In the Community
In our rookie year (2006/07), Skunk Works Robotics' concentration was on building a working robot while building our team. We returned from the competitions excited about FIRST and what we had accomplished. Our focus soon went from just the team and our robot to giving back and personal growth. Many of our efforts give us opportunities to not only talk about our robotics team, but to inform our audiences about FIRST. We find it fun and rewarding to be involved.
Concord International School is a dual-language immersion program in Spanish and English and Skunkworks has begun our first year in the new building by reaching out the schools in our area. We have been holding Lego Robotics workshops, the initial event was December 4th where we kicked off our NXT Lego Mindstorms domino game with twenty-four 4th and 5th grade students. We coordinate and participate in these events to get students excited about STEM who may not have had the opportunity to be exposed to the possibility of engineering careers. Skunk Quinn Schiller talks about his experience with the students from Concord saying, "that during the FIRST promo video, one of the kids tugged on my arm and asked 'What do engineers do?' I told him that they build everything we use, and design the future. His eyes lit up, and he said with great resolution, 'I am going to be an engineer someday.'" This kind of inspiration is the exact reason we bring FIRST to kids all around the community. We also promote future involvement in FLL, and our future workshops will consist of a curriculum that mirrors the missions that FLL teams participate in on a smaller scale. Teachers, students and Skunkworks mentors look forward to attending these events, the students wish they would come along more than once a week.
Our robot has had the great pleasure of visiting some of our sponsors and other interested groups. Students have presented to several of our sponsors as well as Rotary clubs. We also have gone to the state capitol in Olympia to speak with our legislators. We have toured several companies and saw first hand how they applied science, engineering, and math. We observed robotics in action as it was used in manufacturing and business. We spoke with some of the employees about what we were doing. They found our program exciting and wished us luck.
Every year Skunk Works hosts a spaghetti dinner and dessert auction to raise additional funds. The team helps in the kitchen, serves the dinner and runs the auction. We always receive a good turnout from the community. This dinner gives us a chance to promote robotics and raise money to run the team.
For the last three years, many of us have gone out with the robot for the Annual 4th of July parade in Burien. We ran our robot during the parade and passed out informational flyers about our team and FIRST. These parades are hard on the tires and drain a few batteries but it's always a great way to show our unique team and expose our local community to student robotics.
For several summers, Skunk Works packed up its' robots and displays and headed to Paine Field inEverett, Washington for Challenge Air. Challenge Air is an event where pilots volunteer their time and planes to take children with disabilities and life-threatening illnesses up for a short ride as co-pilot. While children waited for their turns, they were allowed to operate our FRC robot. Team members also helped load the planes, set up equipment, and help children into the planes for their flight. We had a great time. The smiles on the children told us that they had a good time too.
Similar to Challenge Air, every summer the Skunks head up Everett, Washington, to display the robot and spread the word of FIRST at a vintage air show. We set up shop in the main hanger to show everyone what FIRST is all about by demonstrating the robot and talking with the public. We were questioned often about what FIRST is, how much time we had to build the robot, etc., and we ended up piquing the interest of many a listener about the program. Skunk Works has been a main display at this event for years and we are excited to continue our partnership with this event. We had a spectacular time, both exciting people about FIRST and exciting little kids with the marvel of modern robotics.
The Robotics Merit Badge clinic is a program where boy/girl scouts can go through all of the requirements necessary to complete and earn the badges. It consists of a whole day of presentations and a hands-on learning workshop at the end. We cover a range of topics from Safety & Hazards, Robotics Industry, General Knowledge, Robotics Competitions, and Careers in Robotics each presentation being a half an hour long. They then break into groups of roughly 7-10 and spend 2 hours using the lego mindstorms kit to build and program for a small game simulation. The last hour is dedicated to competing against the other small teams and working directly with merit badge counselors to assure their knowledge and answer questions.
In August of 2015, Skunk Works Robotics held the first annual Skunk Works Robotics School to Train Staff of the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County. The curriculum and the training was delivered by Coach Robert Steele with the assistance of members of Skunk Works Team 1983. There were three corporate sponsors: Northwest Electric, Champion & Associates, OmanTek. Staff from all 12 Boys & Girls Clubs spent an entire day at Raisbeck Aviation High School learning all of the components of the Lego Mindstorm kit and how to use those parts to build a competitive robot to compete in a competition.