of young kids and giving them the opportunities that I was fortunate to have when I was their age.”
The most exciting part of the program is definitely our FLL Double Qualifying Tournament, which is run each December since 2015, mainly because it provides us the opportunity to see how the teams who attended the Coaches Clinic have grown. We host and run a live-streamed, 32 team tournament and this year we had over 80 students volunteer 400+ hours to make this event possible. One of the robot referees, Stephan Meehan, commented, “The leadership and willingness to do whatever needed doing was very clear, and made the day such a success.”
The last part of our program is the Open House. Each February since 2013, we host this event to show our community the FRC experience. There are 2 sessions: the day session is for local FLL teams to encourage them to continue in FIRST, and the evening session is for school administrators and corporate partners to emphasize the value of the program. Huskies talk about game strategy, design process, robot subsystems and outreach to promote FIRST throughout the community.
Through these events, we have helped spread FIRST and FLL to over 1000 students since 2012.
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 alone, we participated in 21 events, inspiring over 10,000 people throughout our community. At these events, members showed off the robot, talked to interested parents about FIRST and what it offers, and inspired thousands of young students to get involved in STEM.
Some other notable events we attended were Barnes & Noble’s Maker Faire (200+ attendees), NIU’s STEMfest (3000+), the Wheaton STEM Expo (1100+), Boy Scouts’ STEM-o-Rama (3000+) and NAACP STEAM Camp (300+). Huskies have logged 1100+ hours of service from these events alone.
Many of our members have also been involved in individual service activities and are in leadership positions outside of FRC. For the last 2 summers, team members and alumni have taught a robotics summer camp through the Rainbow Push Coalition for inner city students in Chicago. One member runs his own science and robotics clubs at a local center, and many are leaders in other organizations such as GEMS, Naperville Public Library, Peer Tutoring, LINK, National Honor Society and many more. The school administration calls upon our members to represent the student body at various forums.
We Huskies are never satisfied. Whether on our FRC team or in our other activities; from orchestra to karate, chess to Irish dance, bass fishing to DECA; we are constantly looking for ways to run faster, work harder and become stronger. In doing so, we aim to sustain the team well into its future and spread FIRST into our ever-expanding community. Our pack is strong, fast and unstoppable!
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.
Game: FIRST Stronghold
Essay written by the Media Team
Huskie Robotics: An Unbreakable Pack
The Iditarod is an Alaskan sled dog race, where the world’s finest huskies and their trainers must cover over a thousand miles in under 2 weeks. Under intense time constraints, teams must learn to cooperate, communicate, and perform. Our strong team leadership helps pull along the newest members of the pack. This is the spirit of Huskie Robotics Team 3061. Together, we compete and we learn. We are not just a robotics team, we are a pack.
In 2009, we started our team with only 6 students. We had no idea what we were getting into when we joined the FIRST Robotics Competition. Since then, we’ve evolved from clueless to confident, thanks to the FIRST community. Today, Huskie Robotics is a community of over 60 students, 20 mentors and 8 sponsors. As we have grown in numbers these past 8 years, we have learned what unites us is “more than robots.”
Mr. Rowzee, a mentor, always tells us at the beginning of every robotics season, “I’ve been doing this for many years and I still don’t know anything about robotics.” FIRST is not just about the robots. FIRST is about the life skills that students apply in teamwork and leadership. During our 8 years as a team, we went from watching and learning to leading and teaching. We now have the confidence to inspire others, just as FIRST inspires us.
This year, our overall team is led by 3 students in the roles of Team Captain, Chief Robot Designer and Chief Game Strategist. All students are members of a discipline (Mechanical, Electrical, Software, Fabrication, Scouting, and Media), each of which is led by a student. After Kickoff, when all members contribute to the development of our game strategy, we further organize into cross-discipline subteams aligned to robot functionality. With this student-led structure, guided by mentors, we foster a culture of belonging, collaboration and learning. While mentors work directly with students, the Friends of Robotics parent committee supports the team administratively by coordinating meals, spirit wear, and travel.
Our efforts don’t stop at Closing Ceremonies; we attend STEM showcases and off-season competitions throughout the year, and hold team development and training in the fall. At the end of each season, the entire team reflects on what we want to “keep,” “fix” and “try”. This resulted in an extra weekly meeting for more training and projects in the off season and the restructuring of our team organization. The pre-season was filled with projects, including designing a t-shirt cannon, software architecture, and learning a project management platform for organization and transparency. These projects help both veterans and newcomers further their skills, building trust and foundations for future seasons.
Leadership on our team is earned through dedication to the team and an application process. For instance, Sejal, a team lead, started teaching CAD and mechanical skills; his work inspired a teammate to mentor an FLL team. Neil, who learned the best practices for electrical connections from our mentors, passed this knowledge to a younger teammate, Trent. They ended up building an electrical board for the robot which inspired Trent to join the electrical team. Leadership is also fostered through programs like Big Brothers/Sisters which pairs veterans with new members to help them become part of the team.
With the combination of hard and soft skill and our team culture as a base, many of our members graduate with a strong sense of what they will pursue. They have gone on to attend prestigious college programs at Cornell, Northwestern, Purdue, MIT, and Olin while also scoring internships at Google, SpaceX, Tesla, and NASA. Whatever they pursue, our alumni are passionate about improving the world.
Sponsors and Mentors
Sponsors and mentors provide a solid foundation for us. While we do rely on their much needed financial backing, even more integral to the growth of Huskie Robotics is the mentoring, service, and other support they provide.
This year, we are working with our sponsors, MPCS, Parallax, and Grayhill, to sell our new, student-designed, roboRIO MXP Boards. Midwest Printed Circuit Services is manufacturing the PCBs to industry standards, Grayhill is helping by donating time on their busy manufacturing line to prototype and test our boards, and Parallax has agreed to mass-produce and sell the boards to other FRC teams. They, along with a mentor, have helped us through the full design, prototyping and manufacturing process.
Our sponsors trust our team and the ability of our members. Molex normally only accepts college-aged interns. After working with our team, they offered 3 of our members engineering internships. Grayhill also offered a student a job when they saw his technical skills. We have been invited to many open houses and tours hosted by Motorola Solutions, Lextech, Navistar, Create Cut Invent, and Grayhill.
Our mentors are very dedicated to our team, and routinely go above and beyond to help us. Some have conducted workshops such as social media marketing, an introduction to Trello, and a weekly LabVIEW tutorial over the summer. Ed, a retired Navistar engineer, has health limitations. He is frustrated that he isn’t allowed to come to our meetings while he waits for clearance from his doctor, and checks in with us often. Clive, also from Navistar, felt such a connection with our team that he involved a friend equipped with a tractor trailer to drive to Indiana to pick up 4 pieces of machining equipment and deliver them to us, a multiple day operation. With this equipment and sustained instruction by our mentors, all machining for the robot is performed by students in our school. These are just a few examples of the extraordinary efforts of our mentors.
We inspire our community through a wide variety of outreach activities. We share our passion for FIRST through elementary STEM nights, science summer camps, junior-high workshops, Boy Scout events, and presentations at the local ASME chapter’s conference. A memorable example of our impact on the community occurred this fall at our community’s inaugural Mini-Maker Faire. A little girl ran up to our robot Annie and said, “Oh, it’s Annie. I love Annie!” She then revealed to her perplexed dad that she remembered Annie from when we visited her school.
Over the past several years, we have provided extracurricular STEM opportunities for elementary and junior high students and served as mentors. Our first project engaged elementary students in the ideation, design, and construction of experiments that we launched in a high-altitude balloon. Next we implemented 2 10-week workshops for students from 2 of our junior highs. We mentored groups of students as they designed, built, and tested underwater ROVs. The next year, the project was quadcopters.
During our preseason, we dedicated time to an open-source 3D-printed hand for Enabling The Future. Brandon, our chief robot designer, came up with the idea and directed a group of 4 freshman in the effort. After we tweeted out a picture of the hand, a passionate teacher in our district contacted a doctor about our project. We were then matched with a potential candidate in our community: a boy who lost his hand due to an explosion in Iraq. The entire family will soon meet the team and see the prototype.
Over the past 5 years, our team has developed a comprehensive program to assist new FLL teams. In addition, by winning the Gracious Professionalism award 3 of the last 4 years, we have proven we embody the values of FIRST.
We began helping the FLL community by mentoring local teams. The next year, we hosted a mentor clinic where FLL alumni on the team trained other members to become mentors. To inspire FLL teams toward a future in FRC, we began hosting an annual FLL open house at the end of our 2013 season.
Beginning in 2013, we focused our efforts on improving existing teams. That year, we added an FLL clinic in September featuring different sessions for coaches and kids including: team management, Core Values, project research, robot design and locomotion. We volunteered at FLL qualifier tournaments and the regional championship. We then added a “How to get started in FLL” session in the spring of 2015 which started at least 6 new teams. This year, we ran and hosted a double FLL qualifying tournament of 32 teams and had some volunteers from FRC Team 2338 assist us.
This year, we were able to establish an FLL foothold within our school district. Students who weren’t reaching their full potential in the classroom were invited in hopes that this activity would provide inspiration. We started 4 teams in one elementary school by providing a $2000 sponsorship, giving coaching support, and mentoring.
In addition to the work we do with FLL, we share our team experience in FRC to help other teams. We open sourced our code and robot designs and wrote an FRC manual. At the Midwest Regional 4 years ago, a group of freshmen worked with a single student and his teacher to build a robot from parts and write code from scratch so the team could complete. The robot was finished in time for the first match and since there was only a student and his teacher, 2 students covered their Huskie Robotics shirts to stand-in on this team’s drive team so they could participate. As chance would have it, they were on our alliance for the first match. This act is one of the many ways we kept gracious professionalism in our culture.
Like the sled dog teams of the Iditarod, Huskie Robotics is successful because our team, with extensive support, works to fulfill a shared mission. Our student-lead team works with corporate sponsors, mentors, and parents to fulfill this mission of inspiring and serving both our local and FIRST communities. Success in FIRST can’t be accomplished by one team alone; everyone in our FIRST community is needed to pull the sled forward towards success.
Game: Recycle Rush
Robot: Bonnie and Clyde
Essay written by the Media Team
Huskie Robotics: Home
Megan sat eating her sandwich as Andrew stood, for the third night in a row, to say, “the robot will definitely be finished tonight!” The whole team rolled their eyes and laughed. The room listened and chewed as different sub-team leads went over the day’s progress, all while glancing at the door waiting for Mr. Rowzee to call seconds so they could get more cookies. Just a normal 6pm dinner for Huskie Robotics, a group of committed, curious, creative students who strive to innovate and inspire. For us, FIRST is more than just a club. It is a lifestyle, and the values it has taught us form the foundation upon which our team is built.
In 2009, we were only a group of 6 students and teachers, determined to start a FIRST community. Now, with over 80 students and teachers, 20 mentors, and 9 sponsors, Huskie Robotics has been able to build upon the universally important skills of FIRST and build a solid foundation for sustainability.
We invite students to join Huskie Robotics by participating in events throughout our school, such as letting kids drive our robot during our Homecoming Carnival and introducing it during our Freshman Jamboree. We found, however, that managing a larger team was quite difficult. To address this, we developed an organizational structure consisting of six sub-teams (Mechanical, Electrical, Software, Fabrication, Scouting, and Media) to accommodate all of the students that we welcomed. Through this structure we create leadership opportunities that promote confidence in students. We build upon this organization by centering our preseason activities around educating new students about the function of their sub-team. We then have everyone come together to apply their knowledge to different projects, such as designing a new drive system or fabricating an expansion board for the roboRIO.
The growth in the number of sponsors we have, has been integral to our technological growth as a team. For example, our relationship with Midwest Printed Circuit Services has allowed our Expansion Board team to design new circuit boards that the sponsor will fabricate. These boards are for the roboRIO expansion slot that we plan on commercializing. Exelon got involved after Executive VP Bryan Hanson heard stories about the robotics team from his daughter. “I watched and listened to her stories from the practices, the teams and the collaboration that occurs.”, Hanson said in a release. Our relationship with Molex has provided us with new connectors for our electrical board, a mentor that assists us in review of our electrical connections, and funds that will allow us to build a practice robot for the first time! Sponsor relationships have also given our students the opportunity to explore possible futures in STEM through tours of manufacturing plants and headquarters of Create Cut Invent; Motorola Solutions; and Navistar. Connecting with sponsors also allow members of our team to participate in activities that provide us with transferable skills, like a visioning exercise led by the CEO of Grid Connect, a local embedded networking company, that taught us to set goals for not only our upcoming 2013 season, but also through 2023. We used this new knowledge of forecasting to our advantage when creating our team’s business plan.
In addition to our partnerships with sponsors, our growing presence at Naperville North High School (NNHS) has earned us the school’s 2013 Club of the Year award and several grants from our school. Before our Booster Club provided us with new fabrication equipment, we had to send everything to Create Cut Invent, a fabrication service company. Now students are able to fabricate many parts by themselves and gain valuable experience in the process. School district grants have also given us access to the use of 3D printers to make pieces for our robot. When we need a complex, non-structural part of the robot, we are able to print it in hours at a relatively low cost. Without our printers, such pieces would be expensive and time-consuming or impossible to make.
We were honored for our exemplary partnership between education and business at the Naperville Education Foundation’s Business Partnership Breakfast for our relationship with Navistar. We were invited to speak at Navistar’s community open house to unveil their new corporate headquarters. We embrace opportunities to thank our sponsors by hosting an open house during the final week of build season and presenting our progress and success.
Huskie Robotics’ recent growth has allowed us to spread the message of FIRST to other teams and throughout our community. Our increase in members has allowed us to reach farther. We take many opportunities to show students the wonderful world of STEM: showcasing our robot at the Cowlishaw Elementary Science Fair, the district’s Summer Science Camp at Kingsley Elementary, and having several graduating seniors volunteer to give presentations on our robot and FIRST to elementary students throughout the DuPage County area. When we asked a boy at one of the science fairs what he wanted to be when he grew up, he excitedly said, “I wanna build cool robots!” This is the moment we realized our time was well spent.
The Boy Scouts STEM-O-Rama is where we invited students to participate in the action. They were able to act as a human player, loading and catching balls shot by our Aerial Assist robot, Annie. Other students were catching Frisbees fired by FRC Team 2451’s Ultimate Ascent robot. In a different division, they watched FLL Team 115’s robots move in autonomous modes, and even got to drive FTC Team’s 5037 and 7089’s robots themselves. We also collaborated with FRC team Porterbots and at the Boy Scout’s Airfest to showcase both of our robot’s driving and cooperation abilities. Here we demonstrated that participating in FIRST is not just about winning but about uniting with other teams.
This year, we hosted our first ever FLL Clinic at NNHS for rookie teams. It was our first time hosting such a big event, and the outcome was phenomenal. About 50 rookie coaches and over 45 students attended the clinic where we guided the youth through programming sessions led by our members and showed them what it means to be on an FLL team. Our further involvement in FLL ranges from helping out at qualifiers, scrimmages, and regionals to collaborating with other FRC members to build 18 new FLL competition tables for both regions in Illinois.
As with any teacher-student relationship, as we mentor the kids we learn from them. Our members are constantly learning to interact with a diverse group of students, and learning various teaching and organization skills. One of our current members was among the first senior class to have participated in FLL. He found it “intensely rewarding” to go back and help build the program that inspired him to go on to become an engineer, and said, “I enjoy FLL mentoring because it is a chance to pass on the skills that I learned. Basically, that is what made me fall in love with engineering.” We have had more than 8 mentors for FLL in 5 different teams for a total of 10 years. This outreach to FLL throughout the district has gained us 3 new team members, showing that that our outreach to younger students involved in FLL inspire these students to continue the cycle.
Our outreach events allow each team member to become more and more experienced in teaching others about their skills. As we learn from our mistakes, we become more organized, more productive, and better able to spread our knowledge to new members within the team. When asking the current team leads about how the team has changed since their freshman year, they were all taken aback by how much we have grown. Before, our electrical team was given a box and told to fiddle around with it and hope for the best, and only three people on our mechanical team were familiar with CAD software, resulting in our CAD model being finished late after competition season. Now, each team is able to show more care in everything that we design, and we have gotten better at developing the leadership skills needed to guide a team to victory. Our head coach was proud to see our team leads take the same hands off approach as our mentors do, recalling when he saw our electrical team lead teaching the team something once, and then letting them work at it themselves. Our scouting team lead was also proud to say that he did not write one line of code this season, because he spent all of his time guiding new members to fill his shoes.
We like to encourage leadership throughout the whole team, encouraging underclassmen to fill leadership roles so that they can teach other students in years to come. This trust allows the newest members to raise the bar; having a sophomore lead our expansion board project, or trusting in a freshman’s abilities as she fulfills her role as safety captain. With these teaching methods, we foster a culture where you can be certain that no matter what skills you bring, you will leave with not only the knowledge of building a robot, but also how to communicate and form relationships with people that can sustain an entire team. Over our 7 years as a team we went from being taught to being able to teach others, and have learned that there is always something to be learned. The family culture of our team creates a sense of belonging that makes students feel part of something unique. They now have the confidence to inspire other students like FIRST has inspired them.
This year we will be saying goodbye to a lot of seniors, and they will be saying hello to a world of wonderful STEM opportunities. While all of their time and duties on robotics may vary, we all have the same love for FIRST. With all of our seniors attending college and most pursuing a STEM field, they are all looking forward to spreading their passion and inspiring others. Thanks to FIRST, not only we have built a team that can build robots, but a place we can call home.
Game: Aerial Assist
Essay written by Bridget N.
FIRST is building the most passionate generation of innovators that the world has ever seen. For us, FIRST is a lifestyle, an outlook, and a mindset, and our message is being embraced by the communities that surround us faster than ever before.
FIRST has taught us that there are many stepping stones on the road to success, and that being adaptive and collaborative can give us a competitive advantage. From our humble beginnings as six students and a coach in a basement, Team 3061 has transformed into a Midwestern FRC icon. We owe a great deal of our success to FIRST for giving us the opportunity to pursue science and technology. The values of FIRST have shaped our individual personalities as well as our group dynamic. After being honored as our school’s Club of the Year in 2013, we more than doubled in size to 80 participants. Our greater numbers have enabled us to become a rising force in the promotion of FIRST and STEM in the Chicagoland area. This season of Huskie Robotics has been about growth: growth in size, growth in our abilities as a team, and growth out into the community.
One of the hardest challenges we faced this year was, as we grew, to maintain our focus in order to harness the best ideas. The solution was organization. Huskie Robotics is sorted into Mechanical, Electrical, Software, Fabrication, Scouting, and Marketing. These teams are lead by student experts. With clearly designated leaders, younger students always have someone to turn to for advice in their area of interest. Our structure facilitates communication as well. At every meeting, we come together as a full team to share what we’ve accomplished that day and how we will move forward. These “dinner meetings,” an integral part of our culture, let us ask questions, make suggestions, and keep track of the team’s progress. We are proud to have organized such a large team while remaining effective and connected to each other.
Despite our well-established organizational structure, members of the team never feel like they’re only part of “Mechanical” or “Electrical”; we are all members of Huskie Robotics. In addition to the aforementioned dinner meetings, another noteworthy contributor to team unity this year was our Kickoff. The lecture hall was standing room only as we welcomed over 100 students, parents, and mentors into our school early in the morning to plot the coming season. We watched in awe as the international broadcast unveiled the upcoming challenge. Immediately after watching the video, we got down to business. As a full team, we speculated on possibilities for everything from design to strategy, played Aerial Assist as robots to better understand the game, and celebrated the 18th birthday of one of our members. Ultimately, we came up with a goal we would all actively work towards: “Be number one, memorably.”
One of the unique opportunities we have this year is access to the technologies of the future. For instance, an important addition to our mechanical capabilities this season is the use of 3D printing in order to make pieces for our robot. When we need a complex, non-structural part of the robot, we are able to print it in hours at a relatively low cost. Without our printer, such pieces would be expensive and time-consuming or downright impossible to acquire. We acquired this machine through a generous grant from our school district to expand our career and technical education departments. 3D printing is a major game-changer in global manufacturing, and we know how to use it well.
We have created an entirely new Fabrication division that has also extended our on-site manufacturing capabilities. Previously, we had to send our designs for custom parts to an incredibly generous local sponsor. However, this meant that we could only make a limited number of these parts and had a significant turnaround time. Now, with a specialized fabrication team whose job it is to know how to use our new tools, including a mill, a lathe, a ShopBot CNC Router and metal working tools, fabrication runs much more smoothly. We are making parts quickly and efficiently, and students learning from our sponsors and mentors are always the ones working the machinery.
Our scouting team is relatively new. Three years ago, when we became truly competitive, this aspect of our strategy expanded enormously in importance. Our system started as a single person with a clipboard in the stands, but later progressed to a larger paper driven system and later a sophisticated web app. However, through all of these stages, scouting has had one purpose: to improve our understanding of other teams and their capabilities perfectly. In scouting’s first year, through hard work and dedication, we managed to become an Alliance Captain. Using our extensive data, we were able to select two teams that complemented our robot’s capabilities, although we would have overlooked them based on their seeding. Today, our fully computerized analysis provides our Drive Team with real-time information before every match. Team 3061 has a strong robot every year, but scouting gives us the ability to cooperate more effectively with other teams.
Finally, but most importantly, our team’s community presence has grown exponentially this year, particularly in education and volunteerism. The marketing team has worked harder than ever before to initiate different outreach opportunities focused on spreading the message of FIRST. We presented a program called “Science Saturday” for kids in grades 1-5 at the local library. Also, team members assisted at a five-day camp at the DuPage Children’s Museum teaching about the design process and simple machines. In addition, we held demonstrations at a district-wide science camp for elementary school students. Several team members attended a special training session for mentors and then went on to assist several FLL teams to successful seasons, including Champion, Project, and Core Values awards at the qualifying level and Ambassador and Rookie awards at the regional level.
We have learned that volunteering is the best way to fuel our passion for the importance of the work we are doing. This year, we helped out at the Illinois FLL Kickoff at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry with set up and answering the teams’ questions about the building and programming with Lego Mindstorms. Additionally, we worked at the SciTech qualifier and Northern Regional FLL tournaments with setup and teardown. We have also decided that two days before our Midwest Regional this year, we will, as a team, work with the nonprofit organization Feed My Starving Children to pack meals for underprivileged children around the world. There is no better way to unify a team than working together for a common cause.
Our connection with our community deepened this year with the addition of a new sponsor. GridConnect is a local software business that added its support to our team before our final competition last year. This relationship grew over the summer and expanded into a full sponsorship for this season. The founder and CEO of the company was so intrigued that he asked to personally lead us in a Visioning exercise. This allowed us to set goals for not only our upcoming season, but all the way to 2019. We used this Vision to our advantage when creating our team’s business plan and learned the power of futuristic thinking.
Throughout this journey, our successes and failures have shaped us into the team we are today. Even though we are grouped into our specialties, we bring our talents together in order to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Our explosive growth during the past 6 years has forced us to change and develop a new organizational structure in order to use all of our potential to create remarkable impact. This season has tested our limits and ability to adapt to the new dynamics of our team. For many of us, FIRST is the first taste of what our future will hold. We are grateful and humbled to touch the lives of so many others along the way.
Game: FIRST Ultimate Ascent
Essay written by the Cari C.
Five years ago we were a team of six students and teachers, with an angle-iron robot and a cardboard pit. A lot has changed in five years. We have learned about successes and failures, confidence and community, courage and innovation. Team 3061 has become a community of impassioned experts and students that design, CAD, build, and program like they’re doing exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Perhaps the most valuable lesson we’ve learned is that we need each and every one of these brilliant minds inventing in sync. No longer are we a few individuals with ideas and a dream; we, Huskie Robotics, are united students that join our team spend their first year experimenting in any or all aspects of robot design, then return with a specialized area of interest. Veteran members that have become masters in their realm of the build process lead mechanical, electrical, programming, and marketing teams, diffusing knowledge and techniques to the students following their lead. Our members have many diverse interests and specialties, and we find we can best harness this array of talent by focusing completely on one area of the robot. As the season progresses, the workload for any given system will fluctuate, so the members’ position on the team is open to opportunity. When everyone is devoting time and efforts towards something they love or something that they want to know more about, we get the best out of everyone. To further encourage this dedication, the team leads recognize extraordinary participation with a ‘Star of the Week’ award to an individual from any discipline of the team each week. These sub-teams work in parallel and collaborate on every impactful decision regarding final robot design. We have the power of undivided focus, but also the strength of collaboration. Even though we individualize our goals, we achieve them together. Our team has realized its unified dynamic through our culture as a community. We came together with the intention to build a robot, but through six-hour work days and never ending parades of problems, we’ve grown to be an actual team. The team leads never stop texting and emailing to prepare new objectives or overcome current inconsistencies even as the moon grows full and the clock resets itself to the next day. Members working on projects or developing prototypes always work with others. There is always another set of hands or a different perspective to be put to use for any task. Every opinion is heard and considered; every member is valued as another crucial part of our team. Huskie Robotics is comprised of friends, of people that like and respect each other. We sit down every night halfway into our build session and share a meal while our leaders give projections and updates on their endeavors. We connect fundamentally for a love of science and engineering, and we share our lives over five-dollar pizzas and the occasional cookies. We eat together, build together, think together, and dream together every time we meet. Although our culture is very much student directed, our mentors bridge any gaps we may have in understanding or communication. The mentors of Team 3061 love FIRST just as much as any given member. They are our most invaluable resources as we continuously search for the most elegant and practical solution. Our mentors teach us how to apply the knowledge base that we as students accumulate, and provide real-world examples of the mechanisms we innovate. As we battled belts for the first time in our drive train, our mentor, the king of pulleys, guided us from tensioners to teeth, and always put idlers in their place. We’re fortunate with our mentors as they accept and function within the culture of a team. They do not assert their opinions over students, but rather establish working relationships that build off ideas to create the most comprehensive, feasible solutions. Our mentors unify us with their wisdom and experience that bring our team closer to conceptualization and fabrication. The connections we establish extended beyond the individuals that spend thirty hours a week covered in saw dust and pumping the drill press. Our growth as a team has included more involved outreach and communication. The enthusiasm that was induced through the influx of new members last year has boosted our confidence and excitement, and we’ve been more able to take part of special events. As a FIRST Robotics team, it is our mission to inspire the love and acceptance of STEM in popular culture, and our events have focused around this purpose. We reach out to Boy Scouts en route to new merit badges, young women in GEMS aspiring to find a future in the realm of science, elementary students at school events and rising high school freshman already formulating how they will change the world. Our most influential involvement new to this season was our mentorship with FLL Team 250 Techno Trojans. In working with community members outside our team, be it grandparents or toddlers, creative writing majors or electrical engineers, we’ve learned the importance of collaborative thinking. While we were talking of torque and circumference, the nine-year-olds we guided taught us how to think without limitations. And we see in our outreach what we see in our team, as a unified front, we can see problems from all different perspectives and embark on solutions that one person alone could never conceive. We challenge our community to be involved in the ongoing discussion of our future in science with every grouping of people we engage. From our team’s energy and accomplishments, we’ve established a name for our team within our community. Lucy, the Rebound Rumble robot, has become a bit of a local celebrity even, appearing in hallway banners and school carnivals and assemblies after her remarkable performance at the Midwest Regional. Our gracious sponsor, Navistar, invited us to speak at their community open house to unveil their new corporate headquarters, where we thanked all the conductors of activity in Naperville for their support. All of our sponsors have offered us visits and tours of manufacturing plants and headquarters, where members gaze starry-eyed at the future of their careers. Along with our sponsors, we network to other FRC teams, parents, school administrators, and fans through our website blog and twitter. The support we receive illustrates such loyalty, and it affirms our efforts and devotion towards the purpose of FIRST. Amazingly, we’ve even had an offer for sponsorship with Grid Connect via a tweet. As we advance through the season, it is our pleasure to inform fellow Huskies of our progress. Be it through dinner meetings or city announcements, we stand together – as a team – every step of the way. Our unity is the foundation of our success in FRC. The maturation we’ve undergone in five years has taught us how to be purposeful, effective, and congruent as we work through the season. And this has led us to realize how essential every one of our members is. On our team there are jazz musicians, physicists, writers, and readers. For each problem we encounter or goal to accomplish, we have a hundred different ways to look at it, and over seventy curious minds wanting to learn a new skill. With this unity, we take on all facets of competition, and make Huskie Robotics a force to be reckoned and cooperated with. With this unity, we excite those we meet about science, engineering, and its future implications. With this unity, we inspire teammates, corporations, and inquisitive young minds. With this unity, we are a FIRST Robotics team.