People affiliated with FIRST robotics teams in Virginia are discovering this year that the program not only teaches important life skills, sometimes it even opens the door to world travels. Two of Virginia’s FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams journey to Sydney Australia in July for the FIRST Asia Pacific Tournament. Meanwhile, a mentor for an FTC team in Southside Virginia travels across country to attend a robotics leadership program in the Rocky Mountains. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) sponsors engaging, age-appropriate programs for students in grades K-12. In the 2014-15 competition season, nearly 10,000 students were involved with FIRST programs in Virginia.
Making the trip “Down Under” are FTC Team 6027, the “L.E.D Empire” (Legendary Engineering Dudes) a community based team from Newport News and FTC Team 3749, “The League of Incompetent Gentlemen” from Northern Virginia. They join a field of 33 squads from the host nation, China, India, Canada, Korea, New Zealand and Mexico in the three-day competition July 12-14.
“While fundraising for this trip we have been given unique opportunities to spread the word about FIRST and robotics in our community and online,” said Dusty Crocco, mentor of the L.E.D. Empire. “We love inspiring others to know they can build robots too!" Crocco’s team conducted yard sales, collected scrap metal, sold T-shirts and went door-to-door to local businesses, seeking donations to cover the estimated $12,000 cost of the trip.
In a posting on his team’s website, the coach of the League of Incompetent Gentlemen called the Australia trip “an exciting surprise.” Gary Lindner noted he expected three students, two coaches and a few family members would participate in the overseas trip. Lindner’s team is based at the GW Community School in Springfield, Va., which has an active FIRST robotics program.
You don’t have to travel Down Under to see the action, the tournament will be live-streamed on the Web.
Rocky Mountain High:
Five years ago, physics instructor Molly Thomas helped to start FTC Team 5086, the “Tutu Turtles” (Twitter @ftc5086) at the all-girl Chatham Hall prep school in Southside Virginia.
This July, Thomas is one of just 28 teachers and FIRST mentors from across the U.S. to participate in the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service’s fourth annual FIRST Leadership Program at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co.
In her winning essay for the program’s competitive application process, Thomas wrote, “Our message is- you can be a girl and love robotics.” She added, “As students share experiences and demonstrate the robot, they get excited about science and technology. By helping others to learn about technology, they help themselves.”
Wait, there’s more!
Another Virginia FIRST team is planning for a major road trip: The Tuxedo Pandas from Christiansburg are preparing for a trip to China this fall. Stay tuned for details!
To learn more about FIRST programs in Virginia for children ages 6-14, visit: va-dcfll.org.
To learn more about FIRST programs in Virginia for children ages 14-18, visit: virginiafirst.org
Article by Jim Babb
Photos by Page Dowdy, VirginiaFIRST