Every team strives to be the best, dreaming about that elusive all-star status. As a veteran team celebrating our 15th anniversary, Team 399 aspires to be a team others desire to emulate. This desire developed into this year’s motto “stepping up our game to become a world class team!” This motto has inspired us to reach beyond the status quo and has invigorated our enthusiasm. In response, the team integrated 15 new events and designed a team coin with our motto, helping to build a sense of unity and motivation to succeed.
Our team continues to grow as we attract more rookies. This year alone, our team has worked to incorporate and train 22 new recruits. To help the process of training this new world class generation, we instituted CAD Fridays and Java Thursdays. Over the course of these programs, veterans worked alongside rookies, teaching them the basics of CAD and Java while working on a brand new pit design and fabricating our robot, Apollo, built over the fall. Not only did rookies get to build a robot from scratch, but they also got to test it out at Battle at the Border, an off-season scrimmage, taking home the title of event champions. Furthermore, our team hosted a Mock Kick-Off day, where rookies prepared for the FRC kick-off by walking through the engineering design process of an old game. Making newcomers feel valuable and appreciated is just as important as training them. Therefore, Team 399 holds several team building activities welcoming students into the folds of our family hosting a welcome party, game nights and robogames, featuring an array of outdoor activities.
Realizing our responsibility to be socially cognizant and involved in our community, several of our new events were community based. Whether we created thoughtful get well cards for pediatric patients or wrote encouraging sentiments to active duty military in our Holiday Cards for Heroes program, we recognize our desire to “step up.” This year, as advocates for No Kid Hungry, we set out to collect 399 pounds of nonperishable food. Our goal was met and surpassed by over 200 pounds. We also donated our services over our break to Grace Resource Center by participating in assembling and handing-out over 1,600 Thanksgiving baskets to families in need. Additionally, our team brightened the playground at the homeless shelter by painting a dreary wall with brilliant colors, donating all of the paint and supplies. Our team supported OATH (Operation All The way Home), a club at Lancaster High school that is raising funds to build a home for wounded soldier Jerral Hancock, by participating in their yard sales and donating the proceeds from our snack bar. Furthermore, when SMaRT (Science Math and Robotic Technology) Education expressed a need for volunteers at their FLL tournament in Thermal, team members offered assistance by acting as referees. In the same way, when the Underwater Robotics Workshop needed guidance with their event, members of our team jumped at the opportunity to provide a helping hand. Other community based events we continue to support include hosting blood drives and participating in Adopt-A-Plane, a program dedicated to the maintenance of retired aircraft. We also maintain our volunteer efforts at the Painted Turtle, an innovative camp for children with life-threatening diseases and the veteran’s home, making Valentines and demonstrating our robot for the residents.
Just as FIRST introduced us to STEM, we, as an impending world class team, embraced the idea of popularizing STEM to eager listeners worldwide in a new way. Branching out to nations around the world, 399 produced Global Outreach Videos (accessible on YouTube); which we translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and others, instructing potential robotics students on how to start an FLL team in their community. Attending the civilian military support group gathering allowed us to introduce FIRST to families from around the world as well. Moreover, to spread STEM in our own community, Team 399 created the Design-a-Robot challenge where students K-8 designed their own robot, described its function, and named it. After reviewing nearly 100 entries with lightning speed and superhuman strength, the winning design selected was Cortex, created by 8 year old Noah. He was excited to see our version of his vision realized. We also devised our Eggstronaut Workshop; using the design process, 4th and 5th grade students created capsules to protect eggs from a 15 foot drop. Additionally, we host the High Desert Lego Tournament, an unofficial FLL scrimmage completing its 7th season, and the AV Techno Classic, a qualifying FLL tournament. Eagle Robotics also continues to partner with NASA, Lockheed, and FIRST teams for a week-long robotics workshop enabling students to experience the excitement of manufacturing a small robot and participate in a mini competition. Furthermore, we spark an interest in STEM by hosting the 5-day Gateway Academy Workshop exposing middle school students to engineering opportunities and establish an early curiosity in aerospace and robotics. We found that over half the students who attended our workshops and other events join their school’s FLL team or other STEM clubs.
Striving to fulfill the values of gracious professionalism, Team 399 endeavors to be exuberant, ardent mentors. Over the past 15 years, we have mentored thousands of FIRST participants and, in keeping with a world class team, plan to keep the ball rolling. Team 399 currently mentors 12 FLL, 3 FRC and 6 FTC teams. This year, to excite students at Edwards Air Force Base, we demonstrated our robot during the annual “Robotics Day”; in response, teachers and parents started 2 teams. Because our team has the best equipped shop in the area, we initiated an open-shop concept, granting other FIRST team’s access to our shop. On any given day, 5-7 different FIRST teams can be found in our shop, working alongside us. 5 different FTC teams come in regularly to receive guidance, build parts, use our FTC practice field and participate in scrimmages. Last season, Gryffingear, team 5012, shadowed our team gaining valuable experience enabling them to start their own FTC and FRC teams this year. We are excited see them making great strides in FIRST and happy to offer our support along the way.
In order to build our brand as a world class team, we completely overhauled our branding techniques and created a branding handbook which standardizes all our public documents and releases. This handbook creates unity and uniformity, while improving communication and promoting our reputation as professional leaders. Initiating a new era of social media, we have increased our social networking outlets, allowing us to broaden our audiences and to effectively connect with the community. Our Facebook talkpage is used to communicate with team members about upcoming activities and provide information effectively. We use Twitter to update followers during our competitions and Pinterest to share fun and instructional material. Our website and YouTube account, allow the public to get some insight into our team dynamics. We also use social networking to collaborate with other FIRST teams, sharing game strategies and robot designs. Last year, we initiated a weekly telecom with other NASA house teams during the build season, allowing us to share and expand upon our manufacturing process.
Sustainment commences with strong partnerships with our sponsors who provide us with funds, supplies, scholarship opportunities and more. We maintain a close connection with our sponsors by communicating with them throughout the year and providing on-site demonstrations. NASA and Lockheed offered us tours of their facilities, granting us the opportunity to get a feel for engineering on a grand scale. Sustainment also requires strong fundraising enterprises such as yard sales, car washes and our annual Roboprom, created 7 years ago as a small event for members of our team who missed their own prom attending championships. The following year, we invited other teams to join us and it has since grown into our largest fundraiser and a highly anticipated event, drawing over 1500 students last year.
Team 399 is often featured in our local newspaper for our various outreach programs and team recognition. Every year, we invite the press and local and national dignitaries to attend our prestigious, “Robot Rollout” event offering an inside look at our newly built robot. Last year, we were honored to be invited to the State Capitol by State Senator Steve Knight. There we demoed our robot on the front steps of the capitol, 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 its advancement of STEM and for its involvement in the community. Over the summer, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors commended Eagle Robotics for its achievements during the 2012-2013 season. Most recently, our team was privileged to receive a highly prestigious award from the AV Board of Trade. The Navigating Change Award, usually awarded to a single person, was given to Eagle Robotics, making us the first group to win its nomination. We are ecstatic to be in the esteemed company of Burt Rutan among others.
We, as the members of Team 399 Eagle Robotics, believe that our passion, dedication, and ambition sets us apart from other FRC teams. During our 15th year, we have challenged ourselves to push the limits by beginning 15 new events, while maintaining our previous legacy. By all means, we have succeeded at making a difference in the lives of others and changing the face of our community. Over the course of our team’s history our participation in FIRST has grown significantly. The experience we’ve gained has been our catalyst to “step up our game” as we build upon our desire to spread science and technology.