Team 4334 Chairman's Award essay

Hey everyone,
Since it’s past the deadline I figured I would post out Chairman’s Award essay.
Any comments/feedback are appreciated.


“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” - Henry Ford

For Team 4334 - Alberta Tech Alliance (ATA) cooperation and progress have been consistent themes in our development since our inception. This progress has led to the expansion of outreach programs and the internal development of our team.

Improvement has been a critical part of Team 4334’s three years of operation as we have continually strived to be better leaders in our local FIRST community. During these years, our student led approach has resulted in a number of successes both on and off the field. In competition, our achievements include a World Championship divisional win, a regional win, and a win at the Indiana Robotics Invitational. We have also become key elements in the growth and creation of the Western Canada FIRST community with team members being part of the region’s inaugural regional planning committee and being mentors for other teams.

Alberta Tech Alliance has been a force for the expansion of FIRST and FIRST teams srince our formation in 2011. In the past two years we have helped 10 FRC teams through email, 5 of which with further on-site mentorship. We have also provided speakers at 3 different workshops teaching a variety of topics including scouting, strategy and programming to over 300 students and mentors. Furthermore, we have helped teams by guiding them through the kitbot build process during kickoff and providing them with a practice field later in the season. Similarly, we have encouraged the growth of FIRST Lego League in our area by funding 10 FLL teams in 2013.

In the past two years we have created a variety of tools to help teams both locally and abroad. To help teams scout effectively we have published numerous tools, including desktop and Android scouting programs and scouting sheet templates. Altogether our tools had over 600 downloads last year. In order to help teams with programming we created an open-source code base in Java and C++ that gave teams greater programming versatility. Additionally, we released Gordian, an autonomous scripting language, as a tool for teams to easily change their autonomous code. These projects were part of the FIRST Summer of Code and were further improved by members of other teams as part of a collaborative effort.

On Alberta Tech Alliance team members are dedicated to FIRST. In the past two years, there have been four Team 4334 parents and students on the Western Canada Regional planning committee. Additionally, out of the 11 key leadership roles at the Calgary regional, 6 of them are filled by our parents and former students. Over the summer, a member of Alberta Tech Alliance developed the FRC curriculum for Alberta as part of an internship for FRC West. In addition to creating the curriculum, this student also created and maintained the FRC West website.

To promote the growth of FRC in Alberta, Team 4334 has created a sustainable funding model that is applicable in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. The funding model uses the Alberta Education curriculum developed by a Team 4334 member to fund FRC teams. The curriculum, which teaches programming, electronics and general robotics information, gives students Alberta Education Credits upon completion, which students need in order to fulfil their graduation requirements. The money that is awarded by Alberta Education to schools for the successful completion of courses is then split between the team and school for a total of $500 per student. This was successfully used to fully fund 9 teams in 2014.

Many members of Team 4334 have used the skills and dedication they learned on the team for personal success. Last year, members from our team received the Woodie Flowers Award, Deans list award and an FRC scholarship for the University of Calgary. The success of ATA students often continues after their FRC experience. For example, a former student won a gold medal in Precision Machining at the 19th Skills Canada National Competition in June of 2013. Another example would be our graduating class of 2013 who all either attend or plan to attend a university within the next year.

Since our creation, we have encouraged public interest at numerous local events including Sunfest, YYC Maker Faire, Calgary Comic-Expo, and Beakerhead. These events had a combined attendance of over 90000 people and have proven successful in recruiting mentors and students for FRC West. Additionally, at Bricktastrophy our team had the opportunity to spark interest for FRC among the FLL students and forge connections with the Honorable Teresa Woo-Paw, the Associate Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations. In April of 2013 ATA had the opportunity along with three other FRC teams to host a weekend long FIRST exhibit at the Telus Spark, our local science centre. This exhibit demonstrated FIRST to over 1000 people. Our team has also been featured in a number of news publications including CTV, CBC, Global and The Calgary Herald, in addition to being promoted by Ultimate Rob, a professional frisbee player. Our public presence also includes social media sites such as our Facebook and Twitter pages, where we have over 700 combined likes and followers.

To complement our public exhibitions, Team 4334 has also given private presentations to various influential individuals and organizations. In 2013, we gave presentations to both the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Separate School District, in order to encourage the further creation of teams in Calgary. We have also given presentations on FRC to the executives of a number of companies including August Electronics, Worldplay, and Home Solutions. In order to expose those from other youth organizations to FIRST we have given presentations to both local scout troops and 4-H leaders.

Charity and relief have become important parts of Team 4334’s philosophy in the past year. When the 2013 Alberta Floods devastated many communities in Calgary and High River, ATA’s members rose to the challenge. In Calgary, our members became part of the flood relief effort by helping clear water and damaged wood out of homes in the community of Bowness. The team also used our Facebook page in order to help the flood gain publicity with the FRC community and one of our members created the donation page in order to help raise aid for the city of High River. In addition to helping with the flood relief effort, Alberta Tech Alliance members volunteered for the Salvation Army Toy Drive in order to help more kids in Calgary enjoy the holidays.

Team 4334’s accomplishments are made possible through a collaboration of students, parents, mentors and sponsors. To prepare our rookie students for build season our senior students take leadership initiative by teaching classes in everything from CAD to PR. Our senior students also displayed leadership this year through the implementation of rookie-senior pairs in which senior students gave individualized advice and leadership to their paired rookie. This system greatly improved the rookie retention rate from the previous year. We have also collaborated with parents to have food and supervision provided at the build season. Additionally, we received an in-kind sponsorship with our local Tim Hortons to provide food when parents are unavailable. To facilitate the communication and cooperation of these groups we use a variety of tools including Dropbox, Google Drive and weekly email updates to all parents and students. Our communication has also improved through the use of year-end meetings to recapitulate the completed season and plan for the next season with parents, students and sponsors.

Our relationship with our sponsors has been a key factor in the survival and success of our team. Our team has had over 10 sponsors since our creation, providing both in-kind and fundraising services. Furthermore, our efforts to build relationships with the AO Shirley Foundation Board have resulted in a 5 year sponsorship commitment. These sponsors have been critical to the team’s funding and robot building capabilities. In-kind sponsorship, such as machining, materials and food, have proven invaluable to the operation of our team. In exchange for these valuable services we provide sponsors with publicity through features on our t-shirts, banners and robots. We have also formed a partnership with FRC West to pay for a practice field, which is available to all teams in Alberta, as well as a space for two local community-based teams to build.

Cooperation, progress, and leadership have become key virtues of Team 4334. Our mentorship of teams, commitment to charity and dedication to the promotion and growth of FIRST clearly demonstrate this. Our unyielding enthusiasm for excellence will continue to drive our progress as we seek to realize the mission of FIRST.