The Desire To Inspire
Team 2056 has achieved many successes over the years: a 23-regional win streak, 23 technical awards, and three Regional Chairman’s Awards. But the trophies and accolades only tell a small part of our story. The rest is focused on our continuing effort to inspire our school, our local community, our competitors, and the world around us. Our mission is to harness our “Desire to Inspire,” instilling a passion for FIRST and STEM in people all over the world and inspiring people to strive for excellence in everything they do.
Our passion starts close to home, having instilled a passion for education, particularly in STEM, in all our students since our inception. Student success is prioritized early, with mentors partnering with senior members to hold workshops for new students. With the workshops ranging from programming, to machining, to the Chairman’s Award, students begin to develop the skills they need to succeed in the FRC. These students continue to explore their passions as they grow with the team and will eventually follow in the footsteps of our alumni, 100% of whom have pursued postsecondary education, a rate 21% higher than our school average. 90% of our alumni have gone into STEM fields and have been hired by some of the world’s most renowned companies including IBM, Tesla, and Google. The influence of our team’s Desire to Inspire is in full effect on our students.
The greater FIRST community has also recognised the success stories we have created. Two of our students have been named Dean’s List Finalists, two alumni have been chosen as Volunteers of the Year, and two of our mentors have been recognized as Woodie Flowers Award Finalists. Our founding mentor, Stan Hunter, has also been presented with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, the highest honour awarded to teachers in Canada. This award is a testament to his success in promoting STEM through FIRST and unparalleled commitment to creating a passion for STEM in all students.
Our team knows successes like these do not happen in a vacuum. We lean heavily on relationships with our sponsors, all of whom share our Desire to Inspire. Every year we work closely with our robust community of mostly local sponsors, who often act as mentors to our students. Our sponsors are an integral part of the team and are dedicated to the growth and success of STEM in our community. They provide us with guided tours of their facilities, giving members opportunities to see real world applications of STEM in action. Furthermore, during the Ontario Teachers Union’s work-to-rule campaign, two of our sponsors, Gridpath Solutions and Arvin Air, went even further in generously granting us the workspace and materials we needed to compete in the 2013 FRC season.
We show our gratitude to our sponsors in as many ways as possible. Our annual celebration dinner recognizes their generosity and invaluable contributions as we share success stories to help them understand how far their support took us. We also pair up at local events our sponsors hold. We realize that sponsorships are a two-way relationship, so we work with our sponsors at events like the Winona Peach Festival and the Ancaster Fair to help them fundraise to continue to support other organizations like ours. We have also teamed up with other local organizations to foster a passion for STEM. Some initiatives include collecting donatable electronics throughout our city, collecting canned goods with local firefighters, and donating gently used clothing to the Canadian Diabetes Association.
The support of our school, Orchard Park Secondary School, facilitates our Desire to Inspire on a great scale. This can be seen through murals that are painted around the school featuring previous years’ robots, and the wing of our school dedicated to our team’s programs. We also work together with our entire school on a charity cycling event that has raised $30,000 for cancer research over the past 5 years, $12,000 by our team alone. Our impact in the school has spread to other extra-curricular clubs as well. For example, the school’s DECA team promotes FIRST as the topic of their regional competition submissions. Team members also get involved in Spark, our school leadership team. These young leaders are excited about sharing STEM and FIRST with the school and have enabled our robotics program’s development into a full-year course.
Finding ways to share our love for FIRST has been key to our success, and LEGO outreach programs have been one of our most sustainable and effective methods. Team members lead and assist in LEGO programs across our community, including at local libraries, community centers, and elementary schools, as well as McMaster University’s Venture Summer Camps and the St. Catharines YMCA. This year we were also invited to speak about robotics and coding at our school board’s Principal’s Conference. Every year we also hold a Robotics Workshop Day, inviting students from our local elementary schools to participate in a day of STEM workshops. Four of these schools have started their own FLL teams or clubs, which we continue to support through mentoring and sponsorship. Our students seize opportunities during these sessions to form relationships with future teammates and pass on the Desire to Inspire to the next generation.
Our LEGO programs have had such a profound impact that our school board asked us to create a customized, engineering-based curriculum to implement for the Grade 8 Gifted Program. Since we created the program three years ago, we have received endless praise from students, teachers, and parents. The board asked us to build on this success as a local distributor of 150 VEX kits. This opportunity allowed us to run workshops and create connections with each of the kit recipients, encouraging them to create clubs of their own. This project helped to form a partnership between our school board, Dofasco (a large steel mill and major local employer), and our team as hosts of a VEX IQ tournament.
In 2015, our Desire to Inspire went international as we formed a close relationship with the Nest of Love school in Sousa, Dominican Republic. A group of team members visited the school with five new laptops and four new LEGO kits to work with these young students. The passion they showed for STEM was a unique opportunity that reminded us of the roots or our inspiration.
Our team is always looking to provide the tools for success to the FIRST community, and our Desire to Inspire has not gone unrewarded. By helping to start 5 FLL teams, assist 3 FRC teams, and mentor a further 3 FRC teams, we have inspired 11 local FIRST organizations. Since 2012 we have worked with other local teams and have supported a new practice field for FRC teams in the area, started new robotics programs in these schools, and continue to share personal experience about technical and business related issues on both a small and large scale.
In 2015 we started our 2056 Ways to Inspire online campaign to share the unique experience and insights that we have learned from our 11 years in FIRST. We share our knowledge and wisdom through social media posts and videos that we have even closed-captioned for hearing-impaired members of the FIRST community. This campaign allows us to provide support to people globally, in a way that is easily accessible and helps teams be successful on and off the field.
This year we took it a step further with the 1st annual 2056 Ways to Inspire Conference. Over 250 students, mentors, teachers, and parents learned about different aspects of a robotics team from leaders in the Ontario FIRST community. From Tyler Holtzman’s design practices to Karthik Kanagasabapathy’s renowned Effective FIRST Strategies seminar, we gathered one of the most distinguished groups of presenters ever assembled at any FIRST event. Recordings of these seminars have been made available online to ensure that our Desire to Inspire reaches the widest possible audience.
This Desire to Inspire is not limited to our local community; we have always strived to break new ground. One of the most effective ways to introduce FIRST to new people is through the mainstream media. Last year we were honoured to headline the Rick Mercer Report on CBC, reaching over one million viewers across Canada. Our students spent the day with Rick Mercer sharing how our team operates and FIRST’s impact on the team and community, and the segment finished at the Greater Toronto East Regional. Along with this TV appearance, we were profiled in a feature article in Professionally Speaking, a magazine read by over 300,000 Ontario teachers. This article featured our team, but also focused on the unique experience of FIRST and allowed us to show other educators how they could get involved in FIRST.
Team 2056 is perhaps best known in the FRC community for “The Streak” of 23 consecutive regional wins, and while our streak has ended, it came with the unique opportunity to uncover the ways we had inspired our fellow competitors. Our team immediately received an enormous outpouring of responses from FIRST participants around the world about how we had inspired them to pursue their own versions of “The Streak.” We discovered that in our pursuit of excellence, we had inspired the FIRST community to reach for the same goals.
Whether by sharing FIRST with a Canadian icon watched by millions or sharing the magic of STEM in a tiny school in the Dominican Republic, our Desire to Inspire has impacted our students, our school, our community, and FIRST participants around the world. Our influence grows as our pursuits inspire others to chase excellence in their own ways. Our team has always known we are not defined by what we do on the field, but by how we use our experience and knowledge to inspire others, something that we will continue to do as we spread our Desire to Inspire.
A lot can change in 10 years. Our team, Team 2056 Orchard Park Robotics, participated in our first year of FIRST competitions 10 years ago. We immediately knew that we would be beginning a journey that would eventually change the lives of countless students and transform our community. 10 years earlier, we could only dream of having LEGO outreach programs in every local elementary school, VEX Robotics kits for schools across the Hamilton area, collaborative relationships between our students and sponsors, and the Steel City Robotics Federation providing the model for effective collaboration between teams of like-minded students and mentors. Through 10 years of dedication to fostering excitement for science and technology education, we have gained experience and knowledge which we share in an accessible way with other schools and the FIRST community. Over the last 10 years, we have maintained our dedication to improving our community, our sponsors, our school, and other FIRST teams.
Throughout our team’s 10 years in the FIRST, we have worked tirelessly to spread our passion for FIRST and STEM, catalyzing to the expansion of our FIRST community both locally and globally. The continued success of our LEGO outreach programs is a major point of pride for our team. Our team members lead younger students through LEGO robotics workshops at local libraries, community centers, and elementary schools, as well as McMaster University’s Venture Summer Camps, and the St. Catharines YMCA. In addition, we run an annual Grade 8 LEGO Day, during which we invite students from every local elementary school to participate in a day of STEM workshops. Our members always look forward to this day as it offers them a chance to assume leadership roles and mentor local students. Four of the schools that we invite to these days (R. L. Hyslop Elementary, Mountainview Elementary, Eastdale Elementary, and Memorial Elementary) have even started their own FLL teams, whom we continue to support through mentoring and sponsorship. The success of our LEGO workshops has been so readily apparent that our school board requested that our team develop an engineering-based curriculum to implement in the Grade 8 Gifted Program, which is now in its second year running and has earned widespread praise from parents, students, and teachers.
Our team’s impact was even felt in Parliament Hill, as last year, former Prime Minister Harper recognized Stan Hunter, founding mentor of our team, with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. The award was given based on the testimonials of the countless students, educators, professionals, and parents that have been impacted by our team’s efforts, as well as the results of our students pursuing STEM education in College and University, many of whom are now working to create the next generation of innovative technology for companies such as Google and Tesla Motors. “Professionally Speaking,” a magazine read by over 200,000 Ontario teachers, has also highlighted the unique FIRST-based teaching that our team makes possible.
In the last two years, our team has greatly expanded our reach beyond our local community. Beginning in February of 2015, we initiated a partnership with the school Nest of Love in Sousa, Dominican Republic. We sent five new laptops and four new LEGO Robotics kits, along with both rookie and veteran students from our team to work with the students of Nest of Love for five days. The passion that these students exhibited for STEM was an inspiring, invaluable experience for our team members. Our aim to provide this intimate level of support to all FIRST teams around the world was one of the main reasons we started 2056 Ways to Win, a social media initiative through which we share our team’s unique experience and invaluable insights that we have learned in our decade of experience with FIRST. This allows us to provide guidance and resources through a medium that is both accessible and interactive, helping teams “win” both on and off the field. This project has included social media posts and videos which we have even closed-captioned for deaf members of the FIRST community. Finally, we are striving to Make FIRST Loud by working with outspoken, influential personalities that are renowned for providing a voice to important causes, albeit a ranting voice. Rick Mercer, the acclaimed political satirist and television personality, recently spent the day with our team, interviewing our students and learning about FIRST and our team’s success promoting science and engineering education in Canada. He and his film crew recorded extensive footage which will be used in a piece that he will be doing about FIRST, our team, and STEM education, to be broadcast to a national audience.
Our school, Orchard Park Secondary School, is a tremendous support system. Murals are painted around the school, in many of which our robots from previous years are focal points. We headline events in our school, including a pep rally that was thrown for us in 2015. Other extra-curricular clubs have also helped us to spread STEM throughout the school; DECA, a business club, promoted STEM and FIRST as the topic of their regional competition submissions. Our school’s CODE organization provided a donation to our school board that was used to purchase VEX robotics kits for schools from across the city. Because of our clear expertise with the application of robotics in classroom settings our team members were the ones chosen to facilitate the distribution of these kits and to act as a training resource to the schools who received them.We make sure to give back to our school, and one of our favourite events to participate in is the Inside Ride to End Cancer. We have participated in this event, a charity stationary-bike riding fundraiser, for the past four years, raising over $12,000 of the $30,000 raised by our school to improve the lives of cancer patients.
In addition to our school, our team also strives to give back to our community. This past year, we were honoured to receive the Community Recognition Award from the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce in recognition of our team’s impact over the last decade, encouraging volunteerism, giving back to the community, and of course cultivating a passion for science and technology in young people. We work to better our community through volunteering initiatives, such as our annual Holiday Food Drive that we run with the local firefighter hall. This event is a favourite amongst our students. As well, we have worked with the Canadian Diabetes Association for the past four years to collect over 2000 lbs of gently-used clothing for donation. We also started a new electronics and metal recycling initiative last year, providing an environmentally safe place for our community to recycle used electronic devices and scrap metal. Our visibility in our community is an important way that we spread awareness of our team, and of FIRST.
The relationship that our team has cultivated with our sponsors is a unique one that we continue to strengthen year after year. We work very closely with them, and many of them act as mentors to our students as well. They have provided us with guided tours of their facilities which gives our members an opportunity to see real-world applications of STEM in action. During our school board’s Work to Rule campaign, two of our sponsors, Gridpath Solutions and Arvin Air, generously stepped in to help and provided us with a work space and materials, allowing us to successfully compete in the 2013 FRC season. We take every opportunity to properly thank our sponsors for their generosity and involvement. Our annual celebration dinner is one such way we say thank you, where we share our success stories with to help them understand how far we are able to go, thanks to their support. Our team also gives back to our sponsors by volunteering at their events, such as the Winona Peach Festival and the Ancaster Fair, to help them raise funds so that they are able to continue supporting organizations like ours.
Hamilton, Ontario, also known as the Steel City, has always been our home, and we have built a STEM community within it that is strong enough to do justice to its name. In 2012, we started the Steel City Robotics Federation, also known as SCRF. Our intention was to bring the Hamilton robotics community together in order to allow for closer collaboration, as well as increase the accessibility of FIRST to schools around Hamilton. Our SCRF community currently includes teams 4039, 4618, 5406, and 5912. We mentor and sponsor four FLL teams, and help to support those that other members of SCRF have started. Through SCRF, we share resources, work together through build and competition season, and strengthen our collaborative relationships through weekly mentor meetings. Last year, we worked together to help establish a brand new, communal practice field for any and all Hamilton area teams to use. SCRF has been a catalyst for STEM in Hamilton by allowing for simple and effective collaboration between all of its member teams, many of whom have gone on to achieve visible success in their on-field results and their impact on students and the community.
A lot has changed over the past 10 years, and we are proud to have played a part in the transformations of our students, our school, our community, and now the global FIRST community. However, what has not changed since our first year is our dedication to excellence and our passion for instilling a love of science and engineering in as many people as possible. We know these 10 years are just the beginning.
Here’s to another decade of FIRST.
Channeling the Momentum
“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals” says Michael Korda. As former editor-in-chief at Simon and Schuster, one of the largest publishing companies in the world, Korda knows a bit about setting ambitious goals. Here on Team 2056, OP Robotics, we have been able to keep our momentum going for the last nine years because our team’s primary goal is as ambitious as they come – to ensure that every FIRST team becomes a success story. As a veteran team, we have a responsibility to help improve and grow our community, our sponsors, our school, and other FIRST teams. We have been building on our momentum, improving on our past initiatives, and adding new ones year after year.
Our dedication to growth and excellence starts with our students. Every single student who has graduated as a member of our team has gone on to pursue post-secondary education (compared to the 53% of adults in Hamilton that have completed any form of post-secondary education). It is clear that our students have been inspired by FIRST’s message, with 90% of our alumni pursuing education and careers in STEM fields. Furthermore, our alumni have committed themselves to growing FIRST. They have become key mentors for four other FRC teams (3683, 3710, 3756, and 4039), taken on leadership positions on the Waterloo Regional Planning Committee, and served integral roles at FIRST events such as Lead Robot Inspector and Volunteer Coordinator.
Furthermore, their influence has helped FIRST teams far and wide. One alumnus drew hundreds of viewers from the around the world when he hosted a FIRST Robotics Canada webinar on strategy and scouting, while another has hosted a popular seminar at the FIRST Championship for the last two years on how teams can use video to create an online presence. As our students and former students have won two Volunteer of the Year awards and a Dean’s List Finalist award, the impact our program has on our students, and the impact they have had on FIRST, have not gone unnoticed.
Our team’s next focus is our school, Orchard Park Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario. Since our team’s inception, we have become an integral part of our school’s identity. Our school’s pride in our accomplishments is displayed prominently, with many 2056-related murals covering the walls of our hallways. We have been the center of attention during school pep rallies as well, the only non-athletic team in our school to be recognized in this way. Orchard Park’s DECA team even chose to showcase the way we promote STEM in the school as the topic of their regional competition submission.
Recognizing everything that our school has given to us, we have made sure to give back to them. Our team has used STEM to attract new students to Orchard Park through our Grade 8 LEGO Robotics Days, during which we help local elementary school students discover how exciting engineering can be by teaching them how to design, build, and program simple robots. We built on our previous efforts by forming a partnership with the the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to develop a robotics-centric curriculum for the Board’s Gifted Program, in which all gifted students in the Hamilton Area participate. Finally, our team proudly supports initiatives within our school, such as The Inside Ride, an indoor cycling event that raises money in support of children and families living with and recovering from cancer. Over the past three years, our team has raised over $12 000 of the over $30 000 that our school has raised for this cause.
We have very close relationships with our sponsors that we develop and strengthen year after year. Our sponsors enthusiastically provide our students with guided tours of their facilities and explanations about the work they do so that our students can see STEM in action in the real world while our sponsors can build connections with the engineers of the future. Our team and our sponsors reinforced the strength of our partnership during our school board’s work-to-rule campaign, which threatened our future as a school-based team. Two of our sponsors, Gridpath Solutions and Arvin Air, generously stepped in to help and provided us with a work space and materials, allowing us to successfully compete in the 2013 FRC season.
We take every opportunity to properly thank our sponsors. Our annual celebration dinner is one such way we say thank you, where we share our success stories with all of our sponsors to help them understand how far we were able to go thanks to their support. Our team also gives back to our sponsors by volunteering at their events, such as the Winona Peach Festival and the Ancaster Fair, to help them raise funds so that they are able to continue supporting organizations like ours.
Our team has taken our momentum from our active relationships with our sponsors and built on it to become ambassadors for science and technology in our community as a whole. We have conducted LEGO robotics programs at McMaster University’s Venture Summer Camps, the St. Catharines YMCA, and our local libraries. We have also built an in-depth and ongoing LEGO robotics program with Winona Elementary School. In time, we have developed our numerous LEGO initiatives into two FIRST Lego League teams. The Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce has recognized our efforts this past year and granted the team the “Community Recognition Award” for our continuing efforts to serve our community.
Recognizing the diverse needs of our community has led our team to establish several other community-outreach programs. Over the past four years we have collected over 4 tonnes of canned goods, supporting local food banks, and over the past three years we have collected over 2000 lbs of gently-used clothing (the equivalent of over 4000 t-shirts) for the Canadian Diabetes Association. We also started a new electronics and metal recycling initiative this year, providing an environmentally safe place for our community to recycle used electronic devices and scrap metal. The program was a huge hit and we are excited to build on it and our other community-outreach programs in the years to come.
The FIRST community in Hamilton began with just our team, but we have worked tirelessly to ensure its growth by creating and continuing to support the Steel City Robotics Federation (SCRF). We believe SCRF is the model of effective collaboration between FIRST teams. SCRF teams provide each other with constant mutual support through weekly mentor meetings and continuous communication, in which no problem is too small (software bugs or part sourcing) or too big (how best to allocate resources to ensure a successful future). We have collaborated with SCRF teams to spread FIRST together, jointly conducting events such as FLL practice competitions.
This year, in addition to FRC teams 4039 and 4618, we welcome FRC team 5406 from Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School into our SCRF family. We have continued to support all SCRF teams this year by helping to establish a new practice field for all Hamilton-area teams to use. Through SCRF, we have ensured that the momentum of every team in Hamilton will build on itself.
Our momentum has led our team to create two truly global new initiatives this year. The first is “2056 Ways to Win,” our new social media campaign through which we have been providing support and guidance to the entire FIRST community in an effort to answer the question we are most often asked: Why is our team so successful?. The information we have shared is meant to help teams succeed both on and off the field.
Our second new global initiative this year is our partnership we have formed with the Nest of Love school in the Dominican Republic. Through this exciting project we have had the chance to make a difference in a less fortunate community by spreading STEM. Through the help of our sponsors, our students brought laptops and LEGO Robotics Kits to the Nest of Love school and led them through our well-developed LEGO robotics curriculum. We know that the resources and knowledge that we have left them with will inspire their students with STEM for years to come. This partnership epitomizes FIRST’s message – a collaboration between sponsors, mentors, and students to inspire young people to pursue STEM.
Our team’s momentum even travelled to Ottawa this year as Prime Minister Harper recognized Stan Hunter, founding mentor of our team, with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. The award was given based on the testimonials of the countless students, educators, professionals, and parents that have been impacted by our team’s efforts, as well as the results of our students pursuing STEM education in College and University. “Professionally Speaking,” a magazine read by over 200,000 Ontario teachers, has also highlighted the unique FIRST-based teaching that our team makes possible.
Our team has truly impacted and changed our local, national, and international communities through our dedication to excellence and our willingness to share our expertise. With our global impact, our team is driven to carry our momentum forward for many years to come.
Building a STEM Community. One Block at a Time
Since our inception in 2007, Team 2056 Orchard Park Robotics has worked to create a community that celebrates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We have put together the blocks that make this community thrive. Our LEGO outreach programs have gotten hundreds of pre-high school students excited about STEM. Forging strong relationships within our school has fostered the growth of our members and allowed our team to flourish. The passion and expertise of our alumni and mentors has strengthened the entire FIRST community. By forging unbreakable connections with our sponsors and community organizations, we ensure the continued success of the community we have created. It is a community that is passionate about STEM, and one upon which we will continue to build for years to come.
As with any good structure, our team starts with a strong foundation. To build ours, we reach out to elementary-school students using our LEGO outreach programs to get them excited about STEM at a young age. At our annual 2056 LEGO Day, our team members mentor students from all of our feeder schools, teaching them about engineering, FIRST, and our team as they participate in a miniature a FIRST competition. This year, following the continued success of our LEGO outreach programs, we greatly expanded our efforts. Our team now conducts a weekly LEGO Robotics program at Mountain View Elementary School, in which we teach students with no previous experience how to design, build, and program simple robots. This has been so successful that Mountain View is hoping to start an FLL program next year. Through our LEGO outreach programs, we help young students discover how exciting engineering can be while also strengthening bonds with the schools that form the bedrock of our STEM community.
Our team also understands that a broad foundation provides greater stability. To ensure the stability of our STEM community, we have partnered with strong existing organizations to greatly increase the number of people that our efforts can reach. One of our most exciting partnerships was with McMaster University’s Venture Engineering and Science Camp, a summer camp for elementary students from across Ontario. At Venture, our team members led campers through the process of designing and creating LEGO robots, helping inspire over 250 young minds to become engaged with STEM. We also showcased our FIRST robots and encouraged the campers to build on their summer experience by becoming involved in a FIRST program. In addition to Venture, working with the St. Catherine’s YMCA gave our team another opportunity to excite students outside of a school environment. Through this new partnership, we ran weekend workshops for teens aged 13-16, ensuring that our community’s excitement for STEM did not wane with age. Finally and most significantly, this year our team was given the honour of designing and facilitating an engineering curriculum for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s (HWDSB) Gifted Program. Eighty grade 7 and 8 students will be involved in the first iteration, and there are already plans to have all gifted students in the Hamilton area to participate. This is an amazing opportunity and we look forward to working with the HWDSB to inspire countless new students to pursue STEM. Our STEM community has grown every year, and the partnerships we have fostered ensure that we will be able to sustain our growth.
The cornerstone of our STEM community has always been our school, Orchard Park Secondary School (OP). Our team has become synonymous with OP. It is impossible to ignore the murals of our past robots that cover the walls or the way our team headlines events such as the Grade 8 Open House and our annual pep rallies. OP’s DECA team even chose to showcase the way we promote STEM in the school as the topic of their regional competition submissions. We also make it a priority to give back to our school community. For example, we run special LEGO robotics workshops for the children of OP staff members, aged 5-13, that teach basic engineering ideas while reinforcing the relationship between our team and our school’s teachers. However, the most inspirational experience our team has shared with our school has been the way we have supported The Inside Ride, a foundation that raises money and awareness in support of cancer victims by holding indoor bike-riding events. Over the past three years, our team alone has raised over $12,000 of the $30,000 raised by our school. Our team’s success has been possible thanks to the support our school has provided us, and we have made sure to return the support.
It is a testament to the strength of our program that our alumni have gone on to become key blocks in the FIRST community. Over 90% of all of our alumni have pursued STEM careers and have attributed their success in these fields to their experience on our FIRST team. Due to this, they give back to FIRST now by mentoring FRC teams old and new, hosting seminars for FIRST teams, and serving in integral roles at FIRST events, including Lead Robot Inspector and Volunteer Coordinator at the Waterloo Regional. Another alumnus drew hundreds of viewers from around the world when he hosted a FIRST Robotics Canada webinar to share his strategy and scouting expertise. When our team members graduate, the experience they share strengthens not only our STEM community, but all of FIRST.
Like the mortar that holds our community together, the support that our sponsors provide cannot be overstated. Each year, we actively develop stronger relationships with them and take every opportunity to show our thanks. Throughout the year we visit sponsor facilities and get guided tours and detailed explanations about the work they do. In this way, our students can discover STEM in action in the real world and our sponsors can build connections with the engineers of the future. The true strength of our team-sponsor relationships became evident last year during our school board’s work-to-rule campaign. Two of our sponsors, Gridpath Solutions and Arvin Air, opened up their facilities to allow us to meet and brainstorm early in the season. They even built us a 2056-themed practice field in one of their warehouses. Furthermore, Gridpath went on to play a large part in contributing to our fundraising efforts during The Inside Ride – a favour we returned by supporting their own bike ride to fight cancer. Our annual celebration dinner is another way we say thank you. We invite representatives from each of our sponsors and recount the story of our season to help them visualize the result of their support. After the competition season our team volunteers at our sponsors’ events, such the Winona Peach Festival and the Ancaster Fair, to help them raise funds so that they are able to give to organizations like ours. The connections we have with our sponsors go far beyond financial contributions. We continue to build and maintain strong relationships with these organizations, the support of whom has been integral to the success of our STEM community.
Bringing our entire community together helps to make every other block stronger. That is why our team emphasizes staying active and spreading the word of FIRST in the community. During each of the past four holiday seasons, we have worked with our local firefighters to collect over 40 tonnes of canned food by going door-to-door in our neighbourhoods. The items we helped to collect were donated to local food banks to brighten up the season for those less fortunate. This pre-season our team also ran a clothing drive for the Canadian Diabetes Association that saw us collect close to 1,000lbs of gently used clothing. To promote FIRST within our community, we have run a large number of robot demonstrations over the years. Our team showed off our 2012 robot at a professional development conference in Toronto in order to inspire prospective mentors to learn more about FIRST and become involved with FRC teams. We have made similar presentations to local organizations as well including the Rotary Club of Stoney Creek, the Veterans’ Club of Stoney Creek, and the Stoney Creek Lions Club. These community partners provide a space for us to inspire and welcome new members into the world of FIRST.
The Steel City Robotics Federation (SCRF) exemplifies the spirit of the Hamilton STEM community we have built. We believe SCRF is the model of effective collaboration between FIRST teams. SCRF teams provide each other with continued mutual support throughout the build and competition season, share resources (including our practice field), and have weekly mentor meetings, which have led to collaborative relationships as well as lasting friendships. Last year due to this friendship, our team joined together with one of our lead sponsors to help a SCRF team to compete in a second regional, after which they attended and were selected at the Championship. FRC Team 4039, Makeshift Robotics, and FRC Team 4618, CN Robotics, have joined us in strengthening the FIRST presence in Hamilton. And of course, we have collaborated with SCRF teams to spread FIRST together, jointly conducting events such as FLL practice competitions. Our team knows that when our STEM community comes together, it forms something much greater than the sum of its parts.
Our team’s extensive LEGO outreach programs and partnerships provide a strong, stable foundation for our STEM community. Our school is the cornerstone of it, providing us with unrelenting support as we also support our school in turn. As our alumni graduate, they are developed into blocks supporting the entire FIRST community. Our rock solid relationships with our sponsors are also integral to the success of what we have created. There is no mystery as to how we found ourselves within a community that is excited about engineering and passionate about STEM. We built it, together.
The Team 2056 Odyssey
Team 2056 Orchard Park Robotics has a clear purpose: to inspire future science and technology heroes. Striving toward this goal has led us to transform the culture of our community into one that honours science, technology, and engineering. Innovative new initiatives and partnerships with major institutions and community organizations have allowed our message to reach more people this year than ever before. Our efforts have also expanded the Hamilton FIRST community into a successful collaborative collective. Against significant hardships, we have persevered and made this season our most successful and inspirational one yet.
A hero must inspire others to aspire to greatness. With that in mind, our team has established new partnerships and strengthened existing ones to inspire more young people than ever before to aspire to be science and technology heroes. One of our team’s most exciting new partnerships this year was with McMaster University’s Venture Camp, an engineering summer camp for elementary students from across Ontario. Every week this summer, as well as once this past October, our team ran robotics workshops with Venture, during which we led students through the process of designing and creating robots using LEGO NXT. We were also sure to showcase our FIRST robots and encourage the students to build on what they learned by further pursuing engineering and by getting involved with FIRST. Through this partnership, we formed a strong relationship with Hamilton’s premier educational institution and helped inspire hundreds of younger students to become engaged with STEM, while giving our own team members the opportunity to develop confidence as engineering leaders and mentors.
McMaster’s Venture program is far from the only way we inspire future generations. Our combined outreach efforts have reached a total of over 300 elementary school students this year alone. Our annual “2056 LEGO Day” continues to grow, attracting grade 7 and 8 students from all of our feeder schools. These students learned about engineering, our team, and FIRST by taking part in a miniature FIRST competition. While being mentored by our team members, they designed, built, and competed with LEGO robots. In addition, this year our team held a special LEGO Day for the children of Orchard Park staff members. Our team members taught these children, aged 5-12, about basic engineering ideas by building LEGO RCX robots with them in addition to other fun engineering-related activities. This event helped us reinforce the relationship between our team and our school’s teachers, while inspiring the future Orchard Park students to become science and technology heroes themselves.
One unique thing about our team that allows us to better inspire heroes is that we are a Program of Choice. Thus, students from anywhere in Hamilton are eligible to come to our school specifically to take classes that have been developed to teach FIRST and engineering principles. As a result of this program’s success, Orchard Park, known before as “the football school” now bleeds Team 2056 red and blue. Throughout the hallways you cannot miss the murals of our past robots along with our very own “2056 Engineering” room. Our principal, a previous football coach, is a robotics convert, having attended his first competition last year. Finally, our team and our robots constantly play major roles at school events such as our Grade 8 Open House, annual pep rally, and the Inside Ride.
The heroes that we inspire continue their efforts well after graduation. Our alumni have returned to help our team, mentored new FRC teams, hosted seminars for new and old FRC teams, and overseen FIRST events. Here at the Waterloo regional one of our alumni is the Volunteer Coordinator and another is the Lead Robot Inspector. Another 2056 alumnus had the opportunity to hold an “Ask The Expert Webinar” for FIRST teams all over the world. Every year more students graduate from our program and move on to help spread the FIRST message.
A hero does not just inspire those around them, but must also have a lasting impact on the culture of their whole community. Thus we strive to promote the spirit of FIRST in the citizens of Hamilton. This March we demonstrated what FIRST is about at the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board’s community night. At the Dutch Canadians Veterans Launch, our robots and our students were an inspiration to some of Canada’s own heroes. As we did last year, we reached out to our community again through our team’s annual clothing drive, this year in partnership with Hamilton’s Dutch Legion, and a canned food drive in partnership with our local firefighters. Finally, we are an iconic part of the Stoney Creek Flag Day parade, having exhibited our robot and informed our community about FIRST in the parade for the last five years. Through our efforts, the citizens of Hamilton are becoming as excited about robotics as we are.
The expansion of SCRF, the Steel City Robotics Federation, is another way we have transformed the Greater Hamilton Area. Last year, we created SCRF to be the model of effective collaboration between local FIRST teams, and this year we helped start the newest member of SCRF, Team 4618 from Cardinal Newman C. S. S. To ensure their success in FIRST, we began their season with a series of workshops on topics ranging from programming to community involvement. We continued our support during the build season, inviting them to our kick-off event and brainstorming sessions, and sharing our resources with them, as we do with every SCRF team. Since SCRF teams practice together on our practice field and our mentors all meet weekly, SCRF team members and mentors have formed both collaborative relationships and lasting friendships. Thus it was only natural that we spread our excitement about inspiring science and technology heroes via SCRF as well. This November, our students helped Team 4039, the first addition to SCRF, hold their first FLL practice event. We had the opportunity to give four FLL teams feedback on presentations and programming, which aided them all in qualifying for the FLL provincial championship. The Hamilton FIRST community has grown tremendously thanks to SCRF and will continue to grow for many years to come.
A hero cannot transform a community on their own. We are tremendously thankful for the support our sponsors provide, and though we have always had extremely close relationships with them, this year we redoubled our commitment to give back to them. At the annual Winona Peach Festival, our team served ice-cream for the Winona Men’s Club, helping this community organization raise thousands of dollars. We also joined the Rotary Club at the Ancaster Fair to assist them with fundraising by serving perogies. Additionally, we gave a presentation on our team and our mission at a Stoney Creek Optimist Club meeting this past November. These efforts allowed us to lend a helping hand to community groups while also allowing us to promote our team and FIRST in our community. This year we participated in our third Jantz Sponsor Barbeque. We are always excited to be a part of this event because it ensures that this sponsor realizes that our students could be valuable assets to them in the future, while also allowing our students to tour their facilities and discover how their experience in FIRST could be relevant to their careers. By investing in our team, our sponsors have helped inspire heroes and transform the culture, and we have made every effort to show them our appreciation.
Heroes draw their inspiration from others, and the stories of adversity and perseverance of every cancer victim are what inspire our team. That is why the most inspirational event our team had the privilege of participating in this year was the Inside Ride. The Inside Ride is a foundation that raises money and awareness in support of cancer victims by holding indoor bike-riding events. Our school and our team participated in this event because earlier this year, we lost a fellow OP student to cancer. The event was a great success and our team raised $2525 of the over $10000 that was raised in total. Attesting to how close a relationship we have developed with our sponsors, Gridpath, one of our newest sponsors, even pledged $50 for every rider from our team who participated. Through this event, not only did we get a chance to show our solidarity with our school, but we also strengthened our bonds with our sponsors, connecting with them for a cause we both care deeply about. Gridpath is now preparing for their own charity bike race and has pledged $1500 to their riders on behalf of Team 2056. We are able to inspire each other because we are both inspired by families across the world who are victims of cancer.
A hero’s work is not easy, but heroes persevere. This year because of the O.S.S.T.F.’s work-to-rule campaign we were unable to be affiliated with Orchard Park at the start of the build season. In response, two of our sponsors opened their doors to us, allowing us to use their facilities. Arvin Air allowed us to hold our brainstorming sessions in their boardroom every night. Along with this, Gridpath, who had already connected with us in the Inside Ride, purchased field components for us and had their employees assist us in building a full-sized practice field in their warehouse. Through the generous donation of their time and facilities, our team was able to bond with these sponsors. Our students gained valuable exposure to the industries and careers that they were interested in, while our sponsors discovered firsthand what our team does and the values we stand for.
Through Venture and our outreach programs, we have inspired young people to become science and technology heroes. We have transformed the culture of our community through SCRF and our community initiatives. As any hero does, we have faced adversity and triumphed against it. We are OP Robotics; we inspire heroes.