Robotics Challenges in the Time of COVID – Part 2

Carmen with her FTC Team

In Part 1, we discussed the challenges of virtual collaboration and fundraising for the past season of FIRST robotics. In this Part 2, lets discuss the challenges of competition and community outreach.

Participating in competitions themselves has been very different. The main draw of robotics for students each season is to compete, of course. Our competitions are always a fun and exciting time. The energy is infectious. It’s where all our hard work pays off.

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Robotics Challenges in the Time of COVID – Part 1

Carmen with her FTC Team

Most people who know me know I have a passion for FIRST Robotics. During the school year, much of my free time is spent volunteering in one way or another, from planning to coaching to mentoring to judging and beyond. I spend a good portion of my vacation hours traveling to competitions in places such as Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Michigan. I feel that the values and skills young people learn as a part of these programs are invaluable and lessons that they will carry with them through high school, college and life beyond. I am so honored to be a part of this program.

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Coaching FIRST Lego League

The mission of FIRST Lego League is to inspire youth though hands-on STEM learning. That mission is facilitated through participation in the FIRST Lego League program, which guides youth through STEM learning and exploration at an early age. First Lego League’s youngest group, called “Explore,” is for elementary grades one through three. So this year, my seven-year-old son was finally old enough to join and we immediately signed him up. Shortly after, the school started to send emails requesting volunteers to coach teams.

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My Journey to FIRST World Championships in Detroit

Team 525 - Swartdogs at the FIRST World Championships

My initial exposure to FIRST robotics came when my son joined the Cedar Falls High School robotics team as a sophomore back in 2012. At that time, I thought it would be a fun little activity for him to be involved with. I really had no idea what being a part of a FIRST team meant. Boy, have I come a long way.

Now, seven years later, I do know what it means. As it turns out, there is nothing “little” about it. It is the most....

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Mentoring the Next Generation of Coders

This fall I was offered the opportunity to participate in the Hour of Code activities at Cedar Falls Schools.  Given my passion for coding and developing the next generation of problem solvers/STEM professionals, I accepted the invitation and signed up to volunteer.  The Hour of Code activity is where business professionals partner with elementary teachers during December by visiting a classroom and share about their experience in coding (the computer science field) and/or work with students while they complete their coding lessons.

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DISTek Supports FIRST Iowa Regional Competition

Mike Weno, Dillon Glissmann, & Shawn Pezley are all decked out for their day at FIRST Iowa Regional.

DISTek has been supporting FIRST® programs for many years through donations of time and financial support. This past March, DISTek was a sponsor of the Iowa Regional, which featured FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams, and took place on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. The four day competition featured robot matches where two teams of three robots navigate a field to test each robot's engineering prowess.

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Our Commitment to STEM: Preparing the Next Generation

DISTek Software Engineer, Jacob Shelley, with his team at the 2017 Cedar Valley STEM Festival

DISTek has been encouraging youth in STEM and problem solving by sponsoring FIRST teams for many years. This year is no different. DISTek is sponsoring ten FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams and eight FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams. We will also be sponsoring FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams when their season officially kicks off in January. In addition, we have ten DISTek team members that have committed their time to either coach or mentor teams.

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May the Fourth be with YOU!

Have you ever wished you were a Jedi with the power of the force such that with the wave of your hand, droids would fall backward? I created a simple LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot to provide that power to anyone. This LEGO robot with the program I call “The Force” has been a hit among children at STEM fairs.

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