As a company, showing support for young students with a passion for science and technology is something Accucode values and encourages. This is why we were thrilled when given the opportunity to work with one of our employees, Lisa Golladay, in sponsoring her daughter’s robotics team in Louisville, KY.
Lisa’s daughter, Annie, joined the R.O.C.K.S. (Robotics Outreach Connecting Kentucky Students) Robotics team as a freshman in high school this past year. The team of 9 students (grades 8-12) are led by coaches and mentors who volunteer to help the kids design, build, program and operate a robot in head-to-head competitions through a national program called FIRST™ Tech Challenge (FTC).
The Impact of FIRST™ Tech Challenge on STEM Learning
The beautiful thing about FTC is that it’s about much more than just building a robot. The robots are a vehicle for inspiring students to learn and apply new skills in science, engineering and technology.
R.O.C.K.S. team members are split into roles based on the students’ interests and skills. Students with a passion for software development learn how to program each robot to perform certain tasks like the sorter induction system used to identify and pick-up objects off the ground. Others with a passion for design and engineering get to learn how to use SolidWorks, a popular CAD software used to design and customize different parts of the robot. So, whether students want to learn new skills or hone the ones they already have, R.O.C.K.S. has a place for every student on the team.
According to FIRST™, student alumni are 2.6 times more likely to enroll in an engineering course their freshman year and over 75% end up in a STEM-related field as a student or professional.
Check out the infographic below for a detailed look at the positive impact FIRST™ programs have on the STEM learning experience:
In addition to STEM education, FTC teaches students other important life skills, like how to create a business plan and the importance of community outreach. The R.O.C.K.S. team had to submit a business plan detailing their strategy for raising money, how those funds would be allocated to cover expenses for building the robot and how to travel to out-of-state competitions.
The team also gets involved with their community as a way to raise awareness about FIRST™ and to encourage younger kids to get excited about participating in the program. Some of the students created a comic book with simple explanations about the benefits of joining FIRST™. Others would volunteer to referee robotics competitions at local middle schools or send tutorials to the schools detailing how to start their own robotics team.
Road To Success
After months of practice and team meetings, R.O.C.K.S. was finally ready to put their robot to the test at the Indiana State Qualifier tournament held in December of 2018. During FTC tournaments, teams compete in a game called “Rover Ruckus.” The theme for this game resembles a rover landing on Mars set out to collect “minerals” from the planet for further study.
To begin the match, one person on the team has two minutes to program the robot to safely lower itself from the hanger and onto the ground. Once the robot is stable, another team member controls the robot’s movement as it goes around picking up “minerals” and returning them to the lander. Points are awarded to teams for completing certain tasks in addition to the number of minerals successfully returned to the lander.
The R.O.C.K.S. team rocked this competition and won the Inspire Award. It’s the highest award given at any FTC tournament based on overall robot performance, design, oral presentations, community outreach and visits with the judges.
R.O.C.K.S. would also go on to with the Inspire Award a second time at the Kentucky State Championship the following month, helping them to advance to the World Championships in April. At World’s, the team finished in 9th place out of 80 teams in the Ochoa division, bringing an end to a very successful 2018-2019 season.
We couldn’t be more proud of what these kids accomplished, not just during competitions, but the STEM skills they’ve developed along the way that they’ll be able to take with them anywhere they go, whether in business or in life.
Accucode looks forward to supporting the R.O.C.K.S. team next season and plans to get our 3D printing division more involved when the time comes to design and build next season’s robot.
Congratulations R.O.C.K.S. FTC Team #13034. You all ROCK!
Special thanks to Lisa Golladay and the team’s coaches and mentors for all their hard work and showing support for these students throughout the season.