|Yours truly making the pledge to change the world!|
On the surface, this might look like a joke, with the silly hat and all. But tens of thousands of people gather at the FIRST Robotics Championship with that exact purpose every year for the past 25 years! Our mission is to change the culture in the world we live in: by inspiring our next generation of youth to be involved with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education… through fun and games no less! For those not familiar with FIRST, here is the official introductory video. Personally, I like this one more because of Morgan Freeman.
|At the 2014 FIRST World Championship opening ceremony inside the Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis MO|
Education is Quanser’s business. So it is not surprising Quanser embraces the FIRST ideals and supports FIRST in numerous ways. At the corporate level, Quanser partners with FIRST Canada to help spread the message of FIRST by sponsoring and mentoring a FRC team, Team 4001 Retro Rams from St. Robert Catholic High School. In addition, Quanser invites other teams, such as Team 771 SWAT and Team 4252 Cardinal Robotics, to our corporate headquarter for onsite visits. These visits usually involve hands-on demonstrations and discussions with our engineers that help to engage and entice the students into careers in STEM. Also, our very own Tom Lee was a keynote speaker at the annual Robotics Symposium hosted by Team 771 SWAT back in the fall of last year.
|Dr. Tom Lee giving the keynote speech at the SWAT Robotics Symposium 2013.|
Furthermore, Quanser is the Academic Partner with National Instruments. NI is, of course, one of the strategic partners of FIRST and is the supplier of the existing cRIO robot controller and the new roboRIO controller for the 2015 FRC season. The roboRIO is a close cousin of the myRIO platform, which we, at Quanser, have some prior experience with. So personally, I can’t wait to see what we can do with the new roboRIO platform and to share it back to the FIRST community.
|Quanser judges and mentors at the FRC Waterloo Regional Competition (left to right): Tom Lee, |
Tim Vrablik, Peter Martin, Yona Baskharoun, Safwan Choudhury, and Gilbert Lai.
At the people level, Quanser encourages our employees to be involved with FIRST as part of our outreach activities. Yours truly and fellow Quanser engineers Peter Martin, Safwan Choudhury and Yona Baskharoun are mentor volunteers for FRC teams. Quanser has traditionally supplied ample number of volunteer FRC judges at regional competitions. This year is no exception. We, the FRC mentors, also doubled up as FRC and FLL judges. In fact, there is a record number of Quanser judges (8!) volunteered at five out of the seven Canadian FRC regional events this year. Our fellow Quanser judges include veterans like Tom Lee, Cameron Fulford, Herve Lacheray, and rookies like Keith Blanchet and Tim Vrablik. Representing Quanser at the World Championship in St. Louis this year is yours truly, as a mentor, and Tom Lee, as a judge advisor.
|Quanser "Six Pack" at the FRC Greater Toronto Regional East (GTRE) Competition (left to right): Gilbert Lai, |
Safwan Choudhury, Peter Martin, Cameron Fulford, Herve Lacheray, and Tom Lee.
As you can see, I have taken this opportunity to share a few of the photos of us at various events this year to show how much fun it was for us. Having fun is great, but more importantly, we know we are contributing to a good cause while we are at it.
|Selfie with Herve Lacheray (left) and Tom Lee (right)!|
|Judges with FIRST founder Dean Kamen at the FRC Montreal Regional Competition. Herve Lacheray (back row, second from the left) and Keith Blanchet (back row, fourth from the left) are Quanser's representations.|
On a more personal level, this is my fourth year getting involved with FIRST. Up until this year, my main involvement was being a mentor for an all-girl FRC team, SWAT 771, from St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School in Oakville, Ontario. Heavily influenced by the veteran judges surrounding me at the Quanser office, I was motivated to volunteer as a judge as well this year. As a rookie judge, I found the experience refreshing and invaluable. The perspective of being a judge is different, yet complementary, to the experience of being a mentor. Not only did I learn a lot from talking to the students of other teams (expanding my horizon), I have gained a lot of experience (and wisdom) from my fellow judges.
|More selfie! This time with the banner of my team at the FRC Waterloo Regional Competition.|
As a parent to a young child, I was also motivated to start my own Jr. FLL team this year. While the Jr. FLL program is non competitive, the satisfaction in seeing how the young kids learn and explore through Lego and play is enormous. It is truly amazing how the little minds are like sponges, soaking up and learning everything they can. As a geek and engineer, the most fulfilling (and personal favorite) aspect from my Jr. FLL experience this year was teaching them about simple machines. Prior to the simple machine session, I didn’t expect the group would be able to retain a lot from what I was about to teach them. My best hope was perhaps they can recall a couple of the more common and obvious simple machines, like wheels and screws. To my astonishment, they managed to recall all seven of them (We had some debates as to whether there are 6 or 7 simple machines… in the end, we decided to teach all 7 of them: lever, wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, wedge, screw and gear). In fact, they have now developed a habit of looking out for these simple machines everywhere around them. For example, when we pass by a house, we would stand witness to a very excited child pointing up at the roof and chanting “incline plane” repeatedly; or at the playground pointing at the seesaw and calling out “lever”.
|Our Jr. FLL team, the Storm Spinners, showcasing their poster and Lego model at a local Jr. FLL Showcase Event.|
What is the lesson learned from all of these experience? When it comes to the education of our youth, never underestimate their capacities to learn and grow, no matter how old they are (especially the younger ones)! FIRST is one of those programs that facilitate a rich and fun environment for the kids to explore and learn. They are learning all of these amazing things without even realizing it. And that is the beauty of the program!
So if you want to change the world like I do, get involved! Volunteer! Or just come out and have fun with us! Hope to see you at a FIRST event soon!
P.S. Congratulations to all of the teams participating in the FRC Aerial Assist game this year! See you again next year!
P.P.S. This year is the 25th anniversary for FIRST. Incidentally, this is also Quanser’s 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, I brought along the Quanser’s 25th anniversary commemorative jersey with me to St. Louis and put it on our robot in our pit. The SWAT ladies had graciously agreed to pose for the photo. Thanks SWAT!
|Quanser was there!|
~ Gilbert Lai
Systems, Control and Software Engineer, Quanser