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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Life Skills from FIRST

FIRST Championship competition in St. Louis.
FIRST Championship competition in St. Louis.

I am a champion/advocate/passionate believer in STEM and the value of the FIRST® programs. I have written multiple blogs on the subject and shared what I view as the value of the FIRST programs. My involvement started with FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) over six years ago primarily because my daughter was old enough to join FLL (and who doesn’t like LEGOs?). Today, my whole family is actively involved not just during the season, but off-season as well. Instead of giving my perspective again, I would like to share a team member’s perspective, namely, my daughter, Megan, who is part of a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team that competed at the FIRST Championship competition in St. Louis this past season.

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Hilton Magic: ISU Career Fair

Shawn and Johnny
Shawn and Johnny.

As can be seen from some of my previous blog posts, I really enjoy promoting engineering and getting youth interested in pursuing STEM careers. The culmination of promoting engineering is recruiting. On February 9th, I was part of the DISTek team that recruited at the Iowa State Engineering Career Fair.

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