FRC, FIRST Robotics Competition was new for students attending Westwood High School in Mesa, AZ. The first year of competition for the Westwood Robotics Team was one to be celebrated. Not only did they take on a new challenge, they turned an out of classroom activity into a laboratory for lifelong learning. They turned their learning into success. And their success went farther than winning the prize. They developed a passion for science, technology, engineering and math. They learned what it means to collaborate, problem solve and persist. Along the way team 2478 became a family – a family of scientists.
Most students can name their favorite athlete or movie star, but how many can name their favorite scientist? Students on the Westwood Robotics team can. As one student puts it, “The goal of the competition is to change the culture. The purpose is to make science, technology, engineering and math a competition – a sport.”
I think. I question. I design.
The FRC Game is released the first Saturday in January via video all over the country. The 2014 challenge was to build a robot that could travel through an opposing team of robots, carry, pass, catch and shoot a two foot diameter ball into a goal. The team had six weeks to design, build and program their robots
Tom Saxon, a team mentor for Westwood Robotics, acknowledged that the students came to the program as “paper thinkers.” They had little or no knowledge of design or building. Many students didn’t know how to use a hammer or a drill.
Scott Blevins, Team Mentor, was impressed with how much their abilities developed. By the end of the season they were fabricators. When students learn to build they can see the application of math and science applied to everyday life.
As soon as Westwood knew what the 2014 Game was, Aerial Assist, they prioritized and developed a plan. Students had to make decisions about how the robot would function. How would it hold the two foot diameter ball? How would it catch and pass the ball? How would it move on the field through the squad of opposing robots? How would it shoot the ball into the goal?
Saxon emphasized team work. It wasn’t just about teaching how to design but how to work as a team. He let the kids know there was going to be failure involved and building a robot would be a product of teamwork. Teaching students to apply what they already knew was an important part of their growth and understanding.
Students shared ideas and ideas melded to form a creative solution. Brainstorming was alive and well when Westwood Robotics came together to create.