"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." Henry Ford
Team 399 Eagle Robotics believes that this simple idea embodies both the success of our past and the promise of growth and continued success in our future. So, how does Team 399 achieve success? We start with a strong foundation; and that foundation starts with our own people. We at 399 work hard throughout the year to train our members in valuable skills designed to help them not only in their experiences on Team 399 and in their future careers, but also to make them more effective in spreading STEM throughout the community. This year, in addition to our regular shop-level training in machining, CAD, and programming, we instituted new professional-led workshops in leadership, communications, photography, and public speaking. Through opportunities like these, our members build character and acquire skills, ensuring lasting growth and preparing them for the road ahead.
Armed with these skills, 399 members proceed out into the community to plant the seeds of interest in technology and industry, visiting numerous schools within our district. We not only demonstrate our FRC and FLL robots, but also give video presentations in multimedia, showing the kids how our team also develops skills in photography, videography, web design, and outreach. Our primary goal through hosting workshops and presenting to all these schools is to give youth an opportunity to experience new fields of interest. As part of this effort, we invite 7th and 8th grade students into our shop over a five week period during build season for our Eaglets program, designed to give them a first hand look at how STEM skills can produce real results. 399 plants the seeds of interest in technology through the 8 FLL teams we mentor, as well as through our FTC and LEGO Robotics Workshops which are intended to help students understand how both FTC and FLL programs work. We further support these teams by annually hosting the High Desert Lego Tournament, an unofficial FLL scrimmage, and the AV Techno Classic, an FLL qualifying tournament. But we don’t stop there. We take it a step further, with independent workshops and hands-on training. In the Gateway Academy Workshop, students learn the basics of engineering, and in partnership with NASA, Lockheed, and other local FIRST teams, we hold our week long Summer Robotics Workshop, enabling 4-8th graders to experience the excitement of manufacturing a VEX robot and participating in a mini competition designed by 399. Further from home, we’ve continued to bolster our Global Outreach instructional videos “how to start an FLL team” geared toward potential robotics students worldwide, adding Mandarin and French to our repertoire.
But to “come together” with our community, it takes more than just teaching skills and instilling passion in STEM. For this we must be a caring presence to the people around us, and we must strive to “stay together” with them by being committed to sustaining that caring legacy. So this year, as in years past, one could find 399 members creating thoughtful get well cards for pediatric patients or writing encouraging sentiments to active duty military in our Holiday Cards for Heroes program. We hosted blood drives and participated in Adopt-A-Plane, a program dedicated to the maintenance of retired aircraft. As advocates for No Kid Hungry, we surpassed our original goal of collecting 399 pounds of nonperishable food with the final tally being over 1,500 pounds and continued our commitment to assembling and distributing over 1,600 Thanksgiving baskets to families in need. To bring awareness to women’s heart health, we encouraged our school to participate in National Wear Red Day. We also volunteered our time at the Painted Turtle, an innovative camp for children with life-threatening diseases and visited the local veteran’s home, making Valentines and demonstrating our robot to the residents who absolutely love being updated on our program. New this year, was our participation in Laps 4 Literacy, a campaign to bring awareness to illiteracy, and our Boxtops for Education drive for area schools. Our presence in our community is also prevalent in the countless activities we attend advocating the ideals of FIRST to nearly 180,000 at the Holiday Parade, the Los Angeles Air Show, the Poppy Festival, Thursday Night on the Square, American Heroes Celebration, Robot Read Aloud, and the Civilian Military Support Gathering, to name a few. We engage students in our local schools, asking K-8th graders to participate in our Name-a-Robot contest with the winning entry, Phoenix, being submitted by 12 year old Logan.
The broader community of FIRST has been seeing us more often as well. In addition to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube channel, and our website, Team 399 initiated a monthly newsletter to provide insight into our team dynamics. Our Rookie Blog detailing team experiences from a fledgling point of view is a new addition, as well as our JustFIRSTThings posts, featuring fun FIRSTisms geared toward the FIRST community which garners over 1,000 views weekly. And, as always, we bring our organizational skills with us to St. Louis every year where FRC teams, who miss their own prom attending Championships, look forward to our annual RoboProm which drew nearly 2000 attendees last year.
Because we repeat most of these undertakings every year, we look upon them as our “legacy.” We are proud of all of our past successes and the fact that we continue to sustain our efforts, and we pass this legacy on to our new students every year so that they can know who we are and what we stand for. This year, however, with a record 39 incoming rookies, we moved in a new direction - and that direction is inwards. Rather than spreading further and further away from our roots and our community, we have decided that our efforts and resources can play a more significant role closer to home. As a team from a public school located in an aerospace community, we understand that technology can be a child’s ticket to a better life. So to leverage STEM and help both our community and our local industries, we have circled back to establish deeper commitments and partnerships with those we’ve worked with in the past. We believe that Henry Ford would be very proud, because to us, "working together" is indeed success. To prove it, we have established close working relationships with educators in our community, holding an Educator’s Workshop, presenting new ways for them to integrate STEM-related material into their curriculum.We have also established a close partnership with the Learning and Achieving in Multimedia Production and Engineering (LAMPE) Program at Lancaster High School, which offers its students the resources they need to think critically, work collaboratively, and have strong problem solving skills to synthesize new innovations for the future which in turn provides career paths to students in Multimedia, Photography, and Animation. Through our Open Shop Concept we have solidified our relationships with other FRC and FTC teams in our area allowing us to share the expertise and experience of our mentors and team, and help them on the path to spreading STEM on their own. These new partnerships do not just have us coming together once a year for specific events but continuously interacting and providing “on-demand” support and resources throughout the year. In short, we welcome them to call upon us any time they need our help. So, when Lockheed Martin and the Boys and Girls Clubs approached us to help with their week long STEM Camp we were there. When SMaRT Education sent out a request for help at a FLL qualifying tournament in Thermal, CA, we responded offering assistance as referees and judges. We also provided volunteers when a middle school teacher messaged our team needing guidance organizing and running a local underwater robotics workshop. To us, this is what it means to establish partnerships and deep commitments in our community.
Our achievements in this regard have not gone unnoticed either. We are honored to have been invited to the State Capitol by now Congressman Steve Knight where we demoed our robot on the front steps of the capitol building, while exalting the virtues of FIRST to state senators. Our team was also introduced on the senate floor and presented with a Senate Resolution, extolling our team for its achievements in the FIRST program, for our promotion of STEM, and for our involvement in the community. As part of the grand opening activities for Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center, we were honored to display our robot and represent FIRST. This summer we were invited to throw out the first pitch at the JetHawks, Lancaster’s minor league baseball team, on Aerospace Appreciation Night, and most recently, our team was privileged to receive the highly prestigious Navigating Change Award from the Antelope Valley Board of Trade. Usually given to an individual, we are the first group to win its nomination, and we are ecstatic to be in the esteemed company of Burt Rutan, among others.
Now in our 16th season, Team 399 continues to evolve and build upon our legacy as new members pick up the torch passed on by those who have made lasting impacts; impacts made, for instance, by Jonathan Wells, who worked on the capsule design for the Red Bull Stratos launch, David Henry, an aerial photographer for Northrop Grumman, and Alan Tepe, a Tesla engineer, among others.These alumni and more have put in place a lasting commitment not only to our community, but to each of us individually allowing us to grow as a team. That growth is key to Eagle Robotics’ continued success. Alumnae, Emma Reed 2009 grad, says "If I had not joined Team 399, I honestly don’t know where I’d be right now. My involvement was the first puzzle piece in figuring out my passion." That is our greater legacy.