Winning 2010 Chairman's Award Essay
Fueled by innovation, ambition, and passion for impacting our community, the Monta Vista Robotics Team has been changing lives since 1998. Since our founding, we have received 44 awards at FIRST Regionals and the Championships. Last year we won the Engineering Inspiration Award and the Best Website Award. However, FIRST has always meant more than just competition. Presented with the Mayor’s Award of Community Excellence our second-year, we have continued to foster partnerships with our local government, companies, and community to spread interest in science and technology. We have also continually worked on FIRST’s goal of bringing more girls into engineering. Last year we made a web page regarding the Girl Engineering Scholarship and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, and this year we are working with UsFirstGirls to further this project. Members on the team constantly give to the community, learn from our mentors, and use this knowledge to teach other FRC and FLL teams while promoting the message of FIRST through our many outreach programs.
When joining the team, members are required to choose one Engineering and one Operations division, thereby exposing them to the different aspects of FIRST. The engineering division consists of the Mechanical and Electrical sub-divisions. The operations comprises of Public Relations, Finance and Media. With a clear hierarchy of divisions and proven sustainability, we won the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Entrepreneurship Award for providing students the experience of working in a corporation. Being a part of both the engineering and operations divisions, members develop key skills that they use throughout their life. We are able to apply our knowledge from our science and math classes after school into building a five foot tall robot.
The year starts off with the weekly trainings from October to November. The veterans teach the new members the fundamentals of engineering, animating, and financing. Each lesson is meticulously prepared, from PowerPoint presentations to the hands-on activities. All of our PowerPoints are on our website so other teams as well as our team can refer to them. Our goal is not only to prepare the new members for build, but also to make leaders and engineers who can continue to take care of the legacy of the team the following years and work amongst our valuable mentors. At key decision points during the season, we hold design reviews, nights when we present our current progress to local engineers for feedback.
Our members learn more than just the engineering aspect of FIRST. As a student lead, student run organization, members learn leadership, time management, financial, and public speaking skills. A lot of these qualities are emphasized by our alumni when they come back to mentor us. Our alumni help us a lot. After graduation, all of our members head off to college. In a recent survey, we found that over 30% of our alumni have interned by their sophomore year of college. Many come back to FIRST to mentor us or other FIRST teams including SpaceCookies and CheesyPoofs. Once members learn the fundamentals of Engineering and Operations, they spread this knowledge amongst the community.
MVRT believes in inspiring people early on and help them develop key life skills. For elementary school students, we have inspired over 120 students since 2005 by hosting the Gifted and Talented Education Program at Lincoln Elementary. Every week, MVRT members expose GATE students to the world of science and technology through interactive projects such as water rockets and cardboard bridges.
For middle school students, we founded First Lego League teams at Lawson and Kennedy Middle School. In fact, one of our alumni received the Outstanding Mentor Award at Northern California State Tournament for his dedication. Last year, MVRT began to volunteer regularly at FLL and FTC tournaments and helped kick off the season for the team from Los Altos Middle School with a game analysis. As the sole FRC team helping out at the Nor-Cal FLL tournament at Google, MVRT helped run the 64-team event. One month later, we were there again at Championships. This year we increased our efforts by starting our own FLL team in Miller Middle School. Meetings were held on a weekly basis to guide the kids in building the robot. Finally, for high school students, we mentored FRC teams at Homestead, Saratoga, Lynbrook, Harker, Cupertino, Mission San Jose, St. Francis High Schools, Woodside Priory, and Gunderson, 3 of which have received the Rookie All-Star Award. Throughout the year, we invite them to our robotics trainings and social events. We hold Kickoff in our auditorium for local teams, revealing and analyzing the game every year. Also, we were one of the founding teams of the Intradistrict Robotics Council, which facilitates communication among the five local FRC teams to earn corporate sponsorships and coordinate fundraising events. This year we took this to another level and were one of the three teams on the west coast to be chosen to Beta test the new LABView software. After testing, we conducted workshops in Sacramento and in local Cupertino to teach other teams about our discoveries.
MVRT members are more than just future engineers on a robotics team. Members give back to the community at the local and the international level. At the local level, we regularly demo our robots at the Cupertino Library, San Jose Tech Museum, and local parks to inform parents about the opportunities available to their children. With purple business cards, poster-boards, and award displays, MVRT presents to interest the community in science and technology. Many of our inspired members also help at community events like Habitat for Humanity and Toys for Tots.
We also take part in many events to help out schools internationally. During the Cupertino Fall Festival last year, we met Vivek Kumar who wanted to aid the schooling system in rural India by providing teachers and facilities. Our team offered our technical and media expertise to design his initial website and logo, and help in a business plan that garnered the group’s initial round of seed funding. The result was an organization that plans to rebuild rural communities of 150 underprivileged children for less than $5,000 per community. MVRT also sponsored Asia’s first Robotics institution at Bits Pilani by providing resources and monetary support. Our support enabled them to come to the US and win third place internationally. Although our team color is purple, our continuing goal every year is to go green. It began last year with a trashcan labeled “Cans Only, Please Recycle.” We moved on to a four-day cleanup where we recycled 25 pounds of scrap aluminum, and finally a month-long green campaign. Through a partnership with the school’s environmental commission, we began an eWaste fundraiser last February and organized the same this year. The money we earned was donated to the first environmentally green school in Mexico, the Costa Verde International School. In addition, daily lunchtime activities were held during April to promote environmental consciousness. We showed “An Inconvenient Truth” and invited a speaker personally trained by Al Gore.
In light of recent events in Haiti, MVRT-er’s held a Haiti fundraiser week in school by partnering with One Dollar For Life. We had envelopes in classrooms and had promotions to get people to each donate a dollar. We also coordinated with different clubs on campus for the same purpose. As a club we donated $350 towards this effort. In the future, we hope to have more events to continuously help this cause.
Finally, we also want to give back to the FIRST community by spreading the message of FIRST. We spread this message in various ways.
Our award-winning website has allowed us to communicate effectively to our members and fellow robotics teams. Many FRC team websites and the USFIRST homepage are linked to www.mvrt.com, particularly for the Resources section. Here, we publish PowerPoint presentations from all our trainings and a new video library resource section to facilitate a smoother build period for other teams. We now feature tutorials on using Bosch, navigating Inventor, and pujng together AndyMark gearboxes. MVRT also uses YouTube to document our progress and gain publicity. Our videos include match analyses, and footage of every match that we have participated in. We have also been working with Mr. Dean Kamen on promoting FIRST through Facebook. MVRT has gained publicity outside the robotics circle and used this to spread the message of FIRST. We have been featured in school newspapers, the local newspaper such as the Cupertino Courier, a Chinese newspaper, and even on the KTVU news network. This year, MVRT demonstrated our robot at the JavaOne Conference in order to promote FIRST in the Java world. As such, we were part of the keynote presentation and interacted with several potential mentors for the FIRST community. Finally, when Congressman Mike Honda requested support for his and President Obama’s Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (STEM) Act last year, MVRT was there to help. At his press conference, we demoed our robot and more importantly, spoke on the connection between the goals of STEM and FIRST. Albert Beltran, a representative from Mike Honda’s office, aoended our kickoff event and spoke on the importance of FIRST to Congressman Honda’s initiative.
Our team is committed to instill a passion for science and technology throughout the community. We are eager to see the growth of our partnership with parents, schools, government, community, and companies. Though we are proud of our history of technical excellence and community service, nothing can match our satisfaction of creating the leaders for a better tomorrow.