We are not a team out of necessity, but from choice. We dedicate our time to this team because we enjoy spending time with the team. We enjoy marketing, or business, or programming, or building, or designing, or maybe just supporting other people. Everybody is welcome to the team, even if they are from another school, or do not have any knowledge of what FIRST Robotics is, or know everything about FIRST. For starters, FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” and that is our goal. Everybody deserves to enjoy to have fun and discover their future career, and we welcome everybody who wishes to do so.
Our team was started by Audrey Cummings as a freshman with no experience, just pure dedication. We all follow her standards that no matter what grade a member of the team is in, they have the capability to do anything they want, as long as they are determined to do so.
There is always a task for a person to do. Our team is running all year long. During the school year we prepare for competition and support FLL teams like the one at Marston Middle School. We learn about robotics and reach out to other teams and companies for support. This way, when January arrives and the six week dash to build our robot begins, we are ready. After the six week build season ends, we must prepare for competition. Competition is very exciting, we are able to see if the decisions we made throughout the year were enough to allow our robot to win. Yet the most important part is not if we win, but if we learn something. The team exists to teach about robotics and marketing. If we are able to make an impact on the members and on the community, that is when we are successful.
I am a programmer at heart. I knew I liked to program in the second grade, during a lego robotics (not FIRST). My friend Chris and I developed an early passion for programming with the block coding of lego. During lunch, we would venture into the library and research elements and math we thought was cool. The only way to learn advanced concepts at such a young age were websites like wikipedia and others to dedicated to helping others learn. These younger years shaped my mind with a fondness for hard work and free knowledge.
As I continued to grow older, I found myself more and more interested in programming. I also had begun to enjoy the materials Google provided me with their open projects and cheap features. I had begun to become interested in developing apps for my Android phone, and it was only a $25 cost for a lifetime membership to their developer console. Around the same time, an online coding school, Udacity, was offering a one week free trial to their Android development program. In that week, I completed the 3-month long course and learned everything I needed to kickstart my proficiency in Java and programming Android apps.
In 2017, I learned about the blockchain/cryptocurrency world. Practically all of the blockchains in existence today are supported by completely open code. The complete code reside on GitHub, meaning they are editable and viewable by anyone. These projects were founded with the idea that people should not have blind trust, but trust because they can see that it is trustworthy. That is why it has been so successful.
With all of these ideas, I have realized that open source communities are the best the world has to offer. They allow people to expand their knowledge and to improve the projects of everyone. Robotics is no different. I believe that everything we do should be transparent. Members should not just follow the leaders of the club, but understand why everything is happening, and question what they say. People should not be closed off from information, and people should not keep information private for it may be able to benefit somebody else. That is a reason why this article is being posted to this blog and not just a private email to my team.
I designed this website with help from other team members so that it can be easily edited by anybody. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest virtues of programming the website instead of utilizing a tool such as Weebly. Pure code is completely shareable. In addition, we all worked hard to heavily comment the code so that others can understand the steps we take. I would like to see the world move away from secrets, and closer to the open source world our team has embraced.--Charlie Jenkins, Captain, Clairemonster Robotics
Starting a new team is a way to expose more people to the exciting world of robotics. A FIRST Robotics team teaches people values such as teamwork in addition to critical thinking, STEAM, and presentation skills. No matter if you are interested in starting an FLL Jr., FLL, FTC, or FRC you can help teach even without a lot of experience.
FIRST Lego League Jr. (FLL Jr.) is a lego based competition for students grades K-4. Up to six students can be on a team with 2 mentors. As a part of this organization, the students construct legos to complete tasks, solve real world problems, create poster boards explaining what they learned. They then travel to expos to present and can be chosen to go to the national expo. There is a $99 yearly fee for registration and a one time $190 cost for the WeDo 2.0 lego kit. Seasons last for 12 weeks, but it is very casual. This program is perfect for introducing young students to building with legos and basic block coding. In addition, mentors do not need to have experience of any kind.
FIRST Lego League (FLL) is a little step up for up to ten students grade 4-8 . At this level, there is more intense competition, but the presentation aspect and solving real world problems remains constant. They have to do research on the problem, formulate a solution, and build a prototype of their solution alongside creating a motorized lego robot to complete a series of tasks better than an opponent. These teams are more expensive at $299 a year for registration, and $489.95 for the lego kit. They also require much more dedication from the students and mentors.
FIRST Technical Challenge (FTC) is more involved than legos, but still not pure metal. It is like a stepping stone between FLL and FRC. To me, it has always been an awkward stepping stone because it is not really possible to do FTC and FRC since the ages overlap too much, and I personally think FRC is so much cooler. However, there are advantages of doing FTC such as a much more manageable price range. Registration for a team is $275 a season, and $873.9 for the parts for a rookie team. The age range for FTC is grades 7-12 and there is no member limit like in lego. It is an exciting competition, but not as intense as FRC.
First Robotics Competition, or FRC, is exclusive to grades 9-12 and demands much more dedication than the other factions. Costs for an FRC team are much more, at $5,000 for a competition and subsequent competitions per season are reduced to $4,000. However, as a rookie team the cost will be $6,000 to include the costs all of necessary parts. This rookie package will provide all of the parts a team needs. A team will need to be comprised of at least five dedicated people with at least some knowledge of programming and building. Competition season lasts six weeks, and the rest of the year is consumed by fundraising and learning more about robotics. It is a perfect experience for students to gain experience in fields they are planning to work in, no matter if their interests are marketing, building, designing, or programming. FRC is for everyone.
While starting a team is not easy, it is quite simple. If you are a student or know students interesting in starting a FIRST Robotics team, hop over to firstinspires.org and check it out! Also, contact us if you would like help. We can help with mentoring, money, and anything you need.
Sincerely, Clairemonster Robotics
Marketing seems to be a widely overlooked aspect of FIRST Robotics, or at least it is in our team. Marketing does not appear to be inherently vital to FRC. Most of the time, people focus more on the short six week build season than anything else. Yet this mindset is not sustainable. Without working for the rest of the year, there will not be enough expertise, or money, or members to do anything.
That is where marketing comes in. There must always be a team dedicated to marketing, and ideally at least four members. However, this can be hard, as most people just think of robotics as only building -- that is exactly the reason why marketing is so important. There should be a leader, a person in charge of sponsorships, one in charge of community outreach, and a final person in charge of branding. The rest of the members should then chose which aspect they are most interested in.
This team will organize and write the grants that will enable a team to fulfill their budget; competition is not cheap. They will also begin to expand the reach of the team in the community to improve the image of the team and to help out other people. Branding will help the team express themselves through their logo and writings such as awards.
Expanding knowledge of the team in school with button pins and flyers will help the team grow, which will in turn educate more people in robotics and marketing. Then once a team is more established, outreach like starting new FIRST teams will help even further broaden the scope of education in the community. By educating the community, a robotics team can ensure the advancement of society. Marketing in the robotics team is what allows this improvement to occur.
Marketing is something that is very challenging. It requires people to step out of their comfort zone and communicate about why robotics is important. It is hard to find a place to start, but there are resources! The first step is to create a list of all companies in the area, a list of nearby schools, a list of community events, and a list of materials like shirts and posters and banners. After these lists are completed, the team can get to work with a little more direction.
Communication is the key to growth. By running an organized marketing division in a robotics team, the team will have the opportunity to be successful. It is for the good of the community and the future.