2009 Chairman's Award Essay
Fueled by innovation, ambition, and passion for impacting our community, the Monta Vista Robotics Team has been changing lives both on and off the field since 1998. MVRT works to develop the visionaries of tomorrow through technical expertise and public service, and has grown from a small circle of friends, with the help of our mentors, parents, and dedicated members. Since our founding, we have received 42 awards at FIRST Regionals and the National Competition. Last year, we garnered a record-number of awards, including two Regional Champions, Johnson & Johnson Gracious Professionalism Award, and Best Website Award at Championships. But FIRST has always meant more than just competition. Presented with the Mayor’s Award of Community Excellence our second-year, we have since continued to foster partnerships with our local government, companies, and community to spread interest in science and technology.
Within Our Team
When joining the team, students are required to sign up for both engineering and operations sub-divisions, thereby exposing them to the different aspects of FIRST. The engineering side encompasses the electrical or mechanical sub-divisions while the operations side includes finance, media, and public relations. With a clear hierarchy of divisions and proven sustainability, we won the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Entrepreneurship Award for providing students the experience of working in a corporation. Beginning in October, we hold after school trainings 4 times a week, where veterans teach rookies the fundamentals of engineering, animating, and financing and presentation skills. Each lesson is meticulously prepared, from the Powerpoint presentation to the hands-on activity. Our goal is not just to prepare the 120 rookies for build, but to transform them into teachers and leaders who can closely work alongside our 18 mentors. At key decision points we hold Design Reviews, nights when we present our current progress to local engineers for feedback. Then before ship, we hold an Open House for teachers, parents, and engineers to thank them for their continual support.
Our team has always had an emphasis on bringing girls into engineering. In the past 12 years, we have been led by 17 female officers, including two female presidents. In fact, a female officer has led the electrical division for over 6 years in a row. This year, we increased our efforts on female involvement and tripled the previous average number of 10 girls on the team. Many attend our trainings and have a large impact during build by taking on important design and fabrication roles. We have also created a web page that includes posts regarding the Girl Engineering Scholarship and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.
Supporting Every Level
The birth of a MVRT-er begins at one of our many outreach events. At each step of the way, MVRT is determined to inspire children early on and support them as they develop their skills.
For elementary students, we have hosted the Gifted and Talented Education program at Lincoln Elementary since 2005, inspiring over 120 students through the program. Once a week, children gather to learn basic physics laws, launch water rockets, and simply enjoy the world of math and science.
For middle school students, we founded First Lego League teams at Lawson and Kennedy Middle School. In fact, one of our alumni received the Outstanding Mentor Award at Northern California State Tournament for his dedication. This year, MVRT began to volunteer regularly at FLL tournaments and helped kick off the season for the team from Los Altos Middle School with a game analysis. As the sole FRC team helping out at the Nor-Cal FLL tournament at Google, MVRT helped orchestrate the 64-team event. One month later, we were there again at Championships.
Finally, for high school students, we founded FRC teams at Homestead, Saratoga, Lynbrook, Harker, Cupertino, Mission San Jose, and St. Francis High Schools, 3 of which have received the Rookie All-Star Award. Throughout the year, we stay in touch, inviting them to our robotics trainings and social events. Last year, we held a Crate-Building Workshop for Cupertino and Mission San Jose and provided Homestead a place to work for the last week of build when their school closed down. This year, we organized a team-bonding picnic to which we invited Cupertino and Lynbrook High Schools. We also held Kickoff in our auditorium for local teams, revealing and analyzing this year’s game. In addition, we were one of the founding teams of the Intradistrict Robotics Council, which facilitates communication between the five local FRC teams to earn corporate sponsorships and coordinate fundraising events.
In the Community
We regularly demo our robots at the Cupertino Library, San Jose Tech Museum, and local parks to tell parents about the opportunities available to their children. Equipped with purple business cards, poster-boards, and award displays, MVRT gives presentations to interests the community in science and technology. Many of our inspired members decided to expand MVRT beyond just the engineering tag line by helping at local community events like Habitat for Humanity and Toys for Tots.
During the Cupertino Fall Festival this year, we met Vivek Kumar from the Stanford-MIT venture lab who wanted to aid the schooling system in rural India by providing teachers, facilities, and supplies. Our team jumped on the idea and offered our technical and media expertise. Designing his initial website and logo, we helped in a business plan that garnered the group’s initial round of seed funding. The result was an organization that plans to rebuild rural communities of 150 underprivileged children for less than $5,000 per community.
Although our team color is purple, our goal this year is to go green. It began with a simple trashcan labeled “Cans Only, Please Recycle.” We moved on to a four-day cleanup during which we recycled 25 pounds of scrap aluminum, and finally a month-long green campaign.
Through a partnership with the school’s environmental commission, we began an eWaste fund raiser this February. We plan to end this with a huge one-day Community eWaste Drive.
The money we earn will be donated to the first environmentally green school in Mexico, the Costa Verde International School. In early April, we will also be holding a climate awareness campaign for one week. In addition to daily lunchtime activities to promote environmental consciousness, we will be showing “An Inconvenient Truth” and hosting a speaker personally trained by Al Gore.
Publicity for FIRST
Tying FIRST with STEM
When Congressman Mike Honda requested support for his and Mr. Barack Obama’s Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (STEM) Act last year, MVRT was there to help. At his press conference, we demoed our robot and more importantly, spoke on the tight connection between the goals of STEM and FIRST. Albert Beltran, a representative from the Mike Honda’s office, attended our own kickoff event and spoke on the importance of FIRST to Congressman Honda’s initiative. STEM has not only brought MVRT closer to the government but also to the private sector. We have pitched for partnerships at STEM committees established by corporations such as Lockheed Martin. One committee member realized that “Lockheed wavered in its efforts to support specific FIRST teams because it didn’t want to put all its eggs into one basket. But MVRT has shown us that it is not just one basket.”
On the Web
Our award-winning website has allowed us to communicate effectively to our members and fellow robotics teams. Many FRC team websites and the USFIRST homepage are linked to www.mvrt.com, particularly for the Resources section. Here, we publish PowerPoint presentations from all our trainings and a new video library resource section to facilitate a smoother build period for other teams. We now feature tutorials on using Bosch, navigating Inventor, and putting together AndyMark gearboxes. Keeping up with today’s technology, MVRT has been using YouTube to document our progress and gain publicity. We have uploaded over 86 videos and totaled nearly 9750 views, ranging from those in Vietnam to Egypt. Our videos include build updates, match analysis, and footage of every match that we have participated in.
MVRT has gained publicity outside the robotics circle. Recently, we have been featured in various newspapers and news networks, including the KTVU News Network. Just this year, we had 5 articles in our school newspaper, the local Cupertino Courier, and a Chinese newspaper. Furthermore, the San Jose Mercury News plans to feature MVRT’s effort to recruit girls and the De Anza TV Channel has agreed to air our promo video encouraging students to join a FIRST team.
After graduation, all of our MVRT-ers head off to college. In a recent survey, we found that over 30% have interned by their sophomore year of college. Many of our alumni come back to FIRST to mentor us or other prominent FIRST teams - SpaceCookies, Kehillah Jewish High School, CheesyPoofs. Thanks to strong connections with our alumni, Dean’s homework this year was simple for MVRT. We have now complemented our existing database of our 100+ alumni attended with the companies they work for, dating back to our first group of graduates in 1999.
MVRT and Beyond
Our team is committed to instill a passion for science and technology throughout the community. We are eager to see the growth of our partnership with parents, school, government, community, and local companies. Though we are proud of our history of technical excellence and community service, nothing can match our satisfaction of creating the leaders for a better tomorrow.