Chairman's Material



Lamar DiscoBots have taken to heart both the FIRST mission of “[inspiring] young people to be science and technology leaders” and the FIRST mantra of “Gracious Professionalism.” Since our inception in December of 2007 we have been devoted to the task of exposing young people to science, technology, engineering, and robotics. Many of our team members had not experienced robotics until the 2007 build season. With less than $1000 dollars, garage tools, and a small space in the physics classroom, we built a robot that took us to Semi-Finals at the 2008 Lone Star Regional. In 2009, as a second year team, we won the Lone Star Regional and have collected over 6 FIRST awards.

As an inner-city public school, Lamar High School has a very diverse student population. The team echoes this, including Asian, African-American, Caucasian, and Hispanic students. The DiscoBots team also spans all four grade levels, with nearly a quarter consisting of underclassmen. This diversity of ages illustrates the team’s school-wide outreach, and will also serve to sustain the team as members graduate each year. In addition to racial and grade-level diversity, the team also exhibits a strong female presence. There are 32 active members on the team, with an equal representation of the two genders; in addition, the majority of the team leaders, approximately 65 percent, are female.

DiscoBots alumni clearly exhibit the effects of their FIRST participation. Experience with FIRST has inspired many members, including those who were not initially interested in science or math, to pursue STEM fields. In the spring of 2008, five seniors were undecided on attending college; after participating in robotics, all five are pursuing a degree in science or technology at the University of Houston. 18 of 23 (approximately 78%) of our alumni from the last two years are pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math. A number of these students also received FIRST scholarships.

We seek to expose people outside of Lamar to FIRST and robotics. During both the FIRST season and off-season, we have been committed to enhancing the awareness of science, engineering, and technology by promoting robotics in our community. We believe FIRST robotics can be an immeasurable opportunity for students to learn about science and technology and experience a real-world engineering project.


VEX AND FLL

Our team was interested in building a lower cost robotics alternative in Texas. VEX Robotics met our requirements and goals for robotics in the fall season. However, VEX robotics events did not yet exist in the state of Texas. In 2008, our team created the first local regional: Houston VEX. We also helped form rookie teams from Texas and Mexico to participate in this robotics competition. In the past two years, we have helped grow VEX robotics to over seven events in Texas with over 100 participating teams. Many successful VEX teams we have helped start have gone on to compete successfully in FIRST robotics. The Houston VEX competition serves as a good resource for students participating in other competitions, such as FLL, by introducing them to concepts that appear in both FIRST and VEX. In addition to organizing and running the Houston VEX Regional, our team also assists with other VEX events, such as the Austin and Dallas VEX Regionals, in both official and unofficial capacities. DiscoBots alumni and mentors assist with everything from inspection to judging, while current members aid other teams in programming and mechanics. Since we have an official VEX field, we held scrimmages at Lamar so that teams can practice, providing opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable. At these scrimmages, we help teams design, build, and program, offering our skills and experience to help them in the enhancement of their robot. We also plan to host and participate TSA-VEX events this coming season to help spread the word about VEX.

We are also involved in FLL; we volunteer at FLL events and mentor FLL teams. As a result of our demonstrations at elementary and middle schools, a number of nearby middle schools have started FLL teams, such as Dark Prodigy (FLL 8170) and Circuit Breakers (FLL 7266). We also introduce these teams to the higher level robotics concepts that are used in FIRST. In addition to our demonstrations, we conduct tours of our facilities and offer FLL students opportunities to try their hand at the various different tasks involved in creating an FRC robot. Additionally, we have recently become involved with a robotics class at The Regis School, a combined elementary and middle school. Through these interactions, we develop our relationships with these students, many of whom will later go on to participate in FIRST.


FIRST

Year-round, we run, update, and moderate the TXFIRST.org website, which provides information about Houston and Dallas FRC regional competitions and various middle and elementary school competitions. Through TXFIRST, any team or individual can submit questions regarding the FIRST regionals, kickoff, and other events. Our team monitors these queries and assists where needed. We also monitor other online resources such as the official FIRST forums and FRC resource Chief Delphi so we can aid teams. When helping teams located within our general area, team members and/or mentors will physically visit and assist the team; if we cannot physically reach the team, we offer the benefits of our experience and knowledge through forums and email. We also maintain one of the few team websites that offers public training resources in addition to information about our team. Available on our website is a series of PowerPoint presentations, ranging from an introduction of pneumatics to website creation. We also mentor other teams such as 2276, 2956, 2664 and 1484.

We work to promote robotics and FIRST both within our direct school environments and our more general community. Our commitment to promoting robotics does not wax and wane according to the FRC season; to us, it as a perennial responsibility to be pursued both on and off season and in and out of school. Within school, we work to expose students of all grades to robotics, starting with those who are not even yet in high school. Lamar holds a "Freshmen Roundup" each year, in which clubs and teams can meet graduating eighth-graders from surrounding middle schools to promote their organizations. Since our formation, we have participated in the Freshmen Roundup to engender interest in the team and expose the large number of rising freshmen to the world of robotics and of FIRST. We have a working partnership with other Lamar organizations, such as the Technology Student Association (TSA). Some TSA students are also DiscoBots members, and others assist the team with CAD modeling.


CLASS

The success of DiscoBots has led to a robotics class being offered at Lamar beginning next year. DiscoBots have been deeply involved in preparing the class, offering guidance to the students and in developing curricula. Students in this course will receive the opportunity to investigate their interests in science, math, technology, and the practical applications of all three.


SCRIMMAGES

We run the Texas Shootout Off-Season event, which, in collaboration with the Woodlands team (FRC 1477), we established in August 2009. DiscoBots members volunteer as referees, field managers, and announcers; we also help set up the field and assist attending teams. By running the Off-Season event, we provide an opportunity for Texas teams to hone their skills during off-season and for members of the general community to become involved in robotics. In addition, we coordinate and organize practice scrimmages with other FRC teams such as Reagan Robotics (FRC 441) during FIRST season.


COMMUNITY OUTREACH

This team year, DiscoBots have thrown open its doors to non-Lamar students. DiscoBots provides these students with an opportunity to participate in a robotics program that they otherwise do not have access to, and these students will carry their experiences with them as they return to their own schools. After their experience with FIRST, members who attend Carnegie Vanguard High School, a magnet school in the HISD system, plan to form a robotics team at Carnegie Vanguard. This team plans to maintain a close relationship with the DiscoBots and looks forward to collaboration between the two teams.

We have hosted demonstrations of FIRST and VEX robots from previous competitions at Lamar High School in order to spread the mission of FIRST to the corporate community. From this, and other similar demonstrations, we have also received financing from various corporations on the strength on our previous successes.

Last year, our team was featured on Lamar Cable Television, a student-made and student-run program that is broadcast during school hours. We have also been featured in local community papers, such as the Houston Chronicle, River Oaks Examiner, Guidry News and featured on the local news Channel 39, and in Robot Magazine. As a team, we have taken advantage of these additional mediums to promote the idea of robotics and FIRST to our peers, neighbors, and other members of the Houston community.


MENTOR SEARCH

In 2008, we established MentorSearch (www.mentorsearch.us), a non-profit organization designed to help teams connect with willing mentors. The mentoring process is unique and an intrinsic part of the FIRST competition mentors constitute an invaluable resource as they educate students in engineering concepts and processes through their hands-on guidance. For rookie teams and teams in largely minority schools in particular, mentors are of inestimable benefit; however, many such teams lack the contacts or resources to find a mentor. MentorSearch seeks to redeem this problem, and since its inception, has connected over twenty mentors with teams.

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