How a Happy Meal Toy Might Lead to a Future Technology Breakthrough | Community Idea Stations


How a Happy Meal Toy Might Lead to a Future Technology Breakthrough

“When I was little, my sister and I would get Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s. I would go home and use a tiny screw driver to take the toy apart. I always wanted to know how it worked,” said Stacey Mescher, sophomore at Deep Run High School. Today, Stacey is doing a whole lot more than disassembling plastic toys. She is a key member of the FIRST Robotics Competition team Blue Cheese at her school, and she is working towards a goal of making the future a better place for everyone.

In the beginning Stacey wasn’t sure that she wanted to be on a robotics team. Her older sister had been on the Deep Run team, and Stacey wanted to find her own way. That all changed once she met the team members and saw what they were doing. “Everyone was so accepting. No one was judgmental. It didn’t matter if you were a girl or if you were a freshman. The only thing that mattered was that you were on the team.” She also found the coaches and mentors to be very supportive. “This program is so much more than just a robot. The people are the best thing about FIRST robotics.”

As a freshman, Stacey started learning about robotics with the other team rookies by competing on the school’s FIRST Tech Challenge team. In just a few short weeks, she had been promoted to the FIRST Robotics Competition team that was designing a 120-pound robot to compete against 130+ high school teams in Virginia, DC and Maryland. She was also given the position of “Safety Captain. Realizing that they were working with gears, moving parts, and very heavy robots, Stacey was keenly aware of the importance of her position. At their first competition, Stacey’s team was recognized with theFIRST Industrial Safety” award. Their team was recognized again a month later at the FIRST World Championship with the “Hard Hat Safety Award.”

“Stacey is the youngest Safety Captain we’ve ever had on team Blue Cheese,” said Team Mentor Bridget Westhoven. “Her natural talent and strong work ethic helped Blue Cheese become the first Virginiabased robotics team to win a FIRST World Championship title. You’ve got to understand that we were just one of almost 4,000 teams from 39 countries at this event. We not only came home with a “hard hat award,” but also the World Title! It’s wonderful to see the students flourish through the leadership and hands-on learning opportunities that are central to the FIRST family of programs.”

FIRST Robotics founder Dean Kamen said, “If you’re not working on important things, you are wasting time.” Stacey seems to be making the most of her time. She credits FIRST robotics with providing a platform to explore different types of engineering, but for now she thinks she wants to become a mechanical engineer, “I want to help build things that will make the world a better place”. This year, she is also collaborating with her Henrico Center for Innovative Technology class to use Bluetooth technology to develop a product that will monitor water flow. “It started with someone wanting to make their shower change color. We decided that we wanted the invention to also do something that will help conserve water and improve the world that we live in.” With young people like Stacey in our community, our future is looking brighter and brighter.

Stacey’s team will be hosting a FIRST Robotics Competition event at Deep Run High School, March 25th and 26th. Also, come out and see the best and brightest high school robotics teams from Virginia, DC, and Maryland compete at the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship Sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton at VCU’s Siegel Center, April 7th and 8th. Both events are free, open to the public and family friendly.

Article by:  Leighann Scott Boland