2012 Essay

FIRST Superhero Sightings in Rochester, New York

Lois Lane,

Staff Writer

There has been an outbreak of heroism in the Rochester area. After some

digging I was able to uncover the mystery behind these encounters.

An eyewitness mentioned seeing the superheroes from FIRST Team 340

and 1511 hosting a “Make a Difference Day” event. She said they protected the

planet by recycling 3400 lbs. of electronics, promoted literacy by donating 1087

children’s books for National Reach Out and Read and saved lives by collecting 40

units of blood with the American Red Cross along with donating food to Foodlink.

They publicized this event through LinkedIn, Facebook and local TV news

These ambassadors of FIRST look for atypical opportunities to involve their

community in FIRST activities. Anchors, from their local ABC affiliate, show off

GRR’s decorated t-shirts to promote upcoming events on the evening news.

Delving into the virtual world, these superheroes crafted Google and Facebook

advertisements encouraging the public to attend FIRST Robotics Competitions.

According to this reporter’s calculations, the total number of people reached

through these aforementioned methods is about 2,050,000.

Phones keep ringing off the hook requesting information on these

superheroes, especially when they were filmed by TV camera crews donating

money they raised for the Golisano Children’s Hospital. They recruited middle

school students to effectively fundraise over $3,000 in two years.

Staying green is also an important goal of these planet protectors. They

were spotted educating people about reusable, compostable and non-recyclable

objects at Greentopia, a celebration of the green movement sweeping the globe.

These superheroes are so dedicated to the green movement they will even get

themselves dirty in order to spread the word. These warriors widened their reach

to encompass Waste Management’s Dinner at the Dump Open House, a

community education program.

Reaching international borders these advocates of humanitarian efforts

collaborated with Peace Corp Volunteers and FIRST Lego League (FLL) Team 4655

to provide a safe process for pasteurization of milk in Nicaragua. They raised

funds to support the training and supplies for this project. To maintain efforts

around the globe, they tested their endurance in the Uganda Water Project and

Peruvian Project 5K runs to raise funds for fresh water and school supplies.

The entirety of their community service has totaled over 8,500 hours which

qualified over 50 superheroes, during the past three years, to earn the

Presidential Volunteer Service Award, from The President of The United States,

These defenders of science, technology, engineering and mathematics also

promote safety in their community. As guest speakers at the Genesee Valley

Chapter of American Society of Safety Engineers they spoke about FIRST and

shared a video they created about the importance of safety guards. This video

was used as the “safety tip of the week” throughout Kodak Rochester.

As champions of tradition, over the past three years, the superheroes from

Greater Rochester Robotics (GRR) have sponsored and mentored 18 FLL teams

with the intent of continuation within the FIRST program. Keeping their feet on

the ground while the Blue Angels took to the sky, Team 340 was seen

commanding numerous booths at the US Navy Blue Angel Air Show where they

raised over $3,000 to sponsor these FLL teams. Talking with an FLL coach, I was

told, “My all Girl Scout team would not have made it to the World Festival

without the financial and mentor support from GRR.” When asked about GRR’s

FLL Qualifier, she said, “I have been attending for five years and many people

compliment GRR on running the best qualifier in the region.” As a way of

encouraging positive FIRST values at the qualifier, GRR created a Hero Award that

is presented to FLL team members who exemplify core values. Following the

success of the FLL teams they mentor, GRR volunteers their time at the University

of Rochester’s FLL Regional Championship. Whether a judge, referee, or

ambassador you’ll see these superheroes and mentors cheering on every team.

Organizing and volunteering at these events they have helped over 300 teams.

They not only help mentor the students, but coaches starting new FLL teams. GRR

has hosted an annual FLL Coaches Clinic for the past three years, guiding,

educating and empowering over 70 coaches. Robotic fever was rampant during

their third annual week-long summer Lego robotics camp. The camp began as a

Girl Scout Gold Award project and has continued to create an off-season

opportunity encouraging students’ involvement in FLL by allowing campers to

practice programming and robot building skills.

These superheroes can be found in the BAT cave, built by the school district

to house a FIRST program as well as Business, Art and Technology classes. They

earn internship hours by working closely with mentors on honing their

engineering, leadership and marketing skills. Out of their shop emerge robotic

beasts that are unique for each demo. These robots are created to entertain

crowds by throwing footballs, baseballs and lacrosse balls.

To thank their school for continued support, Team 340 hosts annual

presentations to keep the Board of Education updated on the team’s latest

endeavors. When talking to their Superintendent, Dr. Pamela Kissel, she stated, “I

cannot begin to express how proud the district is at the accomplishments of our

FIRST Robotics Team 340. They are all role models in the classroom and exemplify

our district’s core beliefs.” These superheroes have an excellent reputation for

helping their school’s clubs. On many occasions they offer their services to

support the high school’s Executive Council or even the Music Department by

creating a robot for a role in the school musical.

To reach out to potential sponsors these superheroes opened the BAT cave

to educate the business community about FIRST and acquired three new

partnerships. Team 340 continues to nurture relationships with their main

benefactor, Bausch + Lomb, by performing demonstrations encouraging

employees to become mentors of FIRST.

Always willing to include everyone, Team 340 was seen demonstrating their

robot’s power and teaching sports fans of all ages about FIRST. At the Buffalo Bills

Kid’s Day their booth won over the crowds as kids enjoyed driving their football

throwing robot. An eyewitness spoke of seeing them at many Rochester

professional sporting events such as, the season home opener for the

Knighthawk’s Lacrosse team, Amerk’s hockey games, as well as appearing at a Red

Wings baseball game. Tallying up their sporting event appearances, they reached

out to 28,000 people. It seems that this superhero team has given the sports

community something new to investigate. Taking into account all the

demonstrations they provided since the team’s formation 13 years prior, this

superhero team has averaged two demos a month.

An integral part of being a FIRST team is about performing demos as well as

understanding the core value of Gracious Professionalism. As a reporter, I

witnessed this first hand by traveling to the Chesapeake Regional, where GRR

earned the Creativity and the Coopertition Awards by freely sharing their minibot

technology with fellow competitors. I found this unique because every other

sports team is about defeating your opponents, not encouraging them to

improve. Along with sharing their extra minibots, designs and robot parts they

continue to support their fellow competitors in other aspects of FIRST. I observed

GRR in deep conversation with FRC Team 1111, helping them with future

Chairman’s Award development.

Over the past three years more than 20 FRC teams requested GRR’s

assistance and they have willingly lent a hand. As guardians of Gracious

Professionalism, GRR took rookie 4H FRC Team 4093 under their wing, from the

initial demonstration, to donating kit parts and weekly contact guiding them in

their quest. The superheroes have invited numerous FRC teams to use their BAT

cave during build season. Showing enthusiasm for FIRST, these heroes tailgated in

the parking lot hours in advance in anticipation for kick-off and the start of build

season. They cooked breakfast to share with other FRC teams in a collaborative

When conversing with team members, a common theme appears in the

exchange; being on FIRST Team 340 has touched their lives in numerous ways.

Starting with the opportunity to take Project Lead the Way classes and the ability

to receive hands-on experience in engineering and technology has given them an

edge as they enter college and beyond. They refer to the mentors behind the

scene guiding them into their destiny, always there to support them in FIRST and

personal matters. An Alumnus said, “We are mentors as well as extended family.

We volunteer with FRC, write recommendations for college applications, network

for jobs and provide encouragement. One aspect I really enjoyed was the sense of

camaraderie and acceptance I felt while on the team. When I was contacted by

GRR this year, I was excited for the opportunity to give back to the team and

organization that gave me direction.”

This outbreak of heroism is not just a recent craze, but has been building to

a roar since FIRST Team 340 began in 2000. In the pursuit of a well rounded

program, they have accumulated six Regional Chairman’s Awards, two Regional

victories and two Division Championships, as well as other recognitions. Through

my continued research on these superheroes, I have realized they are not acting

alone as many heroes do. They work together, not just with each other, but with

other FIRST Teams, their community, their mentors, their school, their sponsors

and the world. These superheroes are the embodiment of FIRST which uncovers

the hidden superhero in us all. Here’s to truth, justice and the FIRST Core Values.