FIRST Superhero Sightings in Rochester, New York
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.