2730 North Trekell Rd, Casa Grande, AZ 85122 | P: (520) 836-8500 | F: (520) 316-3353
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Robotics Team
John Morris, Sponsor
(520) 836-8500 ext. 3627

CGUHS Robotics Team
Background:
The Robot Club was formed in 2002 by Chris Murray, CTE teacher, with the goal of participating in the FIRST Robotics Competition (http://www.usfirst.org/). Mr. Murray retired in 2008 and the students asked me to take over a faculty sponsor. In 2010, the students rewrote the club’s constitution (on file with activities secretary) and changed the name of the Robot Club to the CGUHS Robotics Team to better reflect the fact that they are participating in a competitive sport.

Team Activities:
The Team has competed every year since 2002 in the FIRST Robotics Competition (except, I believe, 2005 when they were not able to raise funds for the entry fee).

In 2010, we applied for and received an SRP Learning Grant in the amount of $5000. This grant was used to plant robotics clubs in the three CG middle schools. We paid for the entry fee for the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, purchased LEGO Mindstorm kits and FLL Field Kits, and HP Netbook computers for donation to each of the middle schools. We also provided a $500 stipend to each of the teachers to pay for any other supplies. In addition, CGUHS students went to each of the schools and were mentors to the middle school students and assistants to the teachers. We continue to send student mentors to Villago Middle School. The response was so great at Cactus Middle School that we worked with ASU to obtain an additional Mindstorm Kit for them. Villago Middle School took what we gave them and created an elective class in robotics, which CGUHS students TA one day a week. The experience of competing in FLL was described by Mrs. Santilli at Villago Middle School as “life changing” for her students.

In 2011, we competed in a Sumobot Competition held at ASU Polytechnic Campus. In a sumobot competition, students construct robots of various weight classes and compete in a sumo wrestling style ring. The goal is to locate the opposition and push it out of the ring while avoiding falling or being pushed out of the ring. The entries by other students were part of a semester project in their high school engineering classes (Fountain Hills High School, Caesar Chavez High School, Higley High School, and Paradise Valley High School). Due to the proximity of the sumobot competition to the FIRST Robotics Competition, our students has only 4 – 2 hour after school meetings to design, construct, program, and test their robot. Nonetheless, they received complements form the other teams and from the ASU professors on the quality and abilities of their robot. Our robot, Goliath, after being undefeated in the seeding matches, was eliminated in the quarter finals.

The 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition Arizona Regional was held at Hamilton High School in Chandler. At this competition, the CGUHS Robotics Team has the best performance in the history of the team. At one point in the seeding matches the team rose to 4th place out of 50 teams (from Arizona, New Mexico, California, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Canada, and Brazil). The team was seeded in 11th place, but in the Alliance selection for the finals was moved into 7th place and captained an Alliance of 3 teams. We lost our quarter final series 0 – 2 due to loosing communication with the robot in the last seconds of match 2. The team was pleased with their performance and returned to CHUGS with their best competition record ever (7-6-0).

I have been working in putting together a team of professionals from the community to be a resource for our students. Pete Lomeli, professor at CAC in the Manufacturing Engineering Technology department has been a valuable resource in teaching our students the manufacturing and machining skills that they need to fabricate parts for their robot. Mr. Edward Cassidy, a Mechanical Engineer with Abbott, has been working with our students on mechanical systems and pneumatics, as well as acquiring support from vendors that he has contact with for our team. Mr. Steve Wallace, a software engineer with IBM, has been working with our students on project management and software planning and programming. Deb Wallace, an e-commerce specialist with Avnet, has been working with the team on marketing and creating a business plan. Isaias Martinez, a CGUHS alumnus and currently a junior at ASU studying aeronautical engineering, has brought several of his classmates down on Saturdays to tutor our students in the use of 3D modeling software. We have also had the support of Doug Brown, who has had numerous articles submitted to the CG Dispatch on the activities of the team.

This year we have continued to send our student mentors to Villago Middle School. The team participated in a city-wide graffiti abatement project earlier this year. We participated in Villago Middle School’s Science Night earlier this month. We will be sponsoring a trip to Xavier College Preapratory in Phoenix in March in which our high school girls will chaperone a group of middle school girls from Villago at Xavier’s “Girls Have IT!” conference.

We have also participated in and will be again participating in this year’s Duel in the Desert. This event is a scrimmage type event held at a venue that usually serves as a promotional event but also an opportunity for the students to develop and follow a testing program for their robot prior to the “stop work” day at the end of the 6-week build. This is also an opportunity for your robotics team to represent CGUHS to the community, to other high schools, and to local (Phoenix area) industry.

I have always received very good feedback form parents of students who participate on our team and who attend the regional competitions. Last year, parents were impressed enough to form a booster’s organization. The constitution for that organization is on file with Armida. We also host a kick-off dinner each fall, typically in December, in our Culinary Arts dining room. This gives us the opportunity to get parents and community members onto our campus and show off the robotics room (D-211) as the place where their student will be spending so much of their time beginning the first week in January.

The team has also hosted several events here at CGUHS. In the past we have hosted the ASU Industrial Engineering “Envoy Team” to present to our students on opportunities in industrial engineering. Last year the team hosted representatives from the 3 state universities (ASU, NAU, UA) for a forum in the auditorium where each university presented to our students in mass on opportunities at their institutions. (It was cool. In the end, all three universities pitched the message to our students that Arizona has 3 great universities, each of which would like the student to attend theirs, but it didn’t matter as long as out students attended somewhere.) Earlier this year, we hosted a representative from University of Advancing Technology in Tempe who presented to our students on opportunities in education in cutting edge 21st century fields such as robotics, visual media, cryptography, and others.

Financially, we have had the support of the Nissan Technical Center North America through the Nissan Neighbor’s Grant program. Annita MacFadden, senior manager, has championed receipt of the grant for us. I have reapplied for it over the past 5 years, and Nissan has supported us with an annual grant of $10,000 ($50,000 over the past 5 years). We have had other donors over the years, such as a grant form the Abbott Fund this year for $5000, but Nissan has continued to support us. Our robotics program probably would not be possible without them.

The students conducted fundraisers themselves – selling pizza slices and iced tea at the home football games, selling Eegee’s at lunch during warmer weather and hot chocolate in the mornings during cooler weather. The team raised approximately $850 this year through these efforts. This has all been students initiated and students led.

There are several examples that I can point to of students who are veterans of out program going on to be successful in college and career. Michael Cox, a 2009 (early) graduate of CGUHS and 4 year member of the robot club, attended ASU College of Engineering for a semester, and found that he had gone beyond what was expected for him to learn. He spent the semester helping other students with their projects before transferring to Kettering to study automotive engineering. Isiais Martinez, as mentioned above, is currently a junior at ASU and credits his participation on the robotics team as solidifying his decision to studying engineering. Sara Rosenow, former CGUHS student and CGUHS Robotic Team President went on to be the president of the CAC Robotics Team.

There are several students currently on the team who are very high performers academically, but have little to no experience with applying that knowledge to creating something real and tangible. FRC puts out a promotional video that says it more elegantly than I can here.
(Ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6hq2qFqCAM)

Some CG Dispatch Articles:
Featured article: http://www.trivalleycentral.com/casa_grande_dispatch/area_news/school-news/article_ace135ca-f6ce-11e1-8df2-0019bb2963f4.html

http://www.trivalleycentral.com/casa_grande_dispatch/area_news/school-news/article_326e0ace-3257-5eae-b837-a971d133d15a.html

http://www.trivalleycentral.com/casa_grande_dispatch/area_news/school-news/article_63161eba-9eb6-53b5-879b-9bb220703179.html

http://www.trivalleycentral.com/casa_grande_dispatch/area_news/school-news/article_7acb3565-35e9-576b-8f0e-b35dfffe2589.html

Training and Work Schedule:
The team participates in training activities during their “off season” (the period of time outside of the six week “build season” for FRC, the interval of time between “stop build day” at the end of the six weeks and the Arizona Regional competition in March). Typically, we meet twice a week during the school year (when not in “build season”) and periodically throughout the summer. During build season, we meet every day except Sunday, from 3:15 until usually 7:30 – 8PM and on Saturday from 10AM until usually 10PM.

During the off season, we attend training at various locations – Microchip Technology in Chandler, Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, ASU in Tempe, ASU Polytechnic in Mesa. In our regular bi-weekly meetings, I lead students through design challenges using the Engineering Design Process as our guide. We also work on building our technical and machining skills such as sketching and dimensioning, running a mill and lathe for metal work (thanks to Pete at CAC) and our presentation skills. We have been working on a two-minute “elevator pitch” that any member of the team can use when they encounter a potential sponsor when out and about in the community as well as a longer 15 minute presentation with handouts and a power point presentation for those who would like more information.

A problem that I have seen in regular instruction is that students come into the classroom and wait to be told what to do. They expect to be shown how to find the answer of to be shown the “right” way to do something. That doesn’t happen in robotics. Students quickly learn that there are many ways to accomplish a task, and there is no “right answer.” There is only their answer to a problem and if it works then they go with it and try to improve on it. There is no back of the book to look at for the answers. In robotics, students decide what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. I and the other mentors are simply a resource that they can draw upon. I like to say that after the kick-off event for each year’s FIRST competition that I simply become the bus driver. The kids do the work. They get the credit.

I made the mistake during my second year of sponsoring the team of tweaking some things on the robot after everyone had left for the night. The students quickly corrected me on this. As I recall, I was reprimanded by the students with “Mr. Morris, with all of its flaws and all of its glory, this is our robot...” The students take pride in their creation. It really does become “the hardest fun that they have ever had.”

My goal:
My goal with the Robotics Team is to create a passion in our students for science and technology by showing how cool is can be to take the things that they are learning in school and doing something amazing with it. I want to create relevance for what our kids are learning and help them to see that there is a purpose for it beyond the classroom. I want to inspire the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. I want to help create a generation that will take the next step in our technological society and accomplish great things. I am a science fiction nerd. The tag line from “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” was ‘The Human Adventure is Just Beginning.” I want our kids to be a part of that adventure and hopefully to lead it in creating a positive future for all of us.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything that I might discuss more fully.

John Morris

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