Tag Archives: robotics

STL’s Mathieu surprised with FIRST volunteer award

28 Apr

This story originally appeared on RealTime/STL.

In 2001, Susie Mathieu agreed to help her brother with a weekend project. Saturday night, Mathieu was honored with the FIRST Champion Volunteer of the Year award for her work toward that “weekend” project.

Thirteen years ago, venture capitalist and St. Louis native John Doerr called his sister and asked why his alma mater, Chaminade College Preparatory School, was not involved in FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Mathieu, who spent 20 years with the St. Louis Blues then another five with the National Hockey League and NHL Players Association, had never heard of the robotics program. The siblings made a deal: Mathieu would volunteer for “a weekend of event management,” and Doerr would fund St. Louis’ first FIRST event.

“It’s become a full-time volunteer position,” she said after receiving the award.

Mathieu is credited with helping to bring FIRST Championship to St. Louis in 2011, then helping to keep it here, one three-year deal at a time. The FIRST Championship will be in St. Louis through at least 2017. Several supporters and potential investors attended last week’s event, and Mathieu scurried from Saturday’s surprise awards ceremony to meet with them.

“Getting the championship to St. Louis, I think, was a perfect storm,” she said, calling the response from the city “overwhelming.”

“Look at what’s going on in the city: Ballpark Village opened, the Arch grounds project — there are so many vibrant things that really help sell our city. Plus, it’s natural Midwestern friendliness.”

The Business Journal reports that this year’s event brought about $24 million to the city.

Mathieu doesn’t accept much credit for FIRST’s St. Louis stay, or even for the award. “It’s because of all of you that I got this,” she told a volunteer who stopped to congratulate her on the award she carried.

“We have a really good group,” she said. “This shouldn’t be an individual award. This is earned by everybody in our (FIRST Tech Challenge) region.”

Mathieu was appointed to FIRST’s executive advisory board in October. She’s also a partner at Spirit Hockey LLC.

Webster Groves team wins prestigious FIRST honor

28 Apr

This story originally appeared on RealTime/STL.

Cafe Bot coach Kimberly Sanders, Peter Kersulis, Brandon Sanders and Ethan Michalichek received the third place Inspire award Saturday afternoon at the FIRST Tech Challenge closing ceremony at America’s Center. Photo provided by Cafe Bot.

Cafe Bot coach Kimberly Sanders, Peter Kersulis, Brandon Sanders and Ethan Michalichek received the third place Inspire award Saturday afternoon at the FIRST Tech Challenge closing ceremony at America’s Center. Photo provided by Cafe Bot.

A lot goes into building a robot. A lot more goes in to building an elite robotics team. Just ask Cafe Bot, the FIRST Tech Challenge team from Webster Groves.

The 3-year-old three-man team received third place in the FIRST Championship Inspire award Saturday afternoon at FIRST world championship at the Edward Jones Dome.

“This is the top award we could receive in our program,” said team member Brandon Sanders. “We’re very excited.”

The team was judged on “gracious professionalism,” a catchphrase among FIRST participants, as well as robotics performance, teamwork and communication, an engineering notebook, and interviews.

Team member Ethan Michalichek described the notebook as “a literary robot.”

“It’s very difficult,” Sanders said of the work that goes into it. “It’s almost like a whole robot in itself.”

The outreach portions of the program came a bit easier for the trio.

“We enjoy getting out and meeting new teams, and meeting with our sponsor and things like it,” Michalichek said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

As part of their outreach campaign, the team created an international exchange program.

“We connect local teams with international teams, and have them host the international teams to help them while they’re in the United States for the world championship,” said Michalichek.

In its pilot year, teams from 15 countries participated in the program.

“We aspire to inspire,” said Peter Kersulis, as his teammates groaned and rolled their eyes at his word play. “We like to build up our team as much as we can. Most of our outreach events are mainly helping other teams, presenting, showing people what FIRST is and getting people involved.”

That includes recruiting new members.

“We’re very intent on growing,” Sanders said. “It’s not about just competing and being a successful team, it’s also about pulling in other people to enjoy it with you, be successful with you.”

The team will be showing off their robot and recruiting May 3 and 4 at the Spirit of St. Louis Air Show.

Cafe Bot was a finalist for other awards Saturday, as well.

The John Burroughs School Bombers from St. Louis were named one of the top teams on the playing field at Saturday’s ceremony.

John Burroughs robotics team returns to world competition

24 Apr

This story originally appeared on RealTime/STL.

You know what they say: There are no second chances. But for the John Burroughs School robotics team, on Thursday there was: Technical difficulty with another team’s robot meant they had a second chance in the FIRST Robotics Competition qualification match at the Edward Jones Dome.

This is the second time the 4-year-old team, known as the Bombers, has made it to world competition level.

“When it started, it was basically four of us, sitting around,” said team member Spencer Hesse. “We had the know-how but we didn’t have the manpower or the equipment.”

When the Bombers took the field again Thursday night, the team was confident and their boxy blue bot was ready.

Robotics competitions are team efforts. There’s the team you know — the kids you’ve worked with to build a robot — and the team you don’t. Four teams compete, forming a blue alliance and a red alliance. In this match, the Bombers and the Siberian Beast, from Irkutsk, Russia, formed the blue alliance.

The red alliance won.

After the match, the Bombers said a language barrier played a roll in the loss, their only one at the competition. The Russian team also seemed discouraged.

“There was a little bit of miscommunication between the two teams,” said Bomber Eddie Ko. “Nothing we can’t solve.”

The team returns to competition Friday morning.

“I’m going to brush up on my Russian,” said Ryan Thornton. He may not have been kidding.

Makeup and robots: It all comes together at FIRST

24 Apr

This story originally appeared on RealTime/STL.

Robots are for everyone.

But the science and technology fields have historically been dominated by men, which was why a large booth offering free makeovers and beauty tips was both a little unexpected and very crowded Thursday afternoon at the FIRST robotic championships.

Girls swarm the Jane booth Thursday afternoon at the FIRST robotic championships. Photo by Erica Smith

Girls swarm the Jane booth Thursday afternoon at the FIRST robotic championships. Photo by Erica Smith

The booth, sponsored by Jane Cosmetics Co. and tucked in among tech giants, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force, wants girls to feel empowered and confident, no matter what fields they choose.

“It really inspires young people for greatness and that’s really what we’re all about,” said Lindsay Strull, cosmetics consultant from Los Angeles, as she brushed a thin layer of foundation around Richa’s eyes and nose. She added that the goal is “teaching women they can be strong and they can be beautiful and smart.”

“Some people want a little more,” she said. “Some want a little less.”

Richa interrupted: “Actually, I’m going to RoboProm.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Strull told her as she applied pale pink eyeshadow.

RoboProm is exactly what it sounds like: A dance Thursday night for FIRST participants. “Some people go semi-formal, some get fancy, and some like to get into pretty unique costumes,” the RoboProm site advices. It’s the social event of the championships.

“We actually didn’t know about the RoboProm,” Strull said. “But it’s a prefect reason to get made-over.”

Strull said the booth has been popular with the girls and the moms in attendance, and hopes that the change in pace helps show girls they don’t have to choose between robots and traditional “girly” things.

“It is definitely kind of pampering and being able to spoil the women and girls that are here,” she said. “Because the response from the moms has actually been just as high as the response from the contestants.”

The robots (and lots of young scientists) are coming

21 Apr

This story originally appeared on RealTime/STL.

Prepare yourselves, St. Louisans: The robots are coming. Along with about 12,000 robot handlers, ages 6 to 18.

In all, about 30,000 people are expected to participate in and attend the FIRST Tech Challenge this week at America’s Center. FIRST (an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) seeks to inspire students, teaching them science and technology skills.

Most students arrive Wednesday, and will put their custom-built robots to the test starting Thursday. It all builds up to a robotic showdown Saturday afternoon.

RealTime/STL will be covering the event. Follow Erica Smith on Twitter (@ericasmith) for updates from the event, and watch our site for stories.

To follow the action, follow the #OMGrobots hashtag on Twitter. Or stop by the convention center; admission is free.