Capping off another successful year, members of the Allendale Robotics program had the opportunity to meet with Governor Snyder on May 11, 2016.
The invitation-only event took place at the community FIRST practice field donated by JR Automation at Innocademy in Zeeland. Included were seven local FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams and three FIRST Tech Challenge (FRC) teams. Allendale Robotics members had a chance to meet personally with Governor Snyder—who drove the AHS award-winning 2016 robot.
FIRST stands for For Inspiration of Science and Technology, and was formed in 1989 by entrepreneur Dean Kamen, best known for his invention of the Segway. FIRST is a non-profit organization that creates robotics-based programming for young people to promote science and technology, along with personal self-confidence and life skills.
Held in St. Louis this year, the FIRST World Championship took place in April with more than 20,000 student participants from around the world—including Allendale, Michigan.
With extensive experience mentoring the Holland robotics team C.H.A.O.S. (which stands for Creativity, Hustle, Achievement, Opportunity, Success), community member, parent, and engineer Chad Potinsky, developed the AHS program to include all four groups of the FIRST initiative, including:
- FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC): Grades 9 – 12
- FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC): Grades 7 – 12
- FIRST Lego League (FLL): Grades 4 – 8
- FIRST Lego League Jr. (Jr. FLL): Grades K – 3
Two of the most important values students acquire through the FIRST program are “gracious professionalism” and “coopertition.” Gracious professionalism emphasizes the value of good work and respect for others, while coopertition encourages FIRST participants to “display unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition.”
The AHS program welcomes members from surrounding areas, including Allendale, Coopersville, Jenison, and the Home Schooling community.
Supported by Governor Snyder and the state, some FIRST initiatives are trialed in Michigan. Notes Coach Potinsky, “In Michigan we have seen a tremendous growth in all programs of FIRST. Programs are run differently and set an example for the rest of the country. In 2009, FIRST in Michigan (FiM) organized and introduced the District model. This allowed teams to participate in more events closer to home for less funds than the traditional Regional Model. Since then, the District model has expanded in the U.S.”
Commenting on the expansion of Michigan FIRST teams, Mr. Potinsky adds, “The grants that the Governor and the state have made available triggered large growth.” Coach Potinsky said he hopes FIRST will soon add sustainability to its agenda, given the high cost of nurturing and running FIRST teams after start-up.
Commenting on the AHS program, Mr. Potinsky states, “For Allendale, having all four programs has been a great stepping stone opportunity for the kids. We are now seeing real results of that. The biggest challenge for us is funds, mentoring, and coaching resources. “
FIRST is more than robotics—it is collaborative teamwork, community outreach, fundraising, design, presentation, wiring, building, and driving. As Mr. Kamen has pointed out, “It is the only sport where everyone can turn pro.”
If your child is interested in FIRST—or if you are interested in helping out—contact Coach Chad Potinsky today.