FIRST Looks

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FIRST Looks

Edgar Allan Ohms (FRC 5276) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-20

One of the things that makes FIRST so interesting is the constant evolution of the program. In the beginning of FIRST Robotics Competition, teams were always based in high schools. Over time, schools joined forces to create teams while saving money. A few years ago, a new type of team was created for the first time: a team based out of a public library. Based at the Land O' Lakes Branch Library, the Edgar Allan Ohms have been a mainstay of FIRST Looks.

This year we were joined by Joanna Sanders, the team's safety captain. She talked about the early days of the team and how they work out of a library. The team builds in The Foundry, a makerspace built as a "fishbowl" within the library, allowing people to use power tools without interfering with other patrons. In exchange, the patrons can see what is happening within The Foundry, giving the team regular outreach opportunities.

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FIRST Looks

SolidProfessor @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-20

One topic that comes up on our shows often is the idea that great ideas come from things that suck. In the case of SolidProfessor, the idea came from a lack of great training options for SolidWorks. The CAD software, which is popular with FIRST teams, has a lot of capabilities, but seemed to pose a challenge to a lot of people to learn. Tony Glockler co-founded the company in an attempt to create a scenario for students to learn the software in an interactive way, and also gives the students an easy way to refresh your skills.

The training, which has grown beyond just SolidWorks, allows students to turn their learning into certifications to enhance their abilities and their resumes. The company recognized the value of FIRST last season, and become a sponsor of the program. In fact, teams involved in a FIRST program can get a free subscription to SolidProfessor, to make their manufacturing capabilities better. Head to the company's website and reach out for your team's subscription.

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FIRST Looks

Ken Johnson, Director of FIRST Tech Challenge @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-20

The creators of ROBOTICON Tampa Bay work very hard every year to grow this fun filled weekend into the amazing event that it is today. Their passion and dedication definitely shines through in the smiles and excitement of the students. They were honored to have the Director of FIRST Tech Challenge, Ken Johnson, join in on the fun. And we were thrilled to get a chance to speak with him.

As director, Ken is responsible to develop the program, which includes the game, rules and field field. Another important aspect is partnering with those that execute the program, outreach and events like ROBOTICON. His role is to help coaches succeed, finding funding to hold the events and building volunteer communities, all under the umbrella of espousing technology and using it to the fullest potential.

Along with recognizing the hard work that the students put into their teams and robots, Ken is fully aware that FIRST would not be all that it is today without the many volunteers who help pull everything together. The sheer number of man hours is staggering. And he loves that many of them are FIRST Alumni. He feels that the best ambassadors of FIRST are the students that have gone through it and the coaches that have volunteered for it. They are truly the best advertisement that they have.

We encourage everyone to visit their website to learn about the different programs.

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FIRST Looks

Masquerade (FTC 4997) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-19

The more we learn about the Engineering and Robotics Program at Middleton High School in Tampa, Florida, the more we like it. Russell DeSousa, Head Designer for Masquerade (FIRST Tech Challenge 4997) and a Senior Mentor for the Middleton Robotics Club, stopped by to give us the inside scoop.

Middleton's STEM Programs include Engineering, Biomedical, Game Design and Digital Electronics. The engineering program is structured with engineering design the first year, which transitions students from traditional learning methods and helps them adapt to the learning style offered in the program. Through the next two years, the students take Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Digital Electronics and Principles of Engineering. Then in their senior year, they take Engineering Design & Development, which is a yearlong Capstone Project.

Russell feels that being involved in FIRST Robotics really enhances this curriculum because he can get out of an engineering class and put what he learns to practical use, sometimes almost immediately.

Check out Middleton Robotics Club here to learn more about their teams. And don't forget to visit their Facebook page.

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FIRST Looks

Middleton Robotics @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-19

As the students continue along their journey in FIRST Robotics, they tend to move into leadership and mentoring roles. Erin Piacitelli, President of Middleton Robotics Club, is no exception. Erin has been coming to ROBOTICON Tampa Bay for years with her school's teams and she agrees that it's a great event to practice, train new team members and have a lot of fun.

Middleton High School is a STEM Magnet School in Tampa, Florida that places an emphasis on robotics in a really wonderful way. It's not just a club, the kids also have robotics classes as part their curriculum. They take their teams and competitions very seriously. Middleton's Robotics Club currently has 1 FIRST Robotics Competition Team, 2 FIRST Tech Challenge Teams and 1 VEX Robotics Team. The students are able to participate in any aspect of the process that they would like and all the teams are there for each other to help brainstorm and mentor. They even mentor middle school students and invite them to join in on the development and brainstorming sessions to help them get involved and know the process when they get to high school.

Their structure is quite impressive. It's a collaborative effort that has strengthened over the years with a tiered leadership approach. The club itself has captains and vice presidents, comprised of students, with specialized roles. Then each individual team has a coach and at least one adult mentor.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST Looks Dishes on ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-18

Get some inside info on the best aspects of being involved with Roboticon Tampa Bay and FIRST from a few members of our FIRST Looks team. Jacob, Marissa and Scott share some of their favorite stories and their love of robotics during a quick break in the day's interviews.

Don't miss an opportunity to learn more about ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. You an check out all the fun by clicking here.

Learn more about FIRST and all it has to offer by visiting their
website.

You can also learn more about our team, watch more interviews and check out our other special events as well as product & game reviews by visiting PLuGHiTzLive.com.

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FIRST Looks

Shiva Robotics Academy @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-18

The energy at a robotics tournament is almost unexplainable. It is truly electric. At first glance, a new observer may see a bunch of shy and serious kids busily scurrying around while working on various tasks for their teams. Some are repairing parts on the robots, some are going through inspections or helping set up the game field, while others are strategizing with members of other teams. Many of them are dressed in some type of costume. A first timer may think, wow this is different, as they enter this unique little world. And then the competitions begin and as the robots, that the kids work so hard to build, achieve the most difficult task, the crowd roars louder and with more enthusiasm than you even see at a high school basketball game. And when your kid, actual or mentee, learned to build and code and problem solve to create those cheers... you're hooked.

This is exactly what happened to Kalai Sankar when she first encountered this world. She was immediately FIRST's biggest fan. She then took her computer science degree and her passion for teaching Indian dance to children and combined those talents with her new love of robotics. She started off as a coach for one team and her passion soon grew to what is now the Shiva Robotics Academy, which is housed in a 3400 square foot facility in Jacksonville, Florida. They offer numerous camps and outreach programs with the simple mission of introducing robotics to as many students as possible.

This is the academy's fourth year attending ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. It's one of Kalai's favorite events as she feels it is well run and gives her students the opportunity to learn more about robotics and see all of the levels of FIRST at one great event.

Witnessing Kalai's love for FIRST Robotics is truly inspiring. To learn more about programs that the academy offers, visit their website.

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FIRST Looks

Purple Fire Robotics @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-18

One of the best things about FIRST is their amazing alumni. Which is why were were excited to get the chance to speak with Eric Chan, FIRST Alumni and President of the Purple Fire Robotics Club at Florida Polytechnic University.

Eric and his teammates were in attendance at 2017 ROBOTICON Tampa Bay for a couple of really great reasons. First, to show off and scrimmage the robot that the club built in the FIRST Tech Challenge Alumni Robot In One Weekend Challenge. They also came to volunteer at the event and for FIRST Outreach.

Although Florida Poly is a new university, only four years old, they've had an incredible turnout for Purple Fire Robotics with 70 new students to the club this year alone. The club members include many FIRST and VEX Alumni, as well as students who were not previously a part of a formal robotics team. The club builds robots and participates in various competitions and they also build custom items for other clubs at their school. They are currently working on the animatronics for a haunted house that is being built on campus this year.

You can get more information about the club on their website and follow them on Twitter.

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FIRST Looks

Minotaur (FRC 1369) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-17

We are always inspired when we speak with students who take full advantage of all that FIRST has to offer. This was definitely the case with Briana McMurchie, who is a student at Middleton High School, a STEM Magnet school located in Tampa, FL. Brianna is a member and sub team lead for fabrication and chairman's award on FIRST Robotics Competition Team #1369 Minotaur.

This is Briana's second year coming to ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. She enjoys this event because it's a great place to teach new team members the ins and outs of FIRST Robotics and it's a great place to practice and compete without all of the pressure of an actual tournament. It's also great to get all of the FIRST Programs (FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST LEGO League, FIRST LEGO League Jr.) together in one place. Another aspect that she enjoys are the numerous volunteer opportunities.

Briana is very involved with her FIRST Robotics Competition team, and is also a big part of the outreach that her school supports, such as camps and robotics education. It was through a summer camp this year that she was able to introduce FIRST LEGO League to an elementary school nearby and, through that, started her own FIRST LEGO League team with these students.

To find out more about FIRST Programs, please visit their website.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST, South Florida @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017

2017-10-17

It was so great to kick off our 2017 ROBOTICON Tampa Bay coverage with the wonderful and enthusiastic Stacey Jones, Regional Partner for South Florida FIRST LEGO League Jr. and FIRST LEGO League. This is her second year in her current role, but she wears many hats as she is also a Mentor for FIRST Robotics Competition Team SPAM #180.

Spend just a few minutes with Stacey or watch her out with the kids and you can't help but get excited about these awesome FIRST programs. Stacey's "all-in" approach gets the kids and families motivated to learn and problem solve through the creative, interactive play that FIRST encompasses.

One of the things that Stacey enjoys most is the teamwork and partnership with the other directors all over Florida. Together they are working towards making Florida the #1 FIRST LEGO League group in the U.S., with an impressive goal of 600 teams this year. She loves watching the kids come up with problems and their solutions through the FIRST Games, which this year involves the Human Water Cycle. She is always amazed with how bright the kids are and enjoys seeing them come up with such creative solutions, some of which actually get Patents.

After watching Stacey's interview, check out how easy it is to start your own FIRST LEGO League Chapter by visiting their website. It's as easy as getting a LEGO EV, then it's only $225 to register a new team and $75 to get a challenge kit. There's really no better way to get kids involved with something so fun and educational.

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FIRST Looks

ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017 (Off-Season Event)

2017-10-17

Whether it be FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge or FIRST LEGO League, official competitions can be stressful. There's on-field performance, team scouting and judging, and all of that comes at the cost of teaching drivers and coaches the intricacies of the field. That is where the benefits of an off-season event come in. At an event like ROBOTICON Tampa Bay, teams don't need to worry about any of the additional aspects of a competition. Many teams use off-season events to teach new drivers and coaches without concern for performance.

This year, the FIRST Looks team got to speak with members of the local FIRST LEGO League programming team, global FIRST Tech Challenge team, program sponsors and teams from FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition around the state of Florida.

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FIRST Looks

The RoboShow @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-04-05

FIRST competitions are complicated, multi-faceted events. Because of that, multiple broadcasts are possible from the same event. While we spend time highlighting team members, coaches, mentors, staff and sponsors, RoboVisionOD and The RoboShow focus more on the matches themselves. Dan Swando spoke with us about the net work and program and how they work in the community.

RoboVisionOD maintains a focus on broadcasting and publishing individual matches through YouTube, while The RoboShow features SportsCenter-style coverage of the elimination rounds of competition. These platforms allow people outside of Orlando to feel like they are at the competition. This is great for kids whose friends and family live out of town, as well as teams that are competing later in the season at another competition to get an idea of what other teams are working on. Both of these services are offered, just like FIRST events in person, for free online.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST, Central Florida @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-04-02

The team at PLuGHiTz Live is very proud of FIRST Looks. Since its inception, even before its name, we have worked hard to bring awareness to the FIRST brand. This series was inspired by one person, Terri Willingham, Regional Director for FIRST in Central Florida. She has been our representative at FIRST for years and, more importantly, a great friend.

FIRST STEAMWORKS is her last season with the organization and we will definitely miss her. We do, however, look forward to working with her on her new project, of bringing a robotics center to the Tampa Bay area. She and the Eureka! Factory are currently working with a few local organizations on finding a location for a permanent FIRST Robotics Competition field, two FIRST Tech Challenge fields and FIRST LEGO League setups as well. This will also help to bring brand recognition and student participation within the Tampa Bay market.

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FIRST Looks

The People of Manufacturing @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-04-02

Not everyone at a FIRST competition is involved with a team. Some come to see how they, or their companies, can get involved with the organization. Some want to be sponsors, some want to be mentors and some see their companies as the next step after FIRST.

Greg Serio, who founded The People of Manufacturing, sees himself in a couple of these roles. His organization focuses on adult education in the manufacturing space, including matching apprentices with professionals in their field of interest. Greg discusses how FIRST students, after graduating, could find themselves additional on-the-job training in manufacturing and fabrication through this company. He also talks about his initial impressions of the event and his interests for the future.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST Headquarters @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-04-02

We've gotten a lot of interesting viewpoints about competitions over the years. FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST LEGO League team members, coaches and sponsors, volunteers, Affiliate Partners, Regional Directors and organizers, but we have never seen all the way behind the curtain: a view from Headquarters.

We had the opportunity to speak with Gabrielle Golden, Manager of Field Operations for FIRST. She travels each weekend to various events to see how they are run and collects tips and tricks for other events. She tries to appear at new events, as well as events celebrating anniversaries, and can be at 2 different events in the same weekend. She talked about HQ's focus on Alumni and building loyalty after graduation, with a focus on what Barry Bohnsack has done in Florida. She also talked about our mutual goal of increasing FIRST's brand awareness.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST Tech Challenge, Netherlands @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-04-01

With almost 20 years under its belt, the Orlando Regional is a great place for Regional Directors and Affiliate Partners to learn about some of the tips and tricks of running an event. This year the team was joined by the FIRST Tech Challenge Affiliate Partner for the Netherlands. Marieke Peelen was here to see some of the ins and outs of a FIRST Robotics Competition, with the intention of trying an event in Europe in the future.

Fortunately, the weekend wasn't all about work. She got the opportunity to talk to teams from all over the country, see the two FIRST Robotics Competition teams from the Netherlands compete on the field and even witness one team make it to the winning alliance, securing a spot at the Championship in Houston in April.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST Alumni Association @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-04-01

One of the things that currently exists within the Florida FIRST community that is fairly unique is our Alumni Association. This group, led by Barry Bohnsack, provides a variety of ways for students to continue their participation in FIRST programs after graduation. From volunteering with teams and at competitions to building competition-ready robots in a very short period, alumni have tons of opportunities.

We spoke with Barry about one of our favorite programs for alumni - the Robot in 3 Days (FIRST Robotics Competition) and Robot in a Weekend (FIRST Tech Challenge). This program encourages students at Florida universities to follow along with the game announcement video and build a robot for that game in a weekend. This season, at ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016, the Robot in 3 Days teams from around the state brought their machines for a scrimmage on the official FIRST Tech Challenge field. The idea of the program is to show current students what is possible with very little resources and time.

If you are a junior or senior of a Florida FIRST team, you can send an email to FloridaFIRSTalumni at gmail.com, or join the LinkedIn community and follow on Twitter to stay connected.

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FIRST Looks

Edgar Allan Ohms (FRC 5276) @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-04-01

In the 4 years that we have been covering the Orlando Regional, we have had the opportunity to see teams grow from rookies into real competitors. We have also had the opportunity to see members of our group grow within the FIRST organization. Some students have become mentors and FIRST VISTAs, and we have had some students join our broadcast team.

One of those friends that has grown within the organization is Chuck Stephens. When we met him he was a house painter, musician, tinkerer and maker. Today he works for Pasco County Libraries where he is the mentor for the Edgar Allan Ohms FIRST Robotics Competition team, FIRST Tech Challenge Team Duct Tape will be moving to his libraries next season, and they will be starting FIRST LEGO League teams, as well. He has found a great way to take his extensive knowledge about a wide range of electronics and fabrication and help teach students.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST STEAMWORKS Gameplay Discussion @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-03-31

One of the things that can sometimes be a challenge for our broadcast team at FIRST Robotics Competition early season events is getting a good grip on the game. Our team is far more familiar with FIRST Tech Challenge, so this event was our introduction to the game, outside of watching the announcement video during CES.

During a break in the broadcast, Scott and Daniele discuss what they do and do not understand about the game, and make guesses about the way that teams will and will not interact with certain aspects of the game. They might not have understood the nuances of the game, but they mostly have the basics.

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FIRST Looks

Searing Engineering (FRC 1972) @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-03-31

Joining the Orlando Regional from California, we spoke to Martin Lizarraga from Searing Engineering. The team traditionally competed in San Diego, but every four years they like to branch out and experience a different environment. In the past they have competed in Hawaii, and this year they are in Orlando.

As a senior, Martin is a driver for the team, placing all of the pressure on his drive team's shoulders. While the engineering team has the pressure in the first 6 weeks, now it is up to him and his drivers. He discusses the design decisions that his team made, and which aspects of the game the team decided to focus on early on, and where they are focusing today. For example, shooting into the boiler was not generating enough points, so they pivoted to climbing, with the help of S.P.A.M. We also discuss his plans after high school, including his participation in FIRST clubs at his school of choice.

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FIRST Looks

Team Rembrandts (FRC 4481) @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-03-31

One of the great parts of being one of the oldest competitions in FIRST is that teams from all over the world travel to Orlando to compete. This year, in addition to the more common locations, like Brazil, the Orlando Regional welcomed two teams from Turkey and two from the Netherlands. Tamara Hanegraff from Team Rembrandts spoke to us about the unique challenges her team faces.

For example, while there is a growing FIRST Tech Challenge environment, there are only two FIRST Robotics Competition teams in the country. That means that there is not an official competition, or even a scrimmage, for the teams to participate in. Every season the teams travel to a different competition in the United States, where the largest concentration of tournaments exist.

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FIRST Looks

SigmaC@T Robotics (FRC 108) @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-03-30

While SigmaC@T Robotics doesn't have the smallest team number in Florida, they are the longest continuously operating FIRST Robotics Competition team in the state. In fact, the team has been around longer than the Orlando Regional itself, running 23 seasons.

We spoke with Maurice Solomon about his 4 years on the team. He has had a variety of positions over the years, including mechanical lead, captain and all-around guy. He started at his school with pottery and pivoted to robotics, which has kept his interest since. The team has changed a lot, but the support form their school, school board and sponsors has not.

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FIRST Looks

Rock Star Robotics (FRC 6473) @ Orlando Regional 2017

2017-03-30

Within the FIRST community, it is not unusual for a student to start in FIRST LEGO League and graduate into FIRST Tech Challenge or FIRST Robotics Competition. It is also not uncommon for a whole team to take that journey together. What is less common is a team moving through all three leagues, but that is exactly what the rookie Rock Star Robotics team has done.

Alexa Baires explains how she started with the team as a FIRST LEGO League member, upgraded to FIRST Tech Challenge and this year the team has joined FIRST Robotics Competition. With this unique view of FIRST, we talk about the differences between her experiences in the three leagues and what new challenges this season has presented that she has not experienced before.

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FIRST Looks

Orlando Regional 2017 (FIRST Robotics Competition)

2017-03-30

We have returned for the 19th Annual FIRST Robotics Competition Orlando Regional. There are 63 teams competing, including several from the Netherlands, and seven rookie teams. We speak with representatives from several of the teams, including the longest-running team in Florida, as well as a rookie team that has previously participated in FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge. In addition, we speak with a team from California, as well as one of the teams from the Netherlands.

In addition to team members, we also speak with Gabrielle Golden from FIRST Headquarters, Terri Willingham, Regional Director in Central Florida and Dan Swando, a member of The RoboShow, who livestreams all of the matches for the event.

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FIRST Looks

Exploding Bacon Robotics (FRC 1902) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

One of the most important aspects of the FIRST experience is outreach. Teams are encouraged to participate in events to spread the word about FIRST programs and STEAM in general. Some teams take this idea to an extreme - in a good way.

Jordan Shavell from FRC 1902, Exploding Bacon Robotics, spoke with us about the many aspects of her team. One unique aspect of Exploding Bacon is their new outreach initiative: FIRST Like A Girl. It encourages girls on FIRST teams around the world to tell their stories about their programs to show other girls why participating in STEAM fields, and FIRST in particular, is not only an option, but important.

FIRST Like A Girl also filmed interviews at ROBOTICON, adding a new 17 videos to the initiative. The team plans on building a curriculum to help other teams and regions get involved.

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FIRST Looks

12 Volt Bolt (FRC 1557) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

When it comes to FIRST, every student's experience is a little different. While some team members, like our own Daniele, join the program later in school, others join early. Brant Norris, the Co-Captain of FRC 1557, 12 Volt Bolt, falls into the latter category.

Starting in FIRST LEGO League at the age of 9, he joined 12 Volt Bolt after moving to the area. As a senior, he plans on going into electrical engineering, which was inspired by his time getting hands-on experience through FIRST.

Like many FRC team members this year, his most difficult and favorite aspects of Stronghold were both the same - the challenge presented by the variety of defenses on the field. He also plans on staying with FIRST after graduation, including mentoring teams.

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FIRST Looks

Red Hurricane (FRC 5606) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

While ROBOTICON Tampa Bay is not an official competition with Championship implications, they did welcome their first ever international team in 2016. FIRST Robotics Competition team 5606, Red Hurricane, traveled to Tampa from Shenyang, Liaoning in China specifically to compete in this off-season event.

RuoYi Lu, a Grade 11 student and captain of the team, talked with us about FIRST Robotics Competition in China, their first ever official regional in the country, the growing influence the program has on students and his hopes for the future of the program. He also discussed the team's participation in other international competition, namely the regional they usually attend in Australia.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST LEGO League @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

Because Florida is such a large state, FIRST LEGO League is divided into several smaller leagues to provide easier competition for the teams. Beth Hanning is the Affiliate Partner for Northwest Florida, and is responsible for helping to organize events, get teams started and to teach the leaders of the teams. She spoke with us about some of the details of her position, and what she enjoys most - coaching coaches and coaching teams. She also helped to explain this year's FLL game information.

Beth is also involved with the SOFWERX facility in Tampa. This facility is a partnership between the Doolittle Institute and United States Special Operations Command, which is also located in Tampa, "to assist with collaboration, innovation, prototyping and exploration with industry, labs and academic partners."

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FIRST Looks

Edgar Allan Ohms (FRC 5276) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

Most FIRST Robotics Competition teams are based out of one or more schools, there are some exceptions. Edgar Allan Ohms, based in Land O' Lakes, is one of those exceptions. The team is the first FRC team based in a public library in the nation. Because of the team, the library has built a makerspace to support the team. Today, the makerspace sees over 100 people per day.

Miller Bacon, the Lead Engineer and only remaining original member, came by to talk to us about the library and the team. He discussed the changes from the initial season, the expansion of the makerspace and how the team has grown around himself and AmeriCorps VISTA Joel over the past 4 seasons.

In addition, he talked about an overly ambitious project which involved creating custom tank treads for the machine. As it turned out, the change in materials from the practice field to the competition field caused some initial troubles.

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FIRST Looks

Nerdvana (FRC 4769) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

This past season was an interesting one for many FIRST Robotics Competition teams, mostly because FIRST Stronghold, this year's game, was very unique. A large variety of ways to score and a combination of finesse and brute force made Stronghold different from any game in recent memory. Some teams rose to the challenge and others struggled.

One of the teams that succeeded in Stronghold was FRC 4769 Nerdvana. Melody McGinness, a senior and team President, spoke with us about her team's great season, the team's history and her plans after FIRST. While she doesn't plan on pursuing an engineering degree, she does plan on staying within the STEAM realm. She plans on going into an art field, and has been inspired by her time doing design work for her team.

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FIRST Looks

GRA-V (FRC 5816) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

One of the most unique experiences you can have in FIRST is to be part of a rookie team. FRC 5816, GRA-V, had their rookie season in the 2016 game, FIRST Stronghold, and Vice President and NEMO Lead Kaitlyn Bowman came to speak about that experience. The team won the Rookie Award at the Orlando Regional, and got an invitation to participate in World Championship.

In addition, Kaitlyn is a member of a brand new FIRST Tech Challenge team, which is so new it doesn't have a number yet. Velocity Vortex, the 2016-2017 game, will be their initial game, and Kaitlyn discusses her experiences so far with the game.

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FIRST Looks

Cigar City Multirotors @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

This year, our staff took responsibility for the technical aspects of ROBOTICON, including video on the JUMBOTRON and live streamed on Facebook. One angle that we have never had before at our competition is a moving aerial shot. Luckily, one of the event partners made this a reality.

Cigar City Multirotors is a local flying club, and Zac Lessin, Vice President of the club, came to speak to us about the group, what they do and how to join. He also discussed how they planned to help us enhance our live video through the use of aerial drones.

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FIRST Looks

Team Duct Tape (FTC 2845) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

One FIRST team that has a special place in our cast's hearts is Team Duct Tape, and that is because both of our hosts are alumni of the team. The team got started when some students of a FIRST LEGO League graduated out of the program and has grown into one of the Florida powerhouses, being invited to Super Regional and World Championship competitions in past seasons.

Jacob Cannon, who has been on the team for several seasons, talks with his former teammates about this year's FIRST Tech Challenge game and how Team Duct Tape has dealt with the game. The team has implemented some new parts, including some that are custom made, that they hope will give them increased on-field results. Unfortunately, we will have to wait for competition to see it in full action.

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FIRST Looks

Hanning LLC @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

The programs of FIRST are possible only through the time and efforts of volunteers, and a competition like ROBOTICON requires a wide variety of people to make it possible. One of our volunteers this year was Todd Hanning, who helped keep the room energetic by DJing, but that's not all he does.

Hanning has been involved with FIRST alumni, along with other students, at Florida Polytechnic University in developing a new product. In addition, he was also involved in the beginning of SOFWERX, a STEM facility that supports FIRST events, including hosting the FIRST Stronghold kickoff event in January 2016.

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FIRST Looks

Squirtle Squad Scholars (FLL 302) @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

Of the four programs in the FIRST family, the one that can often surprise is FIRST LEGO League. The students are younger, starting in 4th grade, and the machines are smaller, but that is truly what makes these robots so impressive. These small, LEGO-constructed robots are able to accomplish a great deal on their field.

Abigail Peterson, a graduated member of FIRST LEGO League team 302, Squirtle Squad Scholars, spoke with us about her experiences with FIRST and with her team. She also discusses the aspect of FLL that sets the program apart from its larger siblings - the research project. Through this aspect of the program, the students get the opportunity to get in-depth with their subject matter and speak to people in the industry.

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FIRST Looks

Florida Polytechnic University @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016

2016-10-08

It Takes Alumni to pull off the Biggest and Best ROBOTICON yet.

Florida Polytechnic Student and FIRST Alumni, Zachary Weingarten joined us to discuss ROBOTICON, FIRST and the Robotics Club at Florida Polytechnic University. Zachary is a sophomore at the newly formed tech school located in Lakeland, Florida and has been an instrumental part of everything that made this weekend a success.

The Robotics Club started with just a couple of students during the school’s inaugural year in 2016 and is growing rapidly with about 30 students this year. They have alumni from FIRST and VEX, as well as some students who were not previously on a formal robotics team but have a passion for building robots. The students recently participated in the First Tech Challenge’s Robot in a Weekend program where they built a working prototype robot in just two days, immediately after getting the specs from the FTC Kickoff in September.

This robot is what brought the club here to volunteer at ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2017. They came to show off the robot, run some scrimmages and assist the FTC teams with their builds and answer questions. Members of the club also volunteered for ROBOTICON directly and helped with FRC field set up and overall assistance during the event.

Zach joins Daniele and Marissa, also FIRST Alum, in speaking about their experiences in FIRST as well as offering due props to the FIRST Alumni Coordinator for the state of Florida, Barry Bohnsack. Barry is not only a great recruiter and mentor for these students, but he is also very active in FIRST activities and helps to make the experience fun.

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FIRST Looks

ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016 (Off-Season Event)

2016-10-08

While the stress and challenge of an official competition is a lot of fun, there is nothing in the FIRST Robotics realm quite like an off-season event. Organized by the Eureka! Factory, in partnership with the University of South Florida and the Florida FIRST Alumni Association, ROBOTICON Tampa Bay has become both a team and fan favorite.

This year, the FIRST Looks team got a chance to speak with team members from FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition team, plus a FIRST LEGO League Affiliate Partner and program partners. One of the highlights of the event was the first ever international team, FRC Team 5606, Red Hurricane, from China, who also spoke with Daniele and Marissa.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST Robotics of Central Florida @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

The Orlando Regional is organized by a team of people, including alumni, regional directors and partners. Terri Willingham, the Regional Director for FIRST Robotics of Central Florida is on that team and discusses FIRST Stronghold as a game and its theming, including the fact that it was developed in cooperation with Disney and how it compares to past games. She also discusses the event itself and what it takes to put it together.

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FIRST Looks

Lakerbotics (FRC 1649) @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

Some volunteers at FIRST events come with their teams, while others volunteer even when their teams aren't there. Chris Becker from Lakerbotics (FRC 1649) volunteered as a Student Ambassador to give tours to sponsors, VIPs and more. He discusses what his day is like as an Ambassador, what it means for him and what he gets out of the volunteering. We also discuss the ups and downs of Stronghold and how the team has overcome the new challenges.

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FIRST Looks

Bionic Tigers (FRC 1592) @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

Events as big as the Orlando Regional require a lot of volunteers, and some of those volunteers require a lot of knowledge about the FIRST itself. For example, someone giving tours of the pits and field must know about FIRST, FIRST Robotics Competition, Stronghold, etc. Riley Branch from Bionic Tigers (FRC 1592) volunteers as a Student Ambassador, providing exactly those services to VIP guests, sponsors and more. She discusses her experiences as a Student Ambassador for 4 years, the types of questions she gets and how it has affected her. We also discuss the team, how long it's been around and how they run their team.

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FIRST Looks

FIRST LEGO League @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

One of the great things about FIRST is that it is one big community. No matter your age or league, everyone feels a connection. Because of that, at a FIRST Robotics Competition regional, there is representation from FIRST LEGO League. Beth Hanning, the Florida Northwest Region Partner for FIRST LEGO League, talked to us about the program and how it relates to the event. We also discussed SOFWERX, a facility in Tampa that has gotten involved with FIRST, even hosting the local FIRST Stronghold Kick Off.

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FIRST Looks

Exploding Bacon (FRC 1902) @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

One of the challenges that every FIRST team from any league faces is mentorship. Some teams find individuals who are well-versed in a particular aspect of FIRST to help, while others find an organization that can provide multiple mentors in a variety of areas. The latter is how Exploding Bacon (FRC 1902) runs, getting help from Comcast, in particular Universal Parks. Matthew Miller helps coordinate volunteers from the company to mentor the team in everything from engineering to outreach. When he's not doing that, he works within the parks to research and implement new technology for future attractions. We talk about why Comcast is so involved with FIRST and how he brings volunteers to the team.

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FIRST Looks

S.P.A.M. (FRC 180) @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

While some of our students start with FIRST Robotics Competition, others like Marie Bartnick from S.P.A.M. (FRC 180) get their starts with FIRST LEGO League and graduate into the bigger programs. She discusses with us her experiences in both leagues, the things she has learned and the challenges her team faced during this year's game.

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FIRST Looks

Torque Team (FRC 5283) @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

All FRC team members have to have an initial season, which is the case for Sam Estes from Torque Team (FRC 5283). He has joined the team's new business team, which is responsible for ensuring the whole team has enough money to support the season, as well as helps implementing fundraising efforts. We talk to him about his experience in FIRST, his team and his thoughts on the game.

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FIRST Looks

Team Banana (FRC 945) @ Orlando Regional 2016

2016-03-11

One of the most interesting parts of the FIRST community is that many students never leave. After graduation, many of us continue to participate as judges, referees, mentors and sponsors. Libby Eastman from Team Banana (FRC 945) has returned to FIRST as a team mentor after being part of the program as a student. We talk to her about her experiences on both sides of the program.

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FIRST Looks

Orlando Regional 2016 (FIRST Robotics Competition)

2016-03-11

We start our adventure with FIRST Looks at the 18th Annual FIRST Robotics Competition Orlando Regional. This year there are 63 competing teams, and we will speak to representatives of some of them, as well as sponsors, mentors, league Partners and Regional Director Terri Willingham.

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