Team XBot's 2008 Chairman's Award Entry

In the interest of archiving this somewhere, I thought I’d share our Chairman’s Award entry. We submitted to and won the award at the Microsoft Seattle Regional. We were excited, but it’s an awkward award to win, honestly.

Executive Summary:
Your Team Number: 488
Team Name, Corporate / University Sponsors: Bezos Family Foundation/Microsoft/Boeing/Ameriprise Financial & Franklin High School

**Briefly describe the impact of the FIRST program on team participants with special emphasis on this year and the preceding two years. **

The FIRST program is the core of Team XBot’s ongoing effort to bring opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math to Seattle’s under served youth. Since 2006, 98% of members attending Franklin High School have graduated, far exceeding the school’s 84% graduation rate. 86% of those members have gone on to two- or four-year degree programs. We work throughout the year to accommodate our students’ desire for opportunities that engage and expand the knowledge earned in FIRST.
**
Examples of role model characteristics for other teams to emulate. **

We are dedicated to our communities, to FIRST and to one another. The team is committed to sharing its activities with the diverse ethnic communities from which it draws its members and beyond. We continue to complete Dean Kamen’s annual homework assignments from throughout the years, simultaneously engaging politicians at all levels in a discussion about FIRST, working with national media to tell our story, and supporting the growth of rookie teams at all levels of FIRST competition.
**
Describe the impact of the FIRST program on your team and community with special emphasis on this year and the preceding two years. **

FIRST gives our team the tools we need to engage students with opportunities to explore paths that are unavailable through the school systems we serve. Our reputation of success and commitment to our membership has resulted in continuing growth as well as new and ongoing partnerships with community groups. Since 2006, the team has grown to serve 7 schools across 4 school districts in addition to home-schooled students. We also provide programming to the community that supports FIRST’s mission.

**Teams innovative methods to spread the FIRST message. **

Our team is proud to spread the FIRST message through our diverse communities in more than ten languages. We also recognize that, while science- and technology-related events are great opportunities to find support for FIRST, interest can come from the most unlikely places – and our team is committed to taking every opportunity to share what we do.

**Describe the strength of your partnership with special emphasis on this year and the preceding two years. **

The team is proud to have forged new relationships with corporate sponsors and community groups in the last year that will ensure our continued success in years to come, as well as strengthened existing relationships with sponsors and mentors that have guided the team to many successes. We welcomed Ameriprise Financial as our newest sponsor, moved into a new, larger space on the Microsoft campus, and forged a new relationship with the Asian Counseling Referral Service.

**Teams communication methods and results. **

The team uses a “wiki” that allows members to access and rapidly edit information about the team and our activities. We use it, coupled with student and mentor leadership, to coordinate ways of overcoming the tremendous challenge we face in transporting members to our build site, as well as keeping members abreast of their responsibilities and assigned tasks. This sort of user generated content means that we operate as a network rather than a hierarchy, making everyone more efficient.

Other matters of interest to the FIRST judges, if any.

Our team is proud to “walk the talk,” making great efforts to engage minorities and women in our activities. Our program director is both a minority and a women and understands the challenges these groups face better than anyone. However, we also recognize that the FIRST programs can have a profound effect on all students and we welcome students from all walks of life and all parts of the region into our family.

Essay:
In 2007 and 2008, Team XBot has continued to develop and support programs serving Seattle’s under represented and under privileged communities with a strong focus on demonstrating the rewarding possibilities present in science, technology, engineering and math. Our efforts have contributed to continued growth of our program, ongoing success in competition, unprecedented levels of community outreach and awareness and exciting opportunities to share FIRST programs with the entire nation.

ENGAGING CORPORATE SPONSORS

As part of our commitment to providing team members with access to state of the art equipment and dedicated mentors, we continue to strengthen our partnership with Microsoft and its employees. This relationship not only provides the team access to Microsoft Research’s Hardware Devices Laboratory, but provides a large portion of our annual budget through the Microsoft Giving Campaign – a program that matches donations by Microsoft employees to 501©3 organizations as well as provides funding to those organizations based upon the time employees spend volunteering. The correlation between funding and mentorship has only further encouraged the team to develop new and exciting opportunities for outreach in our communities, leveraging the knowledge and resources of our mentors in our endeavors to raise awareness of FIRST programs and appreciation of science, technology, engineering and math.
Microsoft employs more than 30,000 people in the Seattle-area alone, so raising awareness of the team’s activities within the company is as important as raising awareness in our own neighborhoods. To that end, we have engaged in a number of outreach activities. Among them:

  • Blacks at Microsoft Minority Student Day – Team XBot is an esteemed guest at this annual event that provides students “from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds with information about the exciting tools, resources, and career opportunities available to them in information technology.”

  • Microsoft Giving Campaign – We were invited to represent FIRST and demonstrate our competition robot at the annual campaign kickoff event, alongside such esteemed charities as The American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and The United Way.

  • Dean Kamen Lecture – The team was invited to a lecture by FIRST founder Dean Kamen. Two team members were asked to introduce Dean to attendees and we demonstrated our robot and gave tours of the Hardware Devices Lab to employees at the conclusion of the lecture. We also invited the FIRST LEGO League state champions, The Gothic Lawn Gnomes, to operate our robot and learn more about the FIRST Robotics Competition.

  • FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Grant – We were awarded $5,000 for the development of an initiative that encourages Microsoft employees to support the FIRST LEGO League program. In addition to coordinating recruitment of employees and schools for this effort, we have also assembled unique starter kits that contain all of the non-expendable resources a team needs to compete and thrive. These kits each contain a LEGO NXT kit, additional motors, sensors and bricks, and a laptop computer and will be used to jump start FLL programs in middle schools throughout Seattle’s most under served neighborhoods. Student members of Team XBot will act as a mentors and advisors to Microsoft employees and their teams to help plant the seed of success and cultivate these new groups into sustainable, effective FLL programs. With this initiative, we expect to support more than five new FLL teams each year.

SUPPORTING FIRST PROGRAMS

Team XBot is a proud supporter of FIRST and works each year to support teams, events and programs to strengthen the reach and effect of each. We believe strongly that FIRST needs a strong foundation of experience and knowledge to flourish and are committed to ensuring the ongoing success of all of local programs, as well as encouraging growth in new directions. Among our efforts to this end, we have:

  • Organized and hosted the Seattle Regional Qualifying Event for FIRST LEGO League for two consecutive years, doing everything possible to make this event as exciting for the FLL teams as our own regional events are for us. The following weekend, we provided concession service at the State Championship event in Bellevue, WA and cheered on the teams that qualified to compete there from our event. At this event, we recruited two students that were in their last year of eligibility for the FLL program, continuing our legacy of providing opportunities to students that do not otherwise have FIRST programs available to them.

  • Donated more than $1,000 worth of Microsoft software to be auctioned as a fundraiser for team 2046 – Tahoma Robotics Club – and their trip the 2007 Championship as Rookie All-Stars. The Tahoma Robotics Club was our neighbor at last season’s Pacific Northwest Regional and we quickly became fast friends. We were impressed not only by autonomous coding that rivaled even the best veterans, but by the passion and spirit they had for the FIRST program and vowed immediately to help them achieve their goal of attending the Championship Event.

  • Led a series of presentations on both technical and non-technical topics at Seattle Robotics Society meetings and at the Digipen FRC Pre-Season Workshops. Our program director presented a well-regarded discussion entitled “Herding Cats,” that touched upon our unique organizational challenges and triumphs, while other mentors presented an in-depth discussion of drive train technologies in FIRST robots. Our technical presentation has been selected to be included at the Fifth Annual FIRST Robotics Conference at the Championship Event.

  • Traveled to the state capitol in Olympia to support Issaquah Robotics Society’s presentation to our state legislators, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to completing Dean’s homework and combining our resources to best maximize the impact our teams can have in achieving FIRST’s goals.

  • Made presentations to key executives within The Boeing Company to encourage increased support of FIRST programs in the region, demonstrating the effectiveness of the programs by sharing the story of our success and its effect on our students.

SPREADING THE WORD

Because our team meets on the Microsoft campus and not at any of the seven schools from which we draw members, raising awareness of our activities and of FIRST in the community is a vital part of sustaining our program. In the last five years, we have transformed from a team kept aloft by the unending dedication of one parent to one that is happy to be able to share its resources and knowledge in the interest of serving FIRST and our communities. Team XBot is proud to be a unifying thread among the vast ethnic tapestry of south Seattle and surrounding areas, and our activities demonstrate the diversity of our members and of our efforts to recruit new members, encourage the growth of new FIRST programs, and advocate increased appreciation of science, technology, engineering and math in our culture. Our community outreach in 2007 and 2008 includes:

  • Participation in a documentary film to air on PBS about the FIRST Robotics Competition. Our team was selected from more than two hundred entrants to be documented throughout the 2008 season and tell our story to a national audience. Our involvement in this project has led to other opportunities with the national media, including our involvement at the Championship Event in an NBC produced look at the FIRST Robotics Competition, wherein we will represent the Pacific Northwest region.

  • A new partnership with the Asian Counseling Referral Service to develop and administer robotics-based summer camp curriculum for at-risk youth in the summer of 2008.

  • Four years involvement in the Seattle Robotics Society’s Robothon, a weekend event at Seattle Center that highlights both cutting-edge and accessible robotics technologies. We were proud to be awarded 2007’s Best in Show award for our dynamic display, demonstrating the excitement and rewards of a FIRST Robotics Competition event.

  • Coordinating transportation to our build site for any student interested in being a member of our team, recognizing that this represents a significant barrier to participation for many students that might be best served by our efforts. Students travel from all corners of the Seattle area to participate in our programs, coming from such diverse communities as Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, Seatac, Skyway, Ballard, Bainbridge Island, Mercer Island, Redmond and Bothell. Many mentors frequently travel as many as 60 miles round trip each time the team meets.

  • A presentation at The Boeing Company’s Phantom Works family picnic. Employees at Phantom Works have long been supporters of Team XBot and we were thrilled for the opportunity to demonstrate our 2007 robot and mecanum chassis for them at their annual picnic. This presentation strengthened our relationship and reinforced our other efforts to secure continued and increasing support from The Boeing Company for all FIRST teams.

  • Presentations to incoming freshman at several of Seattle Public Schools’ High Schools. In the last three years, these presentations have reached more than 1,000 students and, as a result, our team now has more freshmen and sophomores than juniors and seniors, ensuring our continued growth and success.

  • A position on the academic advisory committee supporting technology programs in the Renton School District and beyond, including the development and operation of the annual Lindbergh High School tethered robotics competition. Team members participate in this competition each June, demonstrating the skills they’ve learned during our FIRST competition season.

Our presence at these events goes a long way toward demonstrating to students and administrators alike the power of the FIRST programs and the advantages our students have as a result of their involvement.

What a great team with so many positive attributes! Congratulations again on your win at the Seattle Regional and mahalo for the continued friendship between our two teams.