2023 Events:
To continue the tradition Penn Robotics hosted our annual summer camps in 2023, hosting students grades K-8th from throughout the school district. In our Manufacturing camp students were able to learn hands-on operation of machines such as mills, the CNC, and the laser cutter, using these in the production of a customized totem to take home at the end of the week. Mentors of Creativity challenged campers to learn key STEM concepts by competing to build the most stable satellites, tallest moon bases, and fastest rovers, ending the camp by designing their own rockets and launching them sky-high. Additionally, they learned about electricity by creating airplane toys with working motors, inspiring them to continue programming and being involved with STEM. The second week featured our Build-a-Bot camps; these emulate the FIRST robotics competition in guiding kids through the creation, programming, and driving of either a Vex IQ or EDR robot in order to complete game challenges developed by the Penn Robotics teams. For this year’s IQ camp the challenge was called Lunar Launch, which included rockets robots had to fuel and dangerous asteroids to clear. The game for EDR was Moon Mayhem, featuring a spinning moon and satellite arrays that teams had to traverse to deliver moon rocks and gems back to their factories.
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7 members of Team 135 traveled to Schaumberg, Illinois, to present at IDEAcon, an annual conference that allows educators in the Midwest to connect with companies and organizations that specialize in education-based technologies. At the convention, we connected with 121 educators and company representatives. In doing this, we presented both our program and FIRST at large to our regional community.
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Members of team 135 went to Northpoint Elementary school to demonstrate our program at their Learning Spheres event. We presented FIRST programs and advocated the start of FIRST Lego League teams. We also ran our 2022 FRC competition robot, and showed parents and students how FRC robots operate. We talked with 283 students and parents throughout the night, and showed parts of our Short Circuits robotics program as well.
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2022 Events:
Winter Workshop had a colorful variety of STEM themed activities. The 77 kids that participated (Grades 1-7) in this event were introduced to the topics of gravity, circuitry, buoyancy, and pneumatics. Our mentors made sure every camper was able to take away valuable STEM skills that they are able to apply to real work concepts in their futures.
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Penn Robotics Members ran a 2 day Workshop focused around teaching STEM skills through a variety of different ways.These kids were able construct their own laser cut trains, which they then put through a series of challenges and activities. This camp has grown to over 6 times the size of our previous Fall Workshop, with 88 students attending this year! We also provided several scholarships to our camp to make this camp as accessible as possible. We hope to continue inspiring STEM education for these students in our community.
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Penn Robotics Mentors went to all 11 PHM elementary schools to mentor students of the Short Circuits program. Over the course of a month, we met 4 times to teach them how to program their own robot in order to complete the obstacle course that we designed. This culminated into a final celebration in our school where they showcased their programs to their parents and teachers, as well as members of our education foundation, school board members, and our district’s superintendent. Following this program, many more of our district’s teachers and parents are now interested in continuing to support robotics in our schools. We can’t wait for the celebration next year!
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We invited the FTC Team 20027 Granger Gurus into our lab so that we could show them what FRC looks like, as well as give them advice on their design plans for their robot in the 22-23 Powerplay season.
We invited the Trinity FLL team #24735, First Class Dispatch, and their coaches to tour our lab, see our robot, and learn about how they could continue with FIRST robotics in the FRC program. Additionally, we also had the opportunity to listen to and discuss their project idea, providing the students with feedback and advice.
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Penn Robotics Members went to the annual Boy Scouts of America Ironhorse event put on by Sakima Lodge of the Order of the Arrow, the honor society of Scouting, at Potato Creek State Park. At this event we advertised FIRST Robotics programs to 202 cub scouts and parents. We also showed off our team’s T-shirt cannon, and spoke about our individual experiences in robotics and the important life skills taught through this program.
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17 student representatives of Penn Robotics attended IMTS 2022. Through this experience, we spread the impact of FIRST Robotics to 3,873 attendees with our exhibition booth in the student summit and by interacting with other exhibitors.With our FRC 2021-2022 competition robot, we represented the design and manufacturing capabilities of our team. This helped us spark conversations with companies such as NASA and HAAS about the industrial skill set students in FIRST develop. We’re incredibly thankful for the opportunity to present at this event!
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Penn Robotics was glad to open its doors to several FTC teams in our area in order to host this years FTC kickoff event. It was great to speak with Team 20027, the Granger Gurus, from one of our districts middle schools. We hope this event and the provided brainstorming sessions were able to inspire and kickstart a wonderful FTC season for all teams there!
The Robotics team held a booth at Penn’s back to school walkaround, to introduce robotics to incoming Penn students. We showed off our previous robots and projects to over 100 people in our community, in hopes they will join robotic this upcoming season. We look forward to meeting our new members.
Students from throughout the PHM district collaborated in teams to compete in fun robot challenges at our school’s annual Junior STEM Camps. This year, students ranging from kindergarteners to 5th graders were challenged to build and control a robot in order to navigate the game field and score points. With the guidance of mentors, students built claws, lifts, and arms to collect and transport cubes to their goals. They also had the opportunity to learn about our past year’s robot and see it in action! All in all, our campers had a blast competing with and learning about robots at our Junior STEM camps.
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After the conclusion of our summer camps, we welcomed a group of Girl Scouts to our lab. To help them earn their Robotics Badges, we taught them how to program and run Sphero Bolts and challenged their skills on a custom-built obstacle course for our upcoming Short Circuits program. In addition, we took them on a tour of our workshop, showing them the various machines we use in robotics. We even let them test drive our competition robot! All in all, it was an incredibly fun collaboration with local Girl Scouts troop.
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To continue the tradition Penn Robotics hosted our annual summer camps in 2022, hosting students grades K-8th from throughout the school district. In our Manufacturing camp students were able to learn hands-on operation of machines such as mills, the CNC, and the laser cutter, using these in the production of a customized totem to take home at the end of the week. Mentors of Creativity challenged campers to learn key STEM concepts by competing to build the most stable satellites, tallest moon bases, and fastest rovers, ending the camp by designing their own rockets and launching them sky-high. Design students worked with CAD using Fusion, and built their own race cars to send flying down the air-pressure track in exciting high-speed races against their peers. In Software, we taught fundamental concepts of programming through the use of the BBC Micro Bit, exciting the campers by letting them watch their code come to life, including music and games they could play; additionally, they learned about electricity by creating airplane toys with working motors, inspiring them to continue programming and being involved with STEM. The second week featured our Build-a-Bot camps; these emulate the FIRST robotics competition in guiding kids through the creation, programming, and driving of either a Vex IQ or EDR robot in order to complete game challenges developed by the Penn Robotics teams. For this year’s IQ camp the challenge was called Lunar Launch, which included rockets robots had to fuel and dangerous asteroids to clear. The game for EDR was Moon Mayhem, featuring a spinning moon and satellite arrays that teams had to traverse to deliver moon rocks and gems back to their factories.
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Penn Robotics attended and presented Short Circuits, our new sphero program, at the PHMEF Gala, located at Palais Royale on May 21st, 2022. We introduced another area of our community to what robotics has to offer, and put STEM education into the minds of our gracious sponsors and donors of the PHM Education Foundation. After seeing the video we produced, the audience donated $17,700 to forward Short Circuits and have students as young as 3rd grade introduced to STEM and Robotics.
Student representatives from our team presented at the largest education-tech conference in the Midwest, IDEAcon, this February. We reached out to hundreds of teachers and educators, informing them about our Penn Robotics program and how they might be able to implement STEM and FIRST into their curriculums. We also showcased our Mission to Engineer program, displaying prototypes and early designs of our past projects and explaining the history behind each. We met so many amazing people and made so many connections. Overall, our trip was a resounding success!
Penn Robotics students traveled to Orlando, Florida to share information about our Mission to Engineer Program and showcase the projects that our ME team has completed. We had a great opportunity to showcase the sensory board we created for Cooper, a boy in our community who is faced with many obstacles when it comes to his learning development. The main goal of our presentation was to reconnect with AT professionals, such as Bill Binko (founder of ATMakers) and to learn more about the AT community. Throughout the conference and the Maker Day we interacted with lots of Assistive Technology professionals, Occupational Therapists (OT), Physical Therapists (PT), educators, and more. It was such an incredible opportunity for our ME team to make these connections and see the professional side of the AT industry. This event allowed our Mission to Engineer program to learn more about Assistive Technology and what path the program could take in the future.
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2021 Events:
Penn Robotics Team 135 donated ~725 pounds of aluminum to eleven other local Indiana FRC teams. We delivered this aluminum at the New Prairie FTC district competition and the Michigan City kickoff event, and some of it was picked up here at Penn. The aluminum was in 10 different extrusions, and will hopefully help these teams be successful in their build season! Our team is always looking for new opportunities to help those around us!
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Penn Robotics set up and hosted the FTC Metro League Meet One. This was the first FTC tournament for the metro league, consisting of 12 teams from the northern half of Indiana. The setup for the event took place on December 3rd, and after a few hours of dedicated work a practice field, pit areas, and competition field were set up. The League meet on December 4th helped teams experience working together in a competitive setting, acted as a stepping stone for teams to build and grow from, and allowed for many students to learn how an FTC tournament functions.
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Our school counselors spent a class period walking around our classroom and learning the non-technical aspects of our team. There is so much more than just building robots that goes on in our lab, and our counselors were shown everything that people can learn by being on our team. We showed them the work we’d done for our Mission to Engineer program, what our Chairman’s team does as outreach, how we raise $78,000 each season, as well as the skills our Media team gains by running our website, social media accounts, and creating promotional content. This was a fantastic event that brought our team and our counselors closer together, and promoted STEM education to the counselor in our school!
The Fall Workshops occurred on October 16th, 29th, and 30th, November 13th, and November 26th. In these mini camps members of Penn robotics mentored a small group of elementary school school students in building and testing model bridges, designing in 3D with Inventor, using the laser cutter to print out images, and programming a Vex EDR robot. The kids greatly enjoyed watching the laser cutter moving around and cutting their designs out quickly, as well as being inspired to continue programming using the platform vr.vex.com at home.
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We held a Nelson’s chicken sale at River Valley Church. To ensure this event’s success, we used a pre-sale system of redeemable tickets which we sold in the weeks leading up to the event. Due to our efforts in coordination and documentation, the pre-sale process was extraordinarily successful. Our Team sold 753 chicken and 506 potato tickets a week before the event even took place. From there, we notified Nelson’s of our order and prepared further for our actual “day of” sale. Ordering 1000 chickens and 700 potatoes, this was one of the largest Nelson’s chicken sales in Penn Robotics history. The day of the event, many members of FTC, FRC, and other volunteers spent six hours distributing all of our food to those who ordered. The sale was extremely successful, raising more money at one location than the previous year’s did with two sales. Penn Robotics netted over $5,000 through this sale, and we are excited to spend it as we tackle our upcoming 2022 season!
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We worked with Mishawaka’s robotics team, the Giddy Goats, to organize the NCI FIRST Lego League tournament at John Young Middle School. Members of our team set up a booth to inform FLL team members and their families about Penn Robotics and our Summer Camps. We ran the field reset team, announced the matches, and escorted the 11 FLL teams to and from matches.
Several members of FRC team 135 staffed a booth at the annual Iron Horse Festival put on by the boy scouts of Sakima lodge. While there, team members demonstrated one of the FTC Ultimate Goal robots along with the XLR8 FTC team’s robot. At the same time, they promoted Team 135’s Penn Robotics Summer Camps and other FIRST programs to families that visited the booth.
Penn Robotics was recognized at the Penn High School Football game. We were honored with a great photo op with Dr. Thacker and Principal Galiher on the twenty yard line while our T-Shirt launching robot (which is built and maintained by our team) generated great excitement from the crowd. This great opportunity allowed us to show off our tech, some of the tasks we work on as a team, and promoted our team as well as FIRST in general via both our presence and our T-Shirt launcher.
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Penn Robotics hosted the annual FTC Kickoff on September 18, 2021, where we revealed this season’s challenge and gave several presentations to provide teams with a stepping stone for the coming year. This event attracts teams from around the area to come watch as the FTC game for this season is revealed, and this year we reached 10 FTC teams and around 90 people. Members from three veteran FTC teams and our own FRC team gave presentations, which helped the new FTC teams understand and familiarize themselves with key aspects of high achieving teams. In addition to our presentations, we provided a reveal of the playing field, allowing teams to get close to and physically interact with the field and game elements. With what we did at the Kickoff, we hope to improve these FTC teams’ chances of success in the coming season!
12 members of our FRC team assisted the PHM Education Foundation (PHMEF) in running the Silver Mile Bubble Bash. We helped set up the bubble machines throughout the path, set up the finish line banner, and cheered the racers on. Our team was able to collaborate with members of the FTC teams and around 75 additional PHM students, parents, and staff. Overall, the event was a big success, and we were so excited to be invited!
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Penn Robotics persevered through the pandemic to continue its tradition of hosting STEM summer camps. During our first week of summer camps, we held multiple interactive programs where kids get to learn more in-depth about aspects of engineering! These programs had kids participate in a variety of challenges that they overcame using their knowledge of engineering principals. Week 2, which is our Penn Build-a-Bot VEX IQ & EDR camps, challenged students to design, build, and program their own unique robots to compete in a FIRST style game. Using Computer-Aided Design, laser cutters, and code they wrote, they competed against each other. They spent their time in the camp learning 3D design, coding, assembly, and most importantly, teamwork! In total, we reached almost 200 families and over 300 students, including about 20 students from outside of our district. We’re incredibly happy to be able to teach so many the ins and outs of engineering, and hope to do so next year as well.
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2020 Events:
For the 2020 holiday season, Penn Robotics hosted an event for families to enjoy: A Robotics Fair! Our goal was to take our Adapt-A-Thon event and make it friendly and exciting, alongside offering kids an experience they would not get at a normal fair. So this year, Penn decided to transform our Adapt-A-Thon event into a drive-thru fair, with activities for everyone to participate in! Every year, during the holidays, many children with disabilities aren’t able to purchase switch adapted toys due to the astronomical prices of toys and switches from vendors. We created this event so children aren’t hindered from having their dream toys and experience the joy of the holiday season. Families came to the fair throughout the day and enjoyed a variety of events; from tic-tac-toe, to experiencing robotics, to picking out a toy to take home. As kids came to the fair, they were able to pick out a toy, talk to the team, and experience robotics and how it can help improve and develop our community. The remaining toys from the Adapt-A-Thon will be donated to local organizations that work with kids with disabilities.
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For the first time, Penn Robotics traveled to Michigan, competing in one of the most competitive FRC Districts in America. 135 chose the Macomb Community College Event to give our driver and build sub-teams more insight on how to improve our robot before the Indiana District events. Overall, the trip was a success; We gained insight to improve our shooting system for power cells, as well as discover flaws that can be fixed for future events. Furthermore, our Chairman’s sub-team was able to have some valuable dialogue with Team 2834 The Bionic Blackhawks, who is an FRC Hall of Fame team. During alliance selection, Team 135 was picked by Alliance 6, composed of Team 772 (Sabre Bytes) and Team 2834 (Bionic Blackhawks). Although we did not make it past quarterfinals, it was a valuable lesson for our team and led to great improvements for our robot!
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ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) hosts a conference that Team 135 participates in almost every year. The organization helps spread technology and awareness with the goal of improving the lives of those with disabilities, which is the perfect place for Penn Robotics! At ATIA 2020, Penn showcased and presented their ME (Mission to Engineer) project at the event, and the feedback was very positive! Many people were not only impressed by what team 135 was doing, but they were inspired to help others in need. As Penn learned from others who presented, other people learned about our mission with FIRST to change the world!
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2019 Events:
Penn Robotics helped with running the annual FLL competition along with Mishawaka robotics. With both the FRC and FTC students helping out, this event was a huge success! There were about 450 people that attended the event, including over 20 teams, coaches, mentors, volunteers, and community members. Like always, FLL teams presented the non-game aspects of their team in three judging categories: “Project”, “Core Values”, and “Technical”. In these areas, teams were judged based on the hard work and dedication showcased towards effectively executing the requirements/tasks of each judging category whilst integrating the values of FIRST and STEM. We also had a few FRC members present to students and parents during the event regarding the robotics programs, summer camps, and STEM opportunities offered at Penn as well as their benefits to further assisting in the development of innovative and collaborative thinking today’s youth. Teams then went on to compete in the main event, the robot competition! During the robot matches, teams competed in that year’s FLL challenge: City Shaper! In the end, all teams performed wonderfully! Regarding volunteers during the event, Penn students helped with running “official positions”, consisting of judging room timers, door keepers, judge’s assistants, robot-run helpers, and various other positions. We also had both the FRC and FTC booths set up at the event, including the FTC field, competition robots, and various other outreach props. Volunteers interacted with various community members, teams, alumni, and school leaders and showcased the values of Penn Robotics, FIRST, and STEM. Various community members expressed positive regard to their experience and time at the event, including school leaders such as Mr. Galiher (Principal of Penn High School)! Overall, this event ran smoothly and was a tremendous success. We look forward to helping out with running the FLL tournament again next year!
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Team 135 traveled to Purdue University for an annual FIRST Forums Event. The team presented Business Strategies for a Sustainable FRC Team and Student Leadership for FTC. The Forum was open to FTC and FRC teams to listen to other robotics presentations in technical and non-technical fields. During the presentation, our audience members were engrossed and impressed by the content that we covered in our FRC presentation. Team members brought back valuable information and want to embed them into the robotics team. Overall, it was a success and the team enjoyed and valued this forum.
Penn Robotics went to the annual PHMEF Superintendents Luncheon. We set up in front of the main entrance door and displayed our ME (Mission to Engineer) and robotics information. Approximately 300 people showed up at this event and all of them got to see our table set up before they entered the conference hall. It was really exciting to talk about STEM and FIRST programs and tell people how these programs can impact our community. We had some technical issues but we managed to fix them in a pretty short time span. We got to listen to a few speakers during the luncheon. Most notably, the guest speaker Sarah Hildebrant. A few people compliment complimented our team for our robotics program as they were passing by; overall, it was a success! Next time we should only bring one robot and give some notes to Dr. Thacker so he could talk about our program during his speech and also improve the packing list so the process of getting everything prepped for an event becomes more fluid.
For the 2019 holiday season, Penn Robotics Team 135 partnered up with Beacon health Foundation to run an Adapt-A-Thon. Our goal was to give away free adapted toys to children in need and help them experience the magic of the holidays. The toys consist of stuffed animals that make lights, sounds, or movements when a button is pressed. The premise of the event was adapting electronic toys to become compatible with switches (a sensitive button that people with disabilities can activate), so children with disabilities can play with them. We also gave away our custom made switches, which can be fairly expensive to buy normally, for free. As we are approaching the holidays, many children with disabilities will not be able to purchase switch adapted toys that they can interact with due to the astronomical prices of toys and switches from vendors. We hope these toys will allow the children a form of autonomy in their lives and give inclusivity by allowing them a similar experience and joy like their peers. At the event, we had a table of toys for children to pick from, and we were able to adapt the toys as people came in with them. There were stations set up for games and prizes in addition to an adapting station, where people can see the wiring close up if they would like to. We were able to do a couple of extra-special adaptations, including adapting a toy car so that a child with disabilities could drive it. The remaining toys from the Adapt-A-Thon will be donated to local organizations that work with kids with disabilities.
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Technovation is a yearly teacher conference at Penn High School. The goal of the conference is to encourage teachers to explore teaching using technology and learn about how they can better do this. This year, Penn Robotics did three presentations at the conference and held a booth in the library with information about our program and demonstration robots for attendees to drive. One of our presentations was centered around Mission to Engineer and the importance of the program as well as how the teachers can utilize it as a learning opportunity. Our other presentation was an escape room. The escape room was especially popular and taught teachers team building skills. Our other team presented how the FIRST program introduces project-based learning to students and how to produce a similar model for conventional classroom use. The team engaged each teacher who attended by discussing the different benefits of project-based learning, better retention of lessons, and the introduction of important attributes such as critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving. Through the presentation, we were able to establish contact with a teacher interested in starting an FLL team. In all the presentations, we had an opportunity to show teachers all across Indiana what Team 135 and the FIRST program entails as well as how it benefits students.
Penn Robotics hosted our second annual FTC kickoff. Approximately 150 people showed up to represent almost 30 FTC teams. Before the event, we held a food social where people could come and get to know each other. Afterward, we held seven different tech sessions, four of which were presented by 135 members. The game was released and we let the teams get on the field and begin brainstorming. The FTC Kickoff is a very important event because FTC offers a direct line to FRC, which makes supporting FTC a major aspect of Penn Robotics’ sustainability. FTC Kickoff also helps us break the barrier between FTC and FRC. The event was very successful and we got a lot of compliments from parents and coaches. Any outreach event we take part in helps spread the message about what we do here at Penn Robotics.
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The back to school night was a great success for Penn Robotics. We disseminated to the various elementary schools in PHM in order to spread the message of the FLL teams we were going to start. We managed to get to a decent amount of elementary schools, and because we started our first FLL team at Penn, Students would describe the event as a great success. One of the best moments of the event was when kids would literally drag their parents over when they saw our booth. There are a lot of things to improve on, however. We started to plan the event way too late and not a lot of people showed up. Additionally we did not follow through on asking for people to volunteer. Our stuff was not fully packed up for the first couple of events and because of the short time deadline, it was a bit of a mess. In order to fix this situation, we need to get a master packing list way ahead of time and start planning the event at least two weeks in advance to stop this from happening again, as well as ask for volunteers in advance.
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