Two students from Katy recently had the opportunity to introduce some students from India to the world of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics.
On a family vacation during winter break, Abhishek Routray, a 2015 graduate of the Cinco Ranch HS FIRST Robotics Competition Team 624, CRyptonite, and currently a Mechanical Engineering major at UT Austin, along with his brother, Anuraag, an eighth grade student on the Beck JH FIRST LEGO® League team, Naturally Beck, presented a robotics workshop to students of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) school (http://www.jnvkhurdaorissa.org/ ), in Khordha, Orissa, on the east coast of India. Their mother, Chetana Samal, a Mentor and for both the CRyptonite and Naturally Beck robotics teams, is originally from this part of India.
The JNV school is essentially a regional magnet public school serving students from sixth grade through high school. Students gain admittance by taking an exam in fifth grade. They board at the school, only going home for a few holidays a year.
As the JNV students were engaged in free time activities before dinner, Abhishek and Anuraag brought the equipment for their talk to the school courtyard, drawing a crowd when they set up a table and brought out the LEGO Mindstorms® robot kit used in FIRST LEGO League competitions.
While he expected that the students would not be acquainted with FIRST LEGO League, what surprised Abhishek was that they’d never played with LEGOs. “It was a little mindboggling to think about,” Abhishek recalled. “Something almost all my friends and I had enjoyed when we were little was completely foreign to these students!”
A four-year veteran of the CRyptonite FIRST Robotics Competition team which ended the 2015 season ranked as one of the top teams in the world, Abhishek was used to describing the FIRST robotics concept of building and competing with robots in fun and exciting robotics programs to build engineering and technology skills and inspire young people in kindergarten through high school to be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) leaders.
“FIRST defined not only my experience in high school, but also my career aspirations as I moved into the college phase of my life,” said Abhishek. “The skills and knowledge I gained were invaluable to my development not just as an engineer, but also as a person, and because of FIRST I made many of my closest friends with whom I still interact today. I’m certain I would not be where I am today had I not been involved with the FIRST Robotics Competition, and with Team 624.”
Using a laptop and projector, Abhishek played the 2014 FIRST Championship Wrap Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yQOlp4YMPE), which shows all four FIRST robotics programs in action, and then moved on to one specific program, FIRST LEGO League, which is for fourth to eighth grade students in teams comprised of two to ten members.
“I also showed them the LEGO website, and then we moved into the demonstration of the LEGO platform, so we could expose them to the construction techniques as quickly as possible,” said Abhishek. “In the weeks before our workshop, a group of four JNV high school students had been working with Jack Sampson, the current CRyptonite team President, using Skype. He introduced them to the concept of building these LEGO robots and how to program them using a simplified version of LabVIEW, which is a visual programming language developed by National Instruments.”
While the training was very basic due to time constraints and the time zone difference between Katy and this part of India, it was enough to enough to enable the senior JNV students to help with the workshop.
“M brother and I expanded on some of the concepts Jack had worked on with the four senior students,” Abhishek explained. “Then we were able to quickly break up into smaller groups, giving them time to do some hands-on work with the LEGO kit and letting the senior JNV students start the process of teaching the younger ones.”
The workshop portion of the event ended with the room full of students intently watching a demo of the LEGO Mindstorms robot the group had created.
They were hooked.
“These kids were listening intently,” Abhishek said. “They paid attention even well past their dinner time. I couldn’t help but think about how right Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, was when he thought that robotics could be made into a sport in order to excite young people about STEM like they get excited about football.”
After the robot demo, Abhishek and Anuraag presented a LEGO Mindstorms robot kit to the school – a gift from the CRyptonite robotics team.
The school will form a FIRST LEGO League team to compete next season, which will start this August when the 2016 Challenge is released. CRyptonite will continue to mentor these students and their robotics team via Skype.
The evening ended with a question and answer session. “Essentially, we held an ‘AMA’ – an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session,” Abhishek said. “Seeing as not many of these students, if any, have the chance to travel outside the country, we figured they would be curious about the culture in the United States. We were asked about a variety of topics, ranging from schoolwork to films (the Harry Potter series is a favorite of theirs) and actors and actresses.”
The session was not a one-way street, however, and Abhishek and Anuraag had the opportunity to ask the students questions about their hobbies and interests. “We also got to watch a very talented singer perform,” said Abhishek. “My brother and I felt blessed to have had this opportunity to work with such a motivated and talented group of students and we’re happy to be able to help them get involved with FIRST.
About FIRST: Founded by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST was created to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual competition that helps high school students discover the rewards and excitement of science, engineering, and technology. The 2016 season includes over 3,100 teams from 19 countries.
FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sports with science and technology to create a unique Varsity Sport for the Mind™. Participants are eligible to receive over $22 million in scholarships from some of the finest science and engineering schools in the country.
About CRyptonite: Since its founding in 2000, Cinco Ranch High School’s FIRST Robotics Competition Team 624 (“CRyptonite”) has achieved international recognition in all areas of FIRST Robotics Competition.
Team highlights from the 2015 season include advancing to the Divisional Quarter-Finals of the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship as part of the number one seed Alliance, winning all three of the Regional Qualifying Tournaments the team entered: Dallas, Utah, and the Lone Star event in Houston, along with winning Regional awards for Industrial Design, Quality, Imagery, and a FIRST Dean’s List Award for individual student achievement.
CRyptonite has also won a coveted Regional Chairman’s Award (2014), team and individual student awards for Industrial Safety at the World Championship (2014), and took second place in the world-wide FIRST Safety Animation Contest (2014).
This has been possible through the generous financial and mentor support of our corporate sponsors, including founding sponsors BP America and Oceaneering Intervention Engineering. Other corporate sponsors include: ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Chemical, Texas Workforce Commission, Phillips 66, Wood Group, 3ipt Solutions, Subsea 7, Kinder Morgan, National Instruments, Murphy Oil Corporation, BHP Billion, Katy Area Economic Development Council, PBK, Brazos Valley Credit Union, Houston Community College, La Centera, Costello Inc., Tristar Holdings, Texas Hydrographic Society Houston Chapter, Newland Communities, and GEICO.
Team 624 has formed a partnership with the Katy Area Economic Development Council to promote awareness and support for robotics programs across Katy ISD.
We’re also indebted to numerous teachers, parents, mentors and our incredibly hardworking students.
To learn more about FIRST Robotics Competition: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc
For more information on Team 624: http://team624.org/
For more information on the 2016 FRC game, Stronghold: http://bit.ly/1kWQI61
To learn more about FIRST LEGO League: http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/fll