Friday, October 9, 2015

The Hogwarts Letter

FIRST Robotics is a big deal.  High level robotic engineering and a competition to boot. In terms of student and coach time commitment it is on a par with being on the football or basketball team.  In terms of recognition, a little less.  In terms of  future employment prospects, a lot better.

Honestly, we went fishing.  Were there enough kids at our high school interested in robotics to the point that they will dig in and work five or six sessions a week to build a competitive robot?  We put together a list of "alumni" from my middle school robotics class and tossed in additional suggestions from our sources in the high school.

Here is my personal invite to the kids on "The List".  A general invite followed.....

Dear _____________

Sorry that this letter could not be delivered by owl.

Because it is a little like getting an invitation to Hogwarts.

After many years of discussion we will be having a FIRST robotics team at XXXXX in 2015/16.  FIRST is the premier robotics event for high school students and has grown to approximately 3,000 teams competing at local, regional and eventually, world events.

The specifications for the competition change every year.  On January 9th the competition details are announced, the kit of standardized parts is delivered, and teams have exactly six frantic weeks to complete a robot that will do….well, we won’t know until January 9th, but typically they navigate mazes, shoot balls into hoops, move objects from one place to another, all with a time limit and a scoring system.

This is top of the line robotic technology, and the sort of thing that looks very good on a resume for people pursuing a career in technology.

You might be getting this letter for a variety of reasons.  We hope that alumni of Dr. XXXXXs middle school robotics programs will be the core of the team.  But we have also gotten suggestions from other sources who tip us off to students with skills that could be put to good use.

We need:

People with robotics experience.
People who have machining, design and building skills.
People with programming abilities.
People who are good at strategy and games theory.
People who like to tinker.

We also need people with skills that might not be obvious.  We could use one or two  with good graphics design skills, because looking good counts for something. We really need people who are good at multiple things but maybe not great at any of them.  “Utility Infielders” who can fill in on several areas probably make the difference for successful teams.  On a team of (we hope) 15 to 20 students you could probably find a place for somebody whose sole jobs are keeping the tools straight and picking up the pizza.  We expect lots of pizza.

If you have interest and can consider a significant time commitment in January and February (with competition in March), please contact XXXXXXX at _________ or come to the upcoming organizing meeting on ____________.

We also will need adult help.  If you are a welder or a machinist or a programmer or an engineer, or just somebody who has an interest in seeing science and technology get the same level of recognition and respect as sports…..we want to hear from you. 

Looking forward to a very busy, very fun, very worthwhile robotic campaign…


And the answer was: While I would have been willing to undertake this venture with six motivated kids.  I would have been happier with 12 and ecstatic with 20.  We had 44 kids turn up for the intro meeting.

This poses many unexpected challenges and even more unexpected opportunities.

Hang on for the ride, its gonna be a fun one!


TheUnpaidBill said...

I realize you don't know me from Adam, but you have my respect. My son does FIRST Lego league, and next year they move up to FTC. It is a lot of work.

Best of luck with your teams. I am sure you'll work it out.


Tacitus2 said...


I beg to differ. I do know you. Or rather, I know an awful lot of parents just like you. You/we/they are working hard to do the best for their kids. The modern world is increasingly unfamiliar to most of us. That is partly alarming and partly great.

Keep at it. I can tell you from experience that you will never be happy that you worked an extra few hours, or made a few extra bucks....and missed a single little league game or ballet recital. Or robotics event.

Cheers, I salute you.