This Saturday morning (January 5th) will mark the official launch of the 2019 FIRST Robotics season and we’re having a watch party in Lab 4 (the physics lab) to kick off our season at 9:30 am. We will celebrate by having some food and playing video games for a little while before a broadcast at 10:30 am. This year FIRST is celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing with the theme “Destination: Deep Space” presented by Boeing.
- Snacks (Perhaps most important so it’s at the top) – Yes, we will have snacks. Donuts, pizza, etc.
- Free Money!– That’s right, there is a ton of cash available to you as an alum of the FIRST program. Our team has been in business for only four years and already students from our team have been awarded nearly $100,000 in scholarships for being involved in various ways. Plus, our alumni have reported that it’s a great way to connect with people in college because you already have the shared experience of competing in the same international competition. And I don’t need to tell how awesome “I build robots. Big ones that do stuff” looks on a college application.
- No time minimums– Yes, we work as a team after school pretty much every single day and just about every weekend day between this Saturday and at least the beginning of April. Longer if we do well. But that does not mean you have to be there all the time. You can come as often or as little as you like. If that means you want to come every day – awesome. If it means you can come for an hour every Saturday before or after musical rehearsal, that’s cool too. Someone will be working most of the time, but nobody will be working all the time.
- Trips– We go on two-weekend trips in March after spring break where we compete with about 35 other teams in the area. There are around 130 teams in our district, and if we’re in the top 90 or so, we get to compete again at Lehigh University in April. If we finish in the top 25 there, we get invited to go compete in Detroit.
- No Experience Necessary (!) – whether you are interested in building, designing, coding, documenting, managing finances, or even just making friends, you don’t need any prior experience. Except maybe in making friends.
So what kind of jobs are there on the team? Some teams have – no kidding – well over 100 members. There’s a lot to do. No matter what you enjoy, FIRST designs the competition so there is probably something that interests you. You can do more than one of these things if you want.
- Engineering – we design the robot from scratch. if this interests you at all, even if you’ve never worked with any modeling software, it’s something we need a ton of people for. We use Autodesk Fusion to model the entire robot before we build it.
- Construction– Once the designing is done, we must machine parts and assemble everything. Hopefully, we will build two. This part is super fun. Again, no experience necessary. Some of our best builders ever didn’t know scissors from pliers. Seriously. You think we’re kidding, but it’s actually true.
- Coding – Maybe you don’t want to touch the robot at all but are interested in computers and coding. What is more fun about coding than programming a computer to make the whole thing move and operate? We write in Java and there may be some Python, too. Again, only interest is required, not experience.
- Social Media – Networking with other teams before the competitions is critically important. If you want to photograph and write little blurbs on Twitter and Instagram just to show sponsors and other teams what we are doing, this is for you. No assembling required.
- Safety Manager – This is actually really important and there are awards for being good at it. Somebody needs to make sure everyone is behaving safely and responsibly and tell them to knock it off when they’re not. Also, when we’re in the pit area someone needs to remind me to put my safety glasses back on, because I forget a lot, then FIRST safety officials drop by to yell at me. Well, they don’t yell, but you know…it feels like yelling…
- Business– Again, there are actual awards for this. Managing the team’s finances so we can show the inspectors how much everything cost is actually part of the inspection process when we get to the competition. This is something that does not require a ton of time but is required of every team.
- Human Player – The robots don’t play the entire game without help from people, just the first 30 seconds. After that, the drive team takes over to operate the robot and other things to play the game. These are coveted positions that typically go to people who are around a lot during the building and coding portions so they know how the robot works and can work closely with the people making it. We hope to have the robot finished in just two weeks so we will have a lot of time to practice with it and make design changes.
- Friendly People– No joke, if you are a friendly person and all you want to do is sit around and cheer us on keep us company and watch everyone else work, there’s room for you, too. All you have to do is absorb some of what’s going on around you so you can make friends with people on other teams. Believe it or not, this is another critically important job.
No commitment, just come learn about what we do, play some video games, and eat some snacks! If you decide it’s not for you, we’ll still be happy to hang out with you for the morning. Leave any time you like, but some people will likely stay until around dinner time. If you like what you see and are available on Sunday (January 6th) morning, we will reconvene to start designing.