Standing outside the competition doors waiting to go inside, I can feel the anticipation building. Heart racing. Blood pumping. All I can think about is what has led me to this moment.
The first time I saw Greater Rochester Robotics (GRR), FIRST Team 340 I was amazed. They were marching with their robot in the local Fourth of July parade, proudly carrying a FIRST banner. The next day I begged my mom to sign me up for their annual robotics summer camp. The counselors, Team 340 student members, ensured that the week was both fun and informative. At camp I built aFIRST Lego League robot for a mock competition which inspired me to join anFLL team. That fall, our team was without a coach and GRR’s mentors rose to the challenge. In addition to coaching, Team 340 hosts an annual NXT Coaches’ Clinic where they help 60 coaches prepare for the upcoming season. My team was one of over 200 that GRR has assisted, sponsored or mentored in the past three years. At GRR’s yearly Qualifying Event, my team won the Teamwork award which brought us to the Finger Lakes FLL Championship. I was excited to seeGRR team members judging, refereeing, and volunteering in numerous positions,as well as demoing their FRC robot. At the competition, we won the Champions Award and moved on to the World Festival in Atlanta. My success in FLL helped prepare me for my next challenge.
I joined FIRST Team 340, after graduating from FLL and started to learn about the many things they do. The first event I attended was Ruckus, a local off-season competition. There I worked with Team 578 to reprogram their robot and asa result of this teamwork, our alliance won the competition. This was not the first time GRR helped another team. For their rookie year Team 3181 borrowed one of GRR’s robots so they could participate in Ruckus. As a team we provided them with a shipping crate, build materials and guidance throughout the past two seasons. Due to the strong bond we built, they requested the pit next to ours at the regional. When Team 73’s robot needed a new drive base, GRR brought the design and components needed to rebuild. We were so focused on working that the four teams that were helping Team 73 did not notice FIRST’s President,Paul Gudonis,making an effort to congratulate our work. During the 2011 season, when Team3015 was struggling with design concepts, we helped them brainstorm, prototype,and provided them with components. Extending GRR’s influence outside of build season, I helped create webisodes to share my experiences with fundraising and community service. I am proud that GRR has helped over 300 FIRST teams and is always willing to help with sponsorship, robot design and components, fabrication,registration, and awards submissions.
One of the first things I learned about GRR was that their outreach extends beyond other FIRST teams, and into the community. Keeping with longstanding tradition, Team 340 revisits multiple community service projects. For the third yearI assisted senior citizens at the County Executive’s Senior Day at the Beach by walking them to pavilions and serving lunch. I enjoyed seeing them again at the weekly Senior Supper club. One of my favorite projects was assisting campers at the National MS Family Overnight. It was fun serving them at their dinner theater and making s’mores around the campfire. This year marked over a decade of bellringing for the Salvation Army and as always, it was rewarding to stand in the cold benefiting someone in need. For the past two years GRR’s annual Jug Wars
competition, to benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital and the Muscular DystrophyAssociation, I helped Churchville-Chili’s Middle School students raise over$3,000. In memory of a Churchville-Chili student who died of cancer, I assist
yearly at Daniel’s 5K to raise money for research. In addition to raising money for charities, I have helped collect books for the National Reach Out and Read program and Crestwood Children’s Center. To continue promoting literacy, I read to elementary school students through GRR’s Reading Program. To expand GRR’s impact we have explored new ways to help our global community. In the spirit of the holidays, I started a tradition of making homemade cards for soldiers overseas.Personally touching the life of a soldier made me realize how simple acts could mean so much to those far from home. By volunteering and running in thePeruvian Project 5K, I was able to support the purchase of required uniforms and supplies for children to attend school in Peru. During spirit week, I challenged my fellow high school students to raise money for Haiti and collected over $400. As a member of FIRST Team 340, I, along with 22 of my teammates, have earned recognition for our community service by receiving the President’s VolunteerService Award. GRR has served over 4,600 hours during the past three years and this has contributed to GRR being a two-
time President’s Circle Team. My community knows that when they need help GRR is willing to pitch in.I have learned it is important to nurture connections not only with my local community, but with my school as well. When the music department needed a unique instrument to replicate marching feet, they asked GRR to fabricate a “stomp block .”
Using this instrument they received the highest ranking at their competition. We have also assisted with their haunted house and made several props for their musicals. Along with the school’s student executive council GRR has collected items for holiday food baskets. In turn, they helped us raise money to purchase pajamas for foster children. At Celebrate Churchville-Chili, an event which showcases all that our district has to offer, we promoted FIRST along side the varsity sports teams. It was great to show the community our varsity
“sport of the mind”. Every year the Board of Education members recognize the successful robotics program I am a part of. Inspired by FIRST they made it possible for me and others to take an Introduction to Robotics class created by GRR’s team leader.The school superintendent recognizes the value that FIRST brings to me and as a result I was chosen as her Monroe County Superintendent’s Choice Award,“Student of the Year”. To support the family of a team member whose father passed away, I joined forces with the Boy’s Varsity Volleyball team, Boy Scouts, and the music department to raise $1,900.
I have found working with organizations around the community is just as rewarding. To support local scouts GRR assists them with their Eagle and GoldAward projects, which enhance the community and promote science and technology. To further the partnership of FIRST and the Girl Scouts, each year we expand our outreach by doing creative demos to enhance their program. GRR continues to hold individual troop demos and attend other local scouting events. Asa result of these demos many scouts have joined an area FIRST team.
I enjoy taking GRR’s FRC and FLL gear on the road to various demos. I have been to the Churchville Lions Country Fair, the Monroe County Fair, and at the Great New York State Fair I helped run the booth FIRST sponsored. This yearGRR was challenged by FIRST to come up with an innovative game for the fairgoers and our Lego Tomato Races had kids lining up to compete. At TheNational Museum of Play at Strong’s Kids Performing for Kids event we demonstrated FRC, FLL, and a mock FTC game. At the National LacrosseLeague’s Rochester Knighthawks’ season home opener GRR’s lacrosse throwing robot was a big hit. This robot was one of four that was built for demos during our off season. The American Hockey League welcomed us to display FIRST to their fans before the game, and our success earned us an invitation back. It was entertaining to watch their mascots drive our robot.
One of the most fun initiatives that I continue to work on is GRR’s effort to expose FIRST to as many people as possible. Demoing at professional sporting events, submitting a FIRST Google Doodle and postage stamp are only a few GRR’s endeavors. So far our creative Facebook advertisements, promoting FIRST events, have reached over one million people. It is always exciting to read the comments from people all around the globe and as a result, I became friends with aHawaiian FRC student. I maintain an interactive, award winning website which allows anyone to contact us with questions relating to FIRST. I realized the impact of my work when a parent approached me at the New York State Fair and thanked me for helping them start a new team.
All of GRR’s efforts would not be possible without the support of our
mentors. Not only do they support the team as a whole, but they also help every student individually. They do this by writing letters of recommendation for colleges, scholarships, and jobs. Inspired by our mentors and FIRST, all of last year’s seniors went on to study science, engineering, or technology at college,where many received scholarships. 80% of GRR’s alumni stay in contact with the team, whether by writing on the forum, being a part of our Facebook page, and mentoring or starting new FIRST teams. These alumni helped make FIRST at tradition for their families. Many of their parents and siblings stay involved after their children have graduated.
Now I have direction, I know who I am, I know how to succeed, and I know where I want to go. Team 340 has brought me here, making me the person I am today and I will never forget my journey. I am Alex, Zach, Jackson, Erin, Tim,Jess, Pat, Katie, Sam, Ben, Kyle, Kristen, Eric, Dillan, Rebecca, Michelle, Andy,Lydia, Maddie, Tom, Luke, Shawn, CJ, Adam, Laura, Dan, Joel, Christa, Roger,Taylor, Melissa, Justin, Tyler, Rudy, James, Matt, Chris, Shannon, Abby. I am FIRST Team 340. FIRST is in me and always will be.
Now the doors are open and I cannot wait for my next FIRST experience to begin.