Hall of Fame
The Chairman's Award is the FIRST Robotics Competition's most prestigious award. The award honors the team that best represents a model for other FIRST Robotics Competition teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST. The Chairman's Award helps keep the central focus of the FIRST Robotics Competition on the goal of inspiring greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology.
In 2000, the Bomb Squad won the Championship Chairman's Award and became a member of the FIRST Robotics Competition Hall of Fame. With just 23 students on the team, the Bomb Squad was able to gain support from their community through their community service projects and outreach programs that would ultimately help spread the message of FIRST.
Below is a summary of the submission.
Sharing the Legacy
In 2000, FIRST piloted FIRST LEGO League tournaments in major metropolitan areas. Several Bomb Squad students and mentors wanted to host a tournament; the only problem was they were from a rural community. The students and mentors jumped into action and made a proposal to FIRST to host one of the seven tournaments in the United States. At that time the Bomb Squad was a committed member of the FIRST community and wanted to be a part of the vision to reach out to a younger audience interested in science and technology. “If we hadn't had our reputation as the Bomb Squad, they wouldn't have sanctioned the event here.” Greg Mills. After being approved to host a tournament, the team quickly went to work. They contacted all 310 school districts in Arkansas as well as many in southern Missouri to share the FIRST LEGO League program with them and invite them to participate. The team knew that some schools would have trouble being able to pay the entry fee and they wanted to make sure that every kid that was interested in FIRST had the opportunity to participate. As a result, they offered 20 FIRST LEGO League team scholarships to help ease the financial burden, but the Bomb Squad knew there was more they could do to make this endeavor successful.
2000 Bomb Squad
In order to make the Arkansas FIRST LEGO League tournament a success, the Bomb Squad helped mentor several of the local FIRST LEGO League teams. This experience greatly impacted not only our FIRST LEGO League students but the Bomb Squad students as well. They were faced with the challenge to harness the abundance of children’s energy and in the end have a robot created. Bomb Squad member Becky Allen describes the experience: “I’m in trouble. The boys were shoving each other and running everywhere and in the back of my mind I was worried that I didn't know enough. I knew that I could not show fear. They were very eager and it wasn't long before they always greeted me with ‘What are we gonna do today?’ ‘What’s next?” Most importantly, they were able to create a bond and a thirst for science in younger students and help show them the importance of team work.
On tournament day, 55 teams attended representing Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Everywhere you looked you saw students helping each other. “When our light sensor messed up, our drivers came off the court crying, but the rest of the kids got behind him, patted them on the back, and assured them it wasn't their fault.” said Emily Gamelin, Bomb Squad member. It also provided Bomb Squad students with a new found respect for mentoring and a realization as to why the engineers were involved in their team. Ariel Chatman, Bomb Squad member and FIRST LEGO League mentor said, “It’s great to know that you've really helped somebody.” Because of the scholarships and the countless hours put in by the students, mentors, and Baxter employees the competition was a success. It forever changed thousands of futures and provided a one-of-a-kind experience for those students in small-town America.
Teaching the Legacy
Team members wanted to make sure that the word of FIRST truly reached the students in their community. So on top of helping mentor the FIRST LEGO League teams, the Bomb Squad taught lessons on robot vocabulary to second and third graders at a Mountain Home Elementary School. The response the elementary students had surprised them. The lesson included students discovering what engineers do and how they work to solve problems. The heart of the lesson though was using technology to overcome obstacles. Members discussed Dean Kamen’s highly publicized wheelchair; Students team designed their own ways to help others overcome handicaps. The lesson ended with the second and third graders extremely excited about the science and technology. The Bomb Squad was also given the opportunity to do some hands on learning through engineering classes taught by team mentors and engineers.
The hands-on experience was one of the highlights for students not only for their 2000 season, but for making important career decisions. During these engineering classes team members truly experienced major engineering concepts. The team members with the help of their mentor John Novak, designed an experiment that allowed students to program a mechanism that could blow up a balloon and then move a needle to pop it. This allowed the students on the team to have a real look at engineering and to help them realize if engineering was the right career path for them.
Another career molding experience the Bomb Squad members were able to experience was a full day internship with a Baxter Healthcare Corporation employee. Students could be an engineer for a day. "Every student had a completely different experience, but they were all able to agree that the engineers are generous, creative, and inspiring. I’m lucky to have had the experience of knowing these great role models,” concluded Ariel Chatman.
Building the Legacy
The Bomb Squad gave back to their community in a variety of ways. They helped the Red Cross host a blood drive; at which several members donated their blood to the cause. The team volunteered at the hospital and went to retirement communities. Students escorted residents of nursing homes to church services. In order to help the Rotary Club, the students filled out organ donor cards. To generate the awareness of the FIRST program in prime territory for new teams, Bomb Squad students, engineers, and robot traveled to Springfield, Missouri, 120 miles away to do a feature story on the robotics competition and how to get involved.
The Bomb Squad reached out to rookies in order to help them have a successful season. They offered to share practice space with the only other FIRST Robotics Competition team 356 Enigma, the only other FIRST Robotics Competition in Arkansas at the time. Being three hours away from each other had its disadvantages, but the Bomb Squad offered shared transportation to the Midwest Regional in Chicago, IL. The two teams were able to create a lasting bond on 12 hour bus ride to the competition. They also initiated contact to rookie teams and offered them help with the Chairman’s Award submissions and other season related questions. “We’re only doing what we hope someone would do for us—lending a helping hand.” Becky Allen. In addition to hosting a FIRST LEGO League tournament, the team hosted an off season event. The Baxter Ozark Mountain Brawl was held in the high school gym with teams coming from all over including Michigan and Wisconsin in order to compete. Despite the 95+ degree temperature outside, the tournament was a success.
In conclusion, the team greatly impacted their community by introducing them to FIRST LEGO League. They affected the lives of children via the FIRST LEGO League program as well as being vocal in their school curriculum. The team was active in the local community as well as the FIRST community. Overall the team was dedicated in spreading the message of FIRST and the impact of their efforts is still felt today, over a decade later.