This year, I attended my first-ever FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. I needed a little help finding my way around and decided the best way to get started would be a guided tour. My student Ambassadors were absolutely fantastic, taking me through the pits and introducing me to different teams, and best of all, getting me ringside seats to a few rounds of the action. 🙂 As we talked, I wanted to know more about the role of a FIRST Ambassador and what responsibilities it includes. To shed some light and share his his experiences, I’m happy to introduce guest blogger and FIRST Robotics Ambassador, Liam Fay, of FRC Team 2485 WARLords.
When I first joined robotics the summer before my 10th grade year in high school, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, my brother had been doing it for years; but he’s always been an inventor. What would I be able to contribute to the team as a self-proclaimed humanities student?
I drifted around the team for a while, trying out different aspects, but nothing really got me engaged. Then, one night, I sat in on a business and outreach department meeting. As I soon found out, the robotics team had a whole other side to it – a side where I knew I had found my calling.
On the business and outreach team, I work with a few other students and a business professionals to do things like write business plans, work to gain the support of corporate sponsorship from companies like SOLIDWORKS, design fliers and displays, and construct a website. These are all things I never thought I would find in a club for engineers; but as soon as I was exposed, I was hooked. I fully invested myself into many of these elements, focusing primarily on graphic design and networking.
This was my primary time investment through all of the build season, the six and a half weeks that each team is given to build their robot. But when the time for competition came, I was again at a loss. I knew I would love the experience of competition, but I was, just as I had been in first joining robotics, unsure of what I wanted to do. Unlike most of the other people on my team, there was no clear path for me at competition; the machinists work in the pit to maintain the robot, the strategists convene in the stands to collect data, and the media team documents the whole thing.
So when my head mentor introduced me to the concept of being an ambassador, I knew I had once again found exactly what I wanted to do. As an ambassador, I worked with other robotics students to give information and tours to VIPs at the events. In doing this, I got to take representatives from companies like Rockwell Collins and SOLIDWORKS around the pits, where the robots are kept, and the eight playing fields themselves. It was my job to introduce the VIPs to FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, the organization that runs the whole competition), this year’s game, and everything in between.
Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I acted as an ambassador at the San Diego Regional, the Orange County Regional, and, finally, at the World Championships in St. Louis.
Looking back, I can now confidently say that the World Championships were the greatest four days of my life so far. All four days I was surrounded by tens of thousands of like-minded individuals and all of the robotics teams that I, and the rest of my team members, look up to. Past this, of course, I just love watching the matches! I was lucky enough to witness one of the greatest matches ever played that whole year. In the World Championship Semifinals, one robot, that of Team 330 – the Beach Bots, had flipped over. It looked like that was going to be it for their team; the opposing team, which included one of the 2015 World Champions, looked poised to win the match and advance to the finals. Then, the unthinkable happened. The Beach Bots managed to flip their entire robot over (mind you, with no outside help from robots or humans), and win the game 202 – 197. They would go on to become the World Champions that year.
FIRST Robotics has been amazing for me and everyone else on my team. If it weren’t for robotics, I never would have had the opportunities that I’ve been given to work with both a close-knit family of brilliant people and the many technical mentors that guide us along the way.
One group that FIRST Robotics could not operate without are the corporate sponsors that assist our team and many other teams through either financial or in-kind donations. These sponsors allow us to become professionals even in our high school years, and many of our students go on to intern or even work at our sponsor’s companies in a large part due to the connections and experience that the sponsorship lent them. I myself will be interning at a sponsor’s company this year, where I will be honing and applying the graphic design skills that I learned singularly through my work on robotics.
As always, thanks for reading! Hope to see you at the FIRST World Championships in 2017!