It's new season time for robotics teams in St. Louis, and just as with Baseball in April, the time of year has everyone feeling inspired by the potential of their teams, including us!
I can't believe my last post was in December. Serious writer's block. I will catch you up on everything we've been involved in.
I'm most excited by the announcement in May that a consortium of St. Louis STEM organizations, including SLSRA, have been granted membership to the national STEM Learning Ecosystems organization. An excerpt from the press release:
The St. Louis Regional STEM Learning Ecosystem was selected to be one of 17 incoming ecosystem communities because of a demonstrated commitment to cross-sector collaborations in schools and beyond the classroom—in afterschool and summer programs, at home, with local business and industry partners, and in science centers, libraries and other places both virtual and physical. As STEM Ecosystems evolve, students will be able to connect what is learned in and out of school with real-world opportunities.
We were so honored to be included in the initial group of participants, and we can't wait to see how it grows and matures. One of our original goals was to participate in a regional STEM organization, and our wish has been granted! Now we need participate actively, and make sure student robotics is a vibrant component of the region's STEM ecosystem. See the full press release.
During the second half of the school year last year, we were fortunate to work with some great teams to do outreach, like the enormously popular engineers week event at the Science Center. We had a great time with 5 VEX VRC teams from Crestview Middle School at the late-season VEX tournament and national robotics week celebration at Mineral Area College.
We savored the last installment of a springtime St. Louis tradition: FIRST World Championships. And we made the trip to Louisville to take in the VEX World Championships
Our summer was occupied by summer camps and FIRST Global Challenge. If you missed the FIRST Global Challenge event in July, I hope you'll check out the FGC YouTube channel, and watch a little of the opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies. The event made national news in the US thanks to the Afghan girls team, an all-girls match started by Ivanka Trump, and a few other political subplots, which is fine, because the theme expressed by Dean Kaman in the opening ceremony was that politics divide us, and the younger generation can leave all that behind and unite around STEM. Almost every country in the world sent a team, and SLSRA joined the Global STEM Corp and provided remote assistance to the team from Mozambique. The MZ team's native language is Portuguese, and we were fortunate to have several members on our GSC team who speak Portuguese.
Our summer camps used TETRIX PRIME and Arduinos with robot shields from Pitsco. These robot shields are the precursor to Pitsco's PULSE controller, and we are looking forward to using PULSE and Ardublockly next year. We had an amazing crew of students from the Crestview Middle School robotics club and FTC team Gluons from Marquette High School helping at the camps, and at several fair booths we hosted to give kids hands-on robot building experiences: at Fair St. Louis in the SCOPE STEAM zone, and at TechShop's summer showcase.
Our next biggest news is that we are back this season organizing more FTC meets. Last season, we organized three meets, at STLCC Wildwood, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, and the St. Louis Science Center. The meet at the Science Center was scheduled in February, to fall on a Saturday after a First Friday, so we could have robots involved in First Friday too! We didn't realize when it was scheduled, that it would fall a little beyond the desired end of the meet season. Consequently, the Science Center meet was the finale of the season, with the results influencing the final standings of the leagues, adding to the impact of the event.
This season, we organized four meets: we're repeating STLCC Wildwood, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, and the St. Louis Science Center, and we're adding one more, at St. Louis University. At Wildwood, we will have an appearance and exhibition by the collegiate League of Legends national champion team from Maryville, and at SLU we will have an appearance by the SLU chess team, which was awarded national chess club of the year by the US Chess Federation.
The Science Center meet will again be in February, the Saturday after First Friday, but this time the league standings will already be finalized. Having less on the line will hopefully mean more relaxed fun: some of the teams will be sharpening their play for the league qualifier or the Missouri State tournament, and some of the teams will probably be late-joining rookie teams, so gracious professionalism will certainly be evident.
Next I want to update you on our projects. Last spring we developed a grant application which drove us to better understand and prioritize the projects, and do some cost analysis. Our highest priority right now is the Bot Zone lending library. The Bot Zone will be a resource for teams needing parts beyond what they have in their kit, and initially focused on FIRST FLL and FTC teams, and VEX VRC teams. The Bot Zone will be open for business during our Botshops, as well as by appointment. Parts you need that we don't have can be considered for order, but every request needs to be accompanied with a pretty good engineering notebook entry explaining how it will be used! Preference will be given to awesome engineering notebook entries.
Speaking of Botshops, more Botshops! We do most of these at the Gary Gore Education Center in Jennings, plus at least one at large location. Last year's at large location was TechShop St. Louis! The Botshops involve both FLL and FTC teams cooperating/competing to play this year's games.
Finally, we have made some progress on our Bot Mobile project. The Bot Mobile will be a shipping container converted to a mobile workshop, wherein we will have CAD-orienting training sessions targeted at FTC teams, and a variety of other robotics-themed educational experiences.
Stay tuned for more frequent blogs this season, and happy robotting!