Chairman’s Essay

Chairman’s Essay

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them”. This iconic quote was spoken by Malvolio in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. Much like the quote states, the CyberCards, FRC team 1529, strives to capture greatness in our students, mentors and community partners. Beginning in 2005 with a mere eight members, the team has now grown to over twenty and still counting. We are always endeavoring to inspire the community and introduce students to FIRST and other STEM options. Our greatness is a product of hard work, sportsmanship, and compassion for other aspects of FIRST.

However, this greatness did not happen overnight. It’s taken much time and effort from everyone involved to get to where we are today. Like most teams, we had to build from the ground up. The team began in 2005 with the assistance of our sister school (FRC234) and had eight student members, with four mentors to help them. As we grew, so did our participation in various events such as out of state regionals, Indiana FIRST Forums, IRI, the Indiana Robotics Championship, VEX tournaments, and Brownsburg Precision Robotics Competition. Recently, with assistance from FRC1741, we hosted an official FRC Kickoff for thirteen teams at our high school. At this Kickoff we had a discussion about the Aerial Assist game reveal with teams that attended. In addition to all of this, our team co-hosts CAGE Match, a competition using the past year’s game.

The CAGE Match began in 2008 with the help of team FRC 829, the Digital Goats. This event serves as a great introduction into the FIRST community for rookie members and demonstrates the developmental process of teaching leadership, communication, and the benefits of engineering. This year, we were able to bring in three local food trucks to serve lunch: Groovy Guys Fries, Taste the Caribbean, and Pierogi Love Indy. The gentleman who owns the Pierogi Love truck still Tweets about FIRST Robotics every chance he gets. He even visited our shop this year during Build Season and provided breakfast at our Kickoff event.

Since the founding of CAGE Match, it has always been a rule for participating teams to bring in canned or nonperishable food items and toiletries to donate to the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that houses families when they have a child that is critically ill or injured. Over the years, 26,719 food and hygiene products have been donated. October, the month when CAGE Match occurs, is a time when most donation centers are low on goods, so our donation to the Ronald McDonald House helps people get through until donations pick back up around Thanksgiving. Students on our team inventory all of the donations, pack them in a bus and help deliver them the Monday after CAGE Match. By being part of the entire process, we learn how good it feels to help others in need.

Along with the food drive, CAGE Match also holds a blood drive for the Indiana Blood Center. They drive up to the event in a large motorhome and park outside our high school. Spectators at CAGE Match can donate blood, and so far, over thirty pints of blood have been donated. The Indiana Blood Center believes that blood is life, so it is their mission to provide safe, continuous, and an adequate supply of blood products and biological services to people, of not only their community, but to wherever the products are needed. Although students on our team usually are not old enough to donate blood, by having this at CAGE Match we can encourage mentors, parents, and spectators to save lives.

Another activity that occurs at CAGE Match is the silent auction we hold.  During the silent auction, money is raised for the Art Anderson Scholarship, which is awarded to a senior student for college studies. Since 2011, three scholarships totaling $3,100 have been given out. Students have to apply for the scholarship and write an essay which is judged by an official panel. The silent auction is also a great way for us to create connections in our community, as all of the items up for bid are donated. The items are sometimes goofy, like an autographed picture of the Green Power Ranger and a cardboard cut out head, signed by the Dean Simmons and the Kamen Brothers band. Other items are worth a lot of money, like sports memorabilia autographed by professional athletes and tickets to local Indianapolis events. This year we auctioned off a table and robotic arm, scavenged from our own workshop.

We encourage rookie team members to gain experience at the CAGE Match.  Most drive teams are rookies; we also host separate roundtable discussions for adults and students so they may express ideas and learn what to expect their first year in FRC. Many incredible teams got their start from CAGE Match. Among the rookies whose initial FRC experience was at CAGE Match are two regional champions and six Rookie All-stars. By creating a system which pairs pre-rookies with seasoned veterans, these new teams have a fantastic start to their careers. These teams are already quickly becoming pillars of the FIRST community.

CAGE Match generates a lot of publicity for FIRST. Press releases are sent to over thirty local news media organizations before the event. In 2008 Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard attended our event and was so inspired he vowed to start a robotics team in every Indianapolis public school. Last year he fulfilled this promise by assisting in funding over thirty VEX teams. This year even more teams were started, with many of them starting to become sustainable enough to pursue FRC as a future option. The mayor returned to the 2013 CAGE Match event, at our team’s invitation. He toured the event, including the Silent Auction, and congratulated us on our efforts to keep spreading STEM throughout our great state of Indiana. He personally told us that he loves the big robots and wishes he had a team when he was in high school. We’re hoping to make his appearance a yearly occurrence.

But Vex teams aren’t the only robotics teams we’ve helped start. This year we have worked closely with FRC 1741 the the goal of putting a Jr. FLL team in every elementary school in the local area and start a mini league for the off season. This will then feed into the middle school FLL teams that we are also trying to get started locally so we get a whole thread of FIRST going on through each grade level. This year we started by mentoring a local FLL team that is looking to establish itself as Southport Middle School team instead of being just a group of students ran out of Jackson Systems. With their help we have also started and set up for the Jeremiah Gray Jr. FLL team that will be left as the current students move to the middle school.

Near the beginning of this 2013-2014 school year, we produced flyers and short videos that played over our school’s announcements, leading to a massive arrival of new freshmen. We showed them our past season’s robot and old FRC Kickoff videos. By our first formal meeting of the year we had a whopping 46 new and returning members. That’s almost seven times the amount of students that we had in 2005 and more than double the amount of members we had last year! We have more team members than we ever expected and a group of mentors who are always there to lend a hand. Many of the new students came with an idea in mind of what they wanted to accomplish within the team. Rookies wanted to build, program, CAD, and even help out with awards. They have inspired us to work our hardest and try our best, and boy, how the results have shown! While our rookies are breaking new ground, our graduated students are leaving behind big legacies. In the last five years, we have had alumni be a part of the Purdue FIRST Planning Committee, an employee of AndyMark, an intern with NASA, and a software engineer at Purdue, among many other accomplishments.

Over the years, the CyberCards have seen tremendous growth and improvement within itself. Right now, the team has around twenty-two students and eleven mentors. These mentors have reached out to us from places like Rolls Royce, AndyMark, Aero Engine Controls, and EstesDM. Team 1529 has big plans for the future. With our growing numbers, more and more students are finding out about the team and wishing to join. We hope to reach out to the middle school and possibly help their team grow, and to continue influencing the students of Southport High School. With the help of one of our mentors, Renee Becker, Indiana FIRST VISTA, we have now thrown our team into social media: continuing our WordPress blog, starting a Twitter, a Facebook page, a Tumblr, an Instagram, and a Vine. This has helped us come into contact with other people. Last year our teacher-coach, Mike Taylor, created #BotChat, which helps connect the FIRST community. Through #BotChat, we networked with other FRC participants and even recruited some new mentors this year. The CyberCards WordPress blog helps us document the build season, post tutorials for things like bumpers and electronic boards, and just share with the world of FIRST. This year, over half of our members are rookies, and at this rate, we’re going to have even more next year. The more hands, the better. These rookies are a key part of the team’s success, bringing in new ideas and attitudes, and making the lab more diverse.

Team 1529 has done a lot to inspire and impact the community around us. The founding of CAGE Match, the food drive, silent auction, and blood drive have resulted in the bettering of many people’s lives. The team itself has had to learn to work together through many changes, and it has improved us for the better. With our team nearly tripling in size, and the introduction of awesome mentors, we have all learned so much and hope to continue down the path we’re currently on. The CyberCards have a bright future, and it is fantastic to make an impact on the community for the greater good.

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About FRC1529

FIRST Robotics Team based out of Southport High School in Indianapolis, IN
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