Many of the values honored by FIRST are the same ones encouraged by St. Francis's own philosophy, BRIC (Bringing hope, respecting others, inspiring integrity, and celebrating family). In both, we learn to respect others during competition; especially with the heavy tension, high emotions and adrenaline brought on by any competitive environment, we need to remember values such as Gracious Professionalism and BRIC to ensure all teams have a successful and friendly competition.
The Saint Francis Robotics Team was proposed in 2007 by a group of interested students, including that year's club presidents Mary Beth Wilhelm and Samantha Shireman, Richard Gronberg, along with future club president Kevin Schapansky and future mentor Alejandro Barragan, ranging from all four grade levels – freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior – and when math and physics teacher Mr. Michael Rubin agreed to sign on as official club moderator, it was officially established as a registered school club.
Equipped with nothing but a few tools, minimal prior engineering experience with starter robotics kits such as LEGO Mindstorms, and with a rudimentary "lab" that was, in reality, a small closet space inside one of the school gyms, the small yet dedicated team nevertheless managed to slowly build themselves up. They purchased Vex Robotics kits in order to better familiarize themselves with engineering concepts, and at the same time, to emulate a more competitive environment, split themselves up into separate student teams.
The four consecutive months of effort that followed culminated in their own small-scale Vex competition in December, pitting each student team against each other. Subsequently, they registered with FIRST and competed in 2008's game, 'Overdrive', as rookie Team 2367 from Saint Francis High School, Mountain View at the San Jose State Regional Competition, and though their ranking was nothing notable, the newly solidified team came home with newly gained experience and their first FIRST robot.
In the meantime, mentor Mr. Rubin was already working with the school administrators to secure funding and better equipment, which set the stage for next year. Since many members of the team were seniors, however, they graduated in summer of that year, leaving many positions in the team open.
Fall of 2008 arrived, bringing with it a new wave of curious freshmen members along with new board members. The team moved from working in the gym space to working in Mr. Rubin's classroom. In December, with a couple new tools and additional Vex parts, SFRT hosted their second intraschool Vex competition in Mr. Rubin's classroom, a Vex-scale replica of the last FIRST Competition game 'Overdrive', with a makeshift field made of school desks and PVC pipes. Shortly after, the team moved from working in Mr. Rubin's classroom to their own dedicated lab space, set aside for them in the school's garage. Though initially empty and underequipped, the team soon found that the roomy (though often freezing) garage was a rather ideal and roomy place to work on robots, both small and large. Student artist Moira Scanlon also took the opportunity to design an official logo for SFRT, which ended up on the wall of the new lab and on the team's official T-shirts, bringing with it a new sense of team identity and togetherness. With a second year of Vex under their belt and their new workspace, the team embarked on their second year of FIRST, finally participating in 2009's 'Lunacy'.
Fall of 2009 brought with it a number of sweeping changes, but unfortunately, few new members. The team acquired new containers, including toolchests and metal cases, in order to help sort their Vex kits. But the curious freshmen of last year were now seasoned sophomores, while the founding members were now juniors and seniors in leading positions. As all these members gained more experience, the school competitions also became steadily more interesting, as each student team had progressed from competing with barely held together robots to increasingly well-engineered ones. That year's intraschool Vex competition, a replica of the Vex 'Clean Sweep' game constructed for the first time with the official Vex field kit, moved to being in Mr. Rubin's classroom to the much more spacious school cafeteria.
The garage-lab was undergoing improvements, too, as power strips were attached to the walls, more lights were installed, and three brand new desktop computers were installed along with the arrival of a custom-ordered official Robotics laptop for portable use. Each member was also provided with their own toolkit. The team switched from programming with Wind River to LabVIEW. The team competed in FIRST's 2010 game, 'Breakaway".
The new school year began in August 2010, and when the first official Robotics meeting came in September for both new and current members, it brought with it another large wave of new freshman recruits as large as that of 2008, and two other teachers – math/physics teacher Mr. Fischer and new biology/chemistry teacher Ms. Day – who joined SFRT as mentors. Meanwhile, the disparate group of freshmen from 2008 had coalesced into a group of not only teammates, but friends. At the end of the team's annual Vex Competition – the official 2010 Vex game 'Round Up' – each student team gathered to pose for their first group pictures, leaving them with a new feeling of unity and comradeship among their members. One group even gathered at a friend's house over school winter break to enjoy a few friendly rounds of video games and watch the recent sci-fi thriller, Inception, which was just one reflection of how close the team members had grown since they first met. And shortly after, in January of the following year, two student teams were sent to Bellarmine College Preparatory to represent SFRT in that year's official Vex Regional Competition, exposing them to another new experience and the tension and excitement of a real, large-scale competition, which only brought the team together even more. At the same time, the team reached outward to the community, coaching three Lego Robotics teams at La Entrada Middle School.
Early 2011, however, was marked not only by the influx of new members or the new connections between veteran members, but by the organizational changes that swept the team. Groups of veteran members began developing new plans and robot designs as early as the winter of that year, a month before the start of the FIRST season, planning to hit the road running right after the kickoff. Immediately following the FIRST kickoff that year, the team assembled in Mr. Rubin's room and split up into divisions, each with experienced members assigned as leads. Furthermore, the team's communications system was revitalized and overhauled, with a member providing regular verbal and digital updates in order to make sure each member of the team understood the current progress and status of the team. Finally, a group of tech-oriented members took the initiative to start teaching Autodesk Inventor CAD classes to other interested members.
From there on, the team slowly acquired more resources, including space heaters to warm the lab during icy days, a steady supply of snack foods to keep our hungry engineers fed, a new speaker system, and a sleek new black toolchest used to organize the multitude of wires lying around the lab.
In late January, the lab received a rather huge shipment. As curious members crowded around the package, mentor Mr. Rubin opened it and stood triumphantly in front of the team's new asset, which he had just recently ordered – their own mill!
Equipped with their newly expanded arsenal of tools and equipment, pretzels (the team's favorite snack), and their new leadership, the team continues to push and progress forward as they slowly approach the competition date for the 2011 FIRST Competition, LogoMotion.
With their goals in front of them and their achievements behind them, Team 2367 still has many possibilities and opportunities in the road ahead, but one thing is for sure – we are no longer the small rookie Robotics Club from 2007, filled with bold adventurers who dared to venture into the new territory that was their first FIRST Competition. We have become something more, something greater - a group of diversified individuals, each with their own talents, yet contributing to a common cause, sharing a common vision, driven by a common goal, united by a amiable camaraderie.
We are the Saint Francis High School Robotics Team, FRC 2367.