The team of nine seventh graders included six girls and three boys. Each student contributed a unique perspective and individual strengths to the team. Most of the students had limited/ no experience with engineering and no programming experience at all, but this did not deter them. They raised to the occasion and flew high like Aviators do.
Now, this was no easy task, we had to overcome several obstacles along the way. First, we had no experience as a robotics team, because we are the FIRST ROBOTICS TEAM at McCollough/ Unis. In addition, I had limited experience with engineering and computer programming, so I took on this challenge head on. We had to learn about the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization, FTC (FIRST Technical Challenge) competition, engineering, and computer programming using Java.
Second, we started preparing for the competition late. I discovered that my students were interested in robotics five weeks before our first meeting on October 29th. Which meant, if I wanted to help make this a reality for my students, I had to move fast. I began this journey by attending the LEGO Mindstorms Robotics training at Wayne RESA in September. When I tried to register for the course it was full, so on the day of the training, I got up early, sat in the lobby, and waited until they had an opening. I shared this story with my students and told them to NEVER GIVE UP. Then, I asked my principal, Mrs. Alcodray, about starting a robotics team. She answered with an enthusiastic, “YES!”. In addition, Mrs. Alcodray helped me get approval from the district to apply for the state FIRST Robotics grant. Then, I began learning about FIRST, FTC, engineering, robotics, and computer programming at home (after school and on the weekends).
Third, we had limited funds. To help raise money, students suggested having bake sales. They brought in potato chips, pastries, and other treats. Some students made homemade cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries. I applied for four grants to help with the funding. After several weeks of holding our breathes and waiting, we were awarded over $3000 in grant money from the generous organizations below:
$550 from FTC
$1000 from Ford, Consumers Energy, and General Motors
$1800 from the State of Michigan
We were both touched and grateful for all of their support. The last grant that I applied for was from the Dearborn Education Foundation. I applied for a grant for $200, so we could build practice field in the building.
Lastly, our hard work paid off! The students learned Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M), computer programming, and robotics. They represented Dearborn, McCollough/Unis, and our community well during the FTC competition. I know that they learned a few lessons along the way:
Never give up
Believe in yourself
You’re never to old to learn
Hard work pays off
Don’t take no for an answer
Have a growth mindset
The sky is the limit
Make your dreams come true
These are lessons that I’m sure will last a lifetime. I cannot wait until we do this all over again next year!
Thanks again for all of your support!
Coach Simmons (also known as Mrs. Simmons)
P.S. Are you ready to meet the team? Look out for individual introductions from Mc Unis’ FIRST ROBOTICS TEAM coming soon.