E N G I N E E R I N G N O T E B O O K
An FTC team’s success is driven by its ability to be sustainable and competitive. There are several different components required to achieve this goal. One of these components is financing our team, Team 3507 Robotheosis. The team is totally financed by our school, Francis W. Parker. Due to the private nature of the school, Parker does not allow the team to raise funds externally. This makes the team’s situation very different from many other teams.
The second component is how to advance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at Parker. If we can advance STEM at the school, we will have more students become interested in robotics. STEM was not in Parker’s core reputation when it was founded in 1909. Parker was known for being a progressive school for liberal arts education, and many alums entered professions like law, business, and education. However, over the past few years the school has raised the profile of STEM at Parker. In the past decade the school has rebuilt the science wing, and launched both FTC and FRC teams in the 2009/10 school year. The FTC awards we have won over the years include:
- 2009 Illinois Championship Tournament- Finalist Alliance 1st Place
- 2013-14 CMSA Chicago FTC Regional Qualifying Tournament- Rockwell Collins Innovate Award
- 2013-14 IIT Chicago Illinois Qualifying Tournament- Winning Alliance
- 2015-16 Chicago League Championship- Rockwell Collins Innovate Award
- 2015-16 Chicago League Championship- 3rd Place Inspire Award
- 2015-16 Illinois State FTC Tournament- Innovate Award Finalist
- 2016-17 Chicago League Championship - Inspire Award Winner
For several years we did FRC and FTC in tandem; however for the 2016/17 year we decided to go FTC exclusively. This decision was made because FTC now covers eight months which largely matches the Parker school year. Due to our FTC involvement, Parker now offers computer science and engineering classes that align with the FTC game season. The computer science classes were a product of the demand to have coders in robotics. Another advantage of only doing FTC is that it allows for continuous improvement throughout the game season, unlike FRC “bag and tag”. FTC is also more cost efficient and, as noted above, our funds are limited. These ideas are all reasons why FTC is an excellent way to drive STEM at Parker.
The third way to make a program sustainable is to continually recruit new members because experienced members eventually graduate. Our team does this in numerous ways, one of them being support for FLL in Parker’s middle school. Parker is a K-12 school and therefore the majority of students in FLL go into the High School and join FTC/FRC teams. An additional way we get new members is by promoting robotics to new high schoolers just entering Parker.
The fourth and final way is recruiting qualified mentors and gaining dedicated space. We now have a portion of a classroom and our own storage space, but we continue to seek our own room dedicated solely to robotics, possibly in tandem with engineering and computer science classes linked to robotics. The team’s main issue is not having enough technical and engineering type mentors. We have three science teachers and one parent alum as mentors, but no practicing engineers. Occasionally, we have outside assistance, such as college engineering or computer science students on internships or community service, but this is not a long-term solution. This is our key issue and we continue to discuss how to overcome this problem.