BENEFITING: GRANDVILLE ACADEMIC TEAM BOOSTERS
EVENT DATE: Apr 03, 2014
The Grandville High School RoboDawgs are at it again! This fifteen year old team has mentored more than 70 robotics teams from all over Michigan - and now they're learning alongside students from two Canadian schools. The RoboDawgs are working with two FIRST Robotics teams from Calgary - and they're doing it via telepresence over a distance of nearly 2,000 miles!
It all started last summer, when some really ambitious folks decided to expand the FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) world in Canada. While the Canadians already field some of the best teams in the world, there were only two teams in Calgary. This area has remarkable schools, but it had not yet developed a strong network of high school robotics teams. FRC had the potential to get more students excited about math, science, and technology - but it need a spark to get things going.
That spark was created by a guy named Blair Gallant, the Regional Director for FIRST. He got a group of leaders excited in Calgary, and soon there were 13 new teams signed up for the 2013 season. What a growth rate - from two to fifteen teams in one year! Now the real challenge.... how do you get 13 teams up and running?
Blair put out the call - were there experienced teams in North America who would be willing to mentor some of these new Canadian teams? Were there teams that would commit to helping these new teams figure out this FRC "thing" - and then travel to Calgary to participate alongside their new friends at the first-ever Western Canadian FRC Regional Competition?
The RoboDawgs are no strangers to Canada. Living in Michigan, they have Canadian neighbors to the north. They have traveled in each of the last few years to compete in the FRC event in Waterloo - and this has become the team's favorite FRC competiton. The RoboDawgs have traveled all over North America to compete, and the event in Waterloo is the best-run event on the continent.
So....... the RoboDawgs asked about mentoring a team in Calgary and they offered to send a team resume and references. Blair wrote back "Robodawgs don't need any introductions, your reputation precedes you." Wow was the team excited. They were so excited that they took on two rookie teams! A team from Sir Winston Churchill High School and a team from Ernest Manning High School!
Now how, exactly, do you mentor a team that's 2,000 miles away? Via telepresence, of course. With the help of some folks at Herbalife, the RoboDawgs came up with state-of-the-art videoconferencing equipment from Polycom. The Telepresence 9000 hardware has kept the RoboDawgs and their coaches on weekly videoconferences with their friends in Calgary. The RoboDawgs have offered advice, walked through various systems components, and even shipped hard-to-find parts to their Canadian sister teams. Every Friday finds some group from each of the schools on the video link.
The RoboDawgs have always run a program focused on education and leadership development, and we have been very fortunate to have some really committed sponsors. We rely on public and corporate contributions for more than 80% of our operating budget. The team is always using a broad range of fundraising methods, and we began to use CROWDRISE and DONORS CHOOSE during 2012. Both online sites have been great sources of funding for us. We raised more than $30,000 on these two online platforms during 2012.
The trip to Calgary will be expensive - it's really not an easy place to get to. Delta Airlines has jumped in and has helped us cut our airfare to less than half of the full fare price. Even with these discounts, our airfare will total more than $25,000. Add event registration ($12,000), hotel ($15,000), and meal costs ($4,000) and you can see that the trip to Calgary will cost the team more than $56,000. This is a big investment, but the team's coaches and captains believe this is an important investment. Our team members are learning to think through the process of helping other teams they will not meet live until April. They're also busy building their own robots. And they're going to meet and compete with teams they have helped along the way.
Please help us send the RoboDawgs to Calgary! Click "contribute" and join ranks of RoboDawg supporters! Share your email address with us when you contribute and we'll send you pictures from Calgary!