Lessons Learned

1. What specific and unique challenges did your team face this season that is likely different from what other teams faced? How did your team overcome these challenges?
We formed the team in November so we missed the opportunity to apply for most grants to improve our funding. We were fortunate to receive the grant from FIRST and we had very generous private donors and a few wonderful company donors that help offset the costs of starting up and running the team through our first FIRST season. We also had such a late start that most students were obligated to other FRC teams. Most teams are formed and working in the fall. We were at a serious disadvantage in that respect. We did offer several students the opportunity to join us and we had enough interest and students to form a nice small team.

2. How much time did your team spend spreading the message of FIRST? What was your biggest challenge with this task? Describe one way that your team successfully shared your FIRST story.
Several students on our team were mentors for FLL and FLLJr when we formed our team in November 2019. We did not have time during build season to do outreach due to time constraints and the small size of our team. We were set to do outreach activities in partnership with another FRC team that we were introduced to during build season but we were unable to complete due to COVID. We have been 3-D printing PPE devices since the pandemic started and have had a generous business donate the supplies for printing. We have been printing and supplying face shield headbands to be assembled at a local volunteer organization since April. We released our robot reveal video and it has been viewed over 1000 times on Youtube. It’s the best example of our FIRST story before COVID.

3. What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think about the transformation your team went through this season being involved with FIRST? How does this describe your team?
Freedom. Several students on our team had prior FRC experience on a different team. They came together along with a few rookie members and were quick to form strong bonds. It was necessary as team members to work together and rapidly to produce a quality robot for the competition season. New and veteran students had the freedom to work with any members of the team and mentors and in any capacity they felt would complete tasks. Learning and teaching were happening at ‘mach speed’ on the team and there was nowhere to hide on such a small team when there were time constraints and so much to accomplish. Students were accomplishing every task, sometimes with assistance and sometimes with very little. Each student showed a great capacity for learning, trying, and trying again if things didn’t go as planned. In the end, they built an amazing robot together.

4. Besides the cancellation due to COVID-19, what was the biggest disappointment your team faced? How did you move past that disappointment?
The cancellation of the season was the biggest disappointment for our team. Our one graduating senior will never get to compete with the robot he worked so hard to help build. The team had a year-end Zoom party and we sent the retiring senior off to college with gifts and a huge deal of respect for his contributions to the team both as a friend and a leader. The team is looking forward to the next year and season. Our members have contacted the FLL and FLLJr teams that they mentored last year in hopes of them all returning.

5. Describe how your team supported equity and inclusion on your team. Is your team an accurate reflection of your community? If not, why not?
Our team is very diverse. Women, skin tones and other differences, we’ve got it all! It would seem to be a pretty accurate reflection of our community.

6. What is the best advice your team would give a new team in 2021?
If you start late, don’t be afraid to apply for grants and ask your community for help. Ask for help from other FRC teams. Every team we reached out to for advice or help responded. Even if a team couldn’t help us specifically, they certainly sent us information to resources and teams that can.

7. What was your most proud moment?
The students setting up our new pit at the Regional the night before competition was about to start. Students showing up excited and ready to compete. Releasing the reveal video of the team robot.

8. What can FIRST do to provide more support to rookie teams?
Having a list of teams in your area and what facilities, tools and mentors they have available to share would have been very nice.

9. What resources was your team missing?
Our team couldn’t cut metal easily. We reached out to community members and they were very helpful. We also reached out to and formed a friendship with Team 5025 Pacific Steel. They let us use their amazing facility and we went several times. The students and mentors adored them. An outstanding example of Gracious Professionalism if ever there was. It’s what FRC is all about. So nice that we got to experience it.

10. Student Quotes
“I learned that I can indeed program an entire robot, including autonomous”

“I realized I know more about electrical than I thought I did”

“I learned it is true that there are good teams out there who legitimately want to help”

“Being on Team 1709 helped teach me how to collaborate in teams and get stuff done, with different people having different roles”

“I learned how to find multiple approaches to a given problem and how to achieve a goal with minimal instruction”

“I learned that many things often require hard work, especially when it comes to building robots and it’s very satisfying to complete a project that many people worked hard for”

“Don’t forget the battery”

“Button making is funner when you have 3 people…”

“Sometimes the shooter was too fast and when tested hit a team member. That’s why safety is so important!”

“We made funny slogans like ‘Does it go mach speed’ and ‘Doesn’t it have a battery'”

“A team’s spirit is what makes the team, the team and how it represents itself is deeper than just the surface level”

“It was fun discovering new ways to test the robot despite the limits of a newly started team”

“Mentoring a team of any kind, but especially robotics should be something everyone should at least try”

“Reaching out to other teams gets results…They gave me great advice”

“We did have one screw type with two different threads..that really slowed us down..”

“Wire management is important!”

“Power pole connectors are a lifesaver”