Each robotics family is expected to contribute to the team either as a mentor or support of parent committee activities. First and second year parents should anticipate signing up to provide food or driving. Sign ups for these will be sent by email prior to each event. Third and fourth year parents should help with or take a position on the parent committee.
Team dues are $200 per student, per year and are collected at the time of registration. Dues make up about a quarter of our overall budget. This money is primarily used to purchase materials to build the robot and other engineering and administrative and marketing expenses. They are also used to pay for food provided during meetings and at competitions, team t-shirts, and about half of our travel expenses. Additional “participation fees” ranging from $50-$150 are collected prior to each competition from those who are attending the event to cover the remaining costs of food, lodging and transportation. A student’s participation is valuable to the team, therefore partial scholarships are available upon request to the faculty advisor.
Building robots is expensive, and dues don’t cover it all. Fundraising makes up about one fifth of our overall budget. Participating in fundraisers gives team members a sense of ownership and builds team spirit. We usually have two restaurant fundraisers and participate in Skyline athletics concessions. The biggest fundraiser is selling citrus fruit in late fall. Fundraisers take place during the off season.
The captains are the administrators of the team. They oversee the operations, and make team decisions with support of the mentors. They were elected by their peers.
Mentors are volunteers who provide support and guidance to the students during team meetings. The lead mentor is elected by the parent committee and oversees mentor participation.
The parent committee supports the team with necessary administrative and planning tasks such as forms, budgeting, food, carpools, event travel, fundraising, etc. The president, vice president/secretary and treasurer are elected annually by the team’s parents. The committee meets monthly with the faculty advisor and captains and all are welcome to attend.
Build season starts with the announcement by FIRST of this year’s challenge. By announcing the challenge in this way, each team starts working on their robot at the same time. The kickoff is usually the first Saturday in January and is held at the University of Michigan, which will be an all-day event for the team.
After the announcement of this year’s challenge, we enter build season. This is roughly 6 weeks of intense time and effort. During this time, sub-teams meet on a schedule, to be determined, several days per week. Not everyone will be meeting on the same days. Each sub-team has its own tasks and its own schedule. All are busy getting the robot planned and built, and the whole team will meet all day each Saturdays.
Look for the group in the stands that are wearing the Skyline blue shirts.
Scouting happens throughout the competitions. Each team may approach the year’s challenge in a different way, and therefore teams may have special strengths or skills. Part of the FIRST philosophy is that teams may have to work together to be successful. Scouting is typically done by team-members in the stands who track how other teams perform, and try to look for teams that complement our team’s special skills – who will therefore make good allies. In finals, teams will band together to form alliances that will work together to win.
The pit is where teams have a crew of people whose job is to work on the robot during competition. In order to enter the pit, you must have safety goggles. This is where fine-tuning or repairs of the robot may occur. Because teams are allowed to “unbag” the robot during the competition, alterations that can improve performance may also be pursued during pit-time.
Drivers have been identified who have the best skills for controlling the robot during the competition. They will serve in this role during the season, and they are standing at the ready behind the plexiglass barriers on the competition floor. A computer serves as the controller.
For the first few seconds of the competition, the robot is programmed to perform without human controllers.
This is a unique FIRST concept that captures the idea that although teams are competing, they also cooperate with each other, and are sporting in the playing field and in the pit. There are typically opportunities built into the game, in which each team can assist the other as well as receive a benefit in terms of points.
It depends on the game, but often it is not just beating your opponents, but the number of points accrued along the way. Awards and placing in the competition give you statewide points, which are what determines who goes to states. Your placement at states is what determines who goes to worlds in Detroit.
If you’ve never been to a competition, “you ain’t seen nothing yet”. FIRST competitions boast the most creative, geekiest, most expressive group of teens you have ever experienced in your life. Robotics teams have very goofy, very “dressy” ways of showing the world who they are. They also have a tradition of dancing their hearts out in between competitions. Bring your dancing shoes and join in – everybody has a good time at a robotics competition!
There is usually an email inviting people to sign up via an online document. This is for drivers and riders. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t know who to ride with – everyone will be accommodated if enough parents provide transportation!
There are typically 1-2 overnight trips. We apply, in late summer, to attend at least 2 district events held throughout Michigan, one of which may be an overnight trip. Hopefully we will make it to the State Competition in Saginaw (which involves 2 overnights). If we make to the World Championship that is in Detroit so team will not stay overnight.
In addition to the many ways you support your own child’s participation from home, you can show your team spirit by attending the competitions, and yelling like mad. Many teams have cheering sections and enthusiasm shown during competition earns points during the games. Volunteering to be a mentor, bringing food, driving the carpool and participating with the parent committee are other ways to support the team.
Most answers are covered in the Parent Handbook, which is on the website. If you still have a question, you can speak to the faculty advisor or a mentor at a team meeting or email the parent committee vice president, Natalie DePasquale at firstname.lastname@example.org