1024 students started back to school about three weeks ago, and today marks our third team meeting of the school year. So far we have done a lot of cleaning in our shop. It’s good to start fresh, and that means making sure that all of our supplies and rooms are organized. With our Vex teams working in their own area this year, we are able to make better use of our shop area. We also have new a few new large pieces of machinery, including a brand new CNC.

We also have a couple new mentors helping out this year. Cody is a 25 year old software engineer who participated in college robotics at Valparaiso. He is already improving our programming skills across the board. Mark is a former 1024 student, now engineer, proving that once a Byte, always a Byte.

Next week, on August 31st, we will host our Fall Open House for new students, families, and potential sponsors. If you know of any people interested in joining our team, let them know that they’re invited to this Open House event. We can always use more eager students, mentors, and sponsors.

Now that we are back to meeting once a week, look for more regular updates on Twitter and here on our blog!

Our FIRST Robotics team, 1024, the Kil-A-Bytes, is participating in an amazing fundraising opportunity through the Brackets for Good organization.

Brackets for Good is a non-profit program that matches other non-profit organizations against each other, in a head-to-head fundraising competition.

When you donate to IndianaFIRST through Brackets for Good, and indicate in the memo line that your donation should go to team 1024, the Kil-A-Bytes, you will be supporting our amazing program. Please note that IndianaFIRST (another worthy cause) receives 10% of your donation for administrative processing and operational expenses.

When you make your donation, do two things:

  1. Write in the memo line “1024, the Kil-A-Bytes”
  2. Click on the “Buzzer Beater” option to make half of your donation appear at the very last second of the round, surprising our opponents at the end of our matchup.

Please share this link and these instructions with family members, friends, employers, and any new potential sponsors for our team.

https://indianapolis.bfg.org/matchup/indianafirst-inc

TEAM MISSION STATEMENT:

We strive to empower local students to further their knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) through mentor-based robotics programs that aid in applying experiences to future careers by emphasizing individual and team achievements, attention to details, leadership skills, and integrity that includes gracious professionalism™.

Our core values include collaboration with students, mentors, and STEAM professionals; excellence in individual student achievement, communication skills, and a highly competitive robot design and strategy; and empowerment through respect for others (including opponents), growth in self-confidence, and leadership skills.

Our vision for the Mckenzie Center for Innovation and Technology (MCIT) Robotics program is to help our students feel comfortable and confident in their ability to learn techniques and real world skills, like communication, teamwork, and leadership. These skills can be applied to future jobs and experiences. About 94% of our 123 alumni pursue science, technology, and/or engineering futures. About 93% successfully move on to secondary education after high school. This is 3% higher than our overall school district

Our 2017 Kil-A-Bytes leadership team has 6 students and 12 mentors. Our ideology is that experienced students teach the newer students how to use the machines and about our shop’s organization. Typically new students start with the VEX Robotics program then transition into our FRC team. Through student-led concept and design reviews, students gain leadership skills and team communication thrives.


TEAM ORIGIN:

The McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology began its FIRST journey in 2003. Located in Lawrence, IN, the Kil-A-Bytes shop began as a 25 by 35 ft classroom; now we have a fully functional machine shop four times that size. Our in-house capabilities include: CNC mills, lathes, 3-D printers, and many other machines donated to us. In 2016, we won all three district events, the Indiana State Championship, the Woodie Flowers Finalist award, and multiple Industrial Design awards. At the World Championship we were Finalists in the Carson Division.

Team 1024 has grown from it’s original 12 to 38 current students. Female student participation increased from 15% our rookie season to 19% in 2016 and is now 23%. When the team was formed, we only had six mentors; we now have a total of 12 who help shape and mold us into a highly competitive, winning team. Six of these mentors are FRC alumni.

This year our team experienced many changes that challenged us to improve. With growth in students and machines, our shop was disorganized before the season started. We spent weeks in the Fall planning and then creating shelves and hangers for our tools, and crates for our supplies. Our founding mentor, Jason, moved out of state; his influence is always key to our competitive success. We overcame this challenge by using our new telepresence robot for remote mentoring. Another obstacle was deciding who will be our new student leaders. Strong 2016 leaders graduated and passed their roles to younger members, three Seniors and three Juniors.


ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE:

Kil-A-Byte students and parents raise about 28% of our budget by selling poinsettias during the holidays and working concessions at the Indiana Robotics Invitational in the summer. They also help fundraising efforts by recruiting local professionals and business owners. For example this year, student Sam wrote a letter to the Jochum-Moll Foundation who awarded us a grant of $2,500 and a telepresence robot for remote mentoring. We always thank sponsors with a personalized framed plaque that highlights our accolades. The funds raised are managed properly by lead mentor, Jeff Smith, and processed through the school’s treasurer, allowing us to function as a tax deductible program.

The Kil-A-Bytes recruit students and mentors to join each year by participating in open houses, local school expos, and demos. Students who participate make up a cultural blend from multiple high schools who we recruit by word of mouth, flyers around the schools, and teacher encouragement. This year’s students from Lawrence Central and Lawrence North high schools, and homeschool programs.

Holding FIRST values like gracious professionalism to a high standard, our team competes like champions and cheers on every robot regardless of team number. An example of this is when we hosted an Israeli team for IRI. We provided transportation to them after learning they had walked to the event from their hotel. We placed their pits between us and team 234 for easy access to help. One of our mentors, Mr. Smith, hosted a bonfire for them, invited them to his house to swim, and took them to Dave & Busters.


RELATIONSHIPS:

On the Kil-A-Bytes, communication and team structure is key to our success. Our hierarchy of leadership is annually fluid, based on student skills. Student leaders educate peers on how to use tools and machines, lead concept and design reviews, and inspire other students to become leaders in the future. Mentors on 1024 bring a variety of expertise that mesh well together and inspire students to learn an abundance of new skills. As the team grows, new students participate in VEX, so competent students assimilate faster into FRC. Most 1024 students are inspired by our team to take high level weighted or dual credit high school courses.

Through 2014-2016 we engaged students in robotics and STEAM at eight local schools through demos and live events. In the community we volunteer at demonstrations like GenCon’s League of Extraordinary Programmers to educate and spread the word about FIRST. In our two township schools, team 1024 students help run middle school robotics camps as well as VEX IQ events. These programs help kids, without previous robotics experience, engage in activities that inspires them to pursue FIRST in the future.

Relationships with our sponsors are critical. Our team engages sponsors by writing them letters and emails, as well as live personal demos. At the end of every season we send them a thank you plaque. This year, we will invite all of our sponsors to our team bonfire celebration. This helps us inspire a deeper connection with our sponsors that entails more than just money and creates lasting bonds that retain donors year to year.


DEPLOYMENT OF RESOURCES:

We attend many events in our local community, doing service work, and spreading FIRST values. All of this advances the appreciation of science and technology in our community. This is a brief list of some of our regular activities that help the community of Indiana FIRST:

Geist Half Marathon clean-up and recycling
Maker Faire Exhibition
Celebrate Science Exhibition
Rolls-Royce Open House demonstration
Interactive Intelligence demonstration
Community North Health Fair Exhibition
Indiana Blood Drive at IRI
Tech Summer Camp for Lawrence Township middle school students
JW Marriott Science Exchange demonstration
PopCon demonstration
GenCon League of Extraordinary Programmers demonstration
Incrediplex demonstration
VEX IQ competition volunteers at Fall Creek Valley
Plus various other elementary and middle school presentations.

Participating in these exhibitions and demonstrations continues to inspire those who get to see our robots in action, encouraging more and more people to get involved in FIRST. This is evident when talking to current 1024 students who remember past Kil-A-Byte presentations and demonstrations at their middle schools and elementary schools. When students lead presentations in the community, they gain important public speaking skills and confidence. Students cite how important it is to give back to former schools and teachers who inspired them, and how doing so invokes a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Volunteering provides a sense of community to our team members.


FUTURE PLANS:

In the next three years, Team 1024’s future plans include improving our sponsorship base to increase our budget by at least $15,000. Participating in the IndianaFIRST Brackets for Good incentives is a new focus for us this year, which allows new sponsors to streamline their donation. To encourage companies to become part of our team, we plan to have open houses for sponsors to come to see our progress. We will also invite sponsors to our end of the year team bonfire celebration.

We plan to improve our inter-team relationships by having more team-building events besides just bonfires. We also plan to have alumni events and trainings to help our team members learn from our previous team members. We will improve our award documentation process to include submitting for the Chairman’s Award and documenting our team impact year-round. We also want to recruit students from other local schools (specifically Lawrence Central and Heritage Christian High School) that currently are not involved in FRC. These improvements can help us achieve two of our major goals: winning the World Championship and IRI.

Improving our community outreach is another way of expanding FIRST’s impact. One of our main future plans is to have more FRC students mentor lower level robotics teams. We also plan on presenting FIRST to local groups, like the Lawrence Community Development Corporation. With the goal of creating rookie teams to help IndianaFIRST grow, we will present our team to private schools such as Cathedral, Bishop Chatard, and St. Lawrence high schools.


FINANCIAL STATEMENT:

Started July 1, 2015 with $9,747.14
Ended June 30th 2016 with $12,852.18
2015-2016 Spent: $36,728.25
2015-2016 Received: $39,833.29

We have about $40,000 in our 2016-2017 budget, coming from a variety of sources. Our gracious sponsors donate about 32% of funding, the largest from Rolls Royce, MTD, and Service Engineering. Another 30%of our budget comes from annual $400 student fees; however, if a student can’t afford this rigorous bill they still earn their way to competitions by coaching at our annual robotics camp, facilitating sponsorships, and gaining credit for working team events. Students also solicit donations from their dentists, doctors, and family member’s businesses. Only about 10% of our team budget comes from grants. The remaining 28% comes from fundraising efforts, including selling poinsettias during the holidays, and in the summer working concessions at the Indiana Robotics Invitational. These two fundraisers are valuable student efforts that not only raise money but develop a solid work ethic in team members.

We expect to spend about 90% of our budget during the 2016-2017 season. The expenses involved are costly; however, we always make sure that our budget gets dispersed responsibly. The breakdown follows: our robot expenses cost about 15%, Team uniforms are about 3%, Travel fees need about 50%, and other miscellaneous expenses (including registration for official events) consume about 22% of our budget. We expect to roll over about 10% of our budget to next year. We also have lofty a goal of recruiting more sponsors to increase our budget by $15,000.


RISK ANALYSIS:

STRENGTHS: Thanks to our school’s Career Center, our diverse students bring many skills, including CAD, programming, machining, and documenting. All members have a constant sense of determination and dedication: we know our failures lead to improvements in the future. Mentors are incredibly helpful and provide assorted expertise. Student and mentor collaboration is valued. Our organization and time management skills are strong.

WEAKNESSES: We need to engage our sponsors year-round better. Keeping our shop clean needs more attention. This is only the second year we created awards submissions, and they need higher priority on the team. Also, keeping in better contact with our alumni would enhance our potential.

OPPORTUNITIES: Engaging in more outreach events is vital because they allow potential recruits to talk with our team and learn all about robotics. We’d also like to better prepare our student leaders. Currently we have ways to contact our alumni, however we need to improve how often we do so, to increase alumni impact on our team through mentoring, training, and networking with potential sponsors. Brackets for Good is another opportunity to recruit new sponsors.

THREATS: Our founding mentor, Mr. Smith, has been teaching before the team’s creation 14 years ago and there’s always possibility of his retirement. Jason, another key mentor, is moving out of state due to his job; we keep in contact thanks to our new telepresence robot. Student leaders graduating and being replaced by younger students is another worry. Losing sponsors is the biggest potential threat.

Last year, our main student programmer couldn’t make it to a Stronghold competition where we competed. Mark, as a sophomore, took the lead, and actually was able to figure out a programming problem that we’d struggled with all year. It’s this move-forward attitude that showcases why we are nominating Mark for the 2017 Dean’s List Award.

Mark never gets short with anyone. He understands his own limits and will stay composed, cool, and patient when under stress. This season Mark was using an old robot to prototype using an encoder on our fuel shooter, training more inexperienced students. Instead of getting upset when the other students were goofing around, Mark led by example, staying calm and focused. Because of him, we will have students who are capable of programming in years to come.

Mark has grown from a kid that was afraid of failing into a young man who is willing to try new things regardless of how they turn out. Yes, failure still sometimes frustrates him, as it does all of us, but, he has learned that even in failure there is success through learning. When adapting to a new vision tracking system, the Pixy camera, he didn’t hesitate to experiment. He has begun to give the other team members challenges and let them fail until they succeed, passing on this lesson to not fear failure.

As a programmer, Mark has always had skills with syntax. His abilities have grown in the areas of organization, planning and structure. Just the other day, he very happily said, “Hey look, we almost have no code in the main robot.” Why is this important? It demonstrates that, instead of just piling more code in the same place, he used methods to structure the code before writing, thus creating modularity. This is more the “art” of coding that some people never quite grasp.

Mark is also championing the use of Github to backup code. This is something that a programmer should always learn yet has been a failure on our team for many years. Mark is embracing the things a leader needs to do to ensure his team has the best opportunity for success.

Dedicated to increasing the awareness of FIRST in Indiana, Mark participates in many of our team’s outreach activities. For example, this past year, at the GenCon League of Extraordinary Programmers demo, Mark inspired local software developers to become involved in FIRST as mentors and volunteers. At the Science and Exchange fair that took place at the J.W. Marriott he presented FIRST and our team to interested potential supporters.

A Junior at Lawrence North High School, Mark’s academic success is apparent just by looking at his GPA of 4.0+. His future is bright no matter what he decides to study in college, but we are grateful that we have one more year with him as a member of the Kil-A-Bytes.

It’s always impressive when a freshman in high school joins a team and makes an immediate impact on the varsity squad. Keith did just that when he joined team 1024 and was awarded a coveted spot on the pit crew, fixing the robot as needed and helping the team win one District Event and the State Championship. The next year, as a sophomore, he set his sights higher, taking over the huge responsibility as the robot operator and calmly helped bring home three District Event wins, the State Championship win, and the Carson Division Finalists award at the World Championship. Not one to let success get to his head, Keith applied to be a student leader, determined to help our team be even more successful his junior year.

We hold all of our team members to high expectations. Keith holds himself to higher and shows an eagerness to learn and take on the challenge of building a robot. He models a good work ethic and positive attitude for his peers. He is one of few students who can be counted on to focus on a task and see that it gets done, even when there are more interesting projects on the other side of the shop. An example of this is when Keith took time away from robot build to help with our Entrepreneurship Award submission in the middle of Build Season. His expertise about the team was needed for writing at that moment, and he successfully transferred his robot build task to a younger student, showing that leaders know how to delegate.

As a member of our student leadership council, Keith led other students through the prototyping, designing, and building of our Fuel handling subsystem this year. He also was in charge of documenting this whole process and leading discussions about design decisions regarding his mechanism. During team concept and design reviews, Keith answered team members’ questions clearly and thoughtfully, once again showing his calm demeanor.

Keith is rarely absent from team meetings and attends all competitions. His dedication to the team is apparent; moreover, he’s devoted to inspiring younger students to pursue FIRST and STEM careers in the future. In the offseason, he serves as a coach at robotics camps, the last two summers for middle-school and upper-elementary kids. This year, he’s trying to collaborate more with the middle-school robotics teams, to try to increase student participation and involvement in the community, as well as develop student leadership for them.

Keith learns quickly and is able to complete tasks with only little instruction. He is not afraid to ask questions but has the confidence to make decisions in order to keep working when mentors are unavailable. He is able to use what he has learned to assist his teammates. Keith was one of the first students to be trained in using the team’s CNC router and has since trained other students to master this machine. His experience drawing 3D models in Inventor has been instrumental in this year’s robot design. Given a few minutes discussion and a rough sketch on a white board, he can turn an idea into a robot mechanism. He has the patience and attention to detail to work through the nuance of a design problem before rushing to a solution.

It’s evident, by the way that people rely on him at every team meeting, Keith is one of the most valued members of the Kil-A-Bytes, and we are honored to nominate him for the 2017 Dean’s List Award.

Being on Team 1024 has certainly been a journey. I started off as a freshman, the year of 2014-2015, and at the time I was primarily just a VEX kid. The first time I ever did anything pertaining to FRC was the last week of build season that year. I had no clue what I was doing, and I felt quite out of place, but two juniors who were on the team (Kaylee and Cameron) reeled me in for the night and showed me some of the cool things that were being made for the robot. A few weeks later I went to my first ever FRC competition in Kokomo, which was a very interesting experience. That year’s competition season led to some even more fascinating experiences. I almost met Dean Kamen (one of the founders of FIRST), I wrote an essay about Dean Kamen (hoping one day I could show it to him), and it was my first time going to St. Louis for the World Championship. My freshman year was definitely more than I expected it to be.

2016 season was even better. Our team won all of the Indiana events, including the State Championship, and we made it to the World Championship a second time, which was quite exciting. It was cool to have continuous recognition from the whole IndianaFIRST community and our school district.

But this year, as a junior myself, has been the most eventful, and that’s just within Build Season. I’ve learned so much from the mentors, especially Allison. She has given me the task of building the drivetrain for the comp bot and practice bot. And through this, she has taught a lot about what and whatnot to do when it comes to building something important, which has earned her a spot in my favourite mentors list.

-Angel, Junior

I have been with the Kil-A-Bytes for about three to four years so far depending on if you count my freshman year in high school. At that time I was in VEX Robotics, but I would still stick around during the Wednesdays because they were the end of the VEX meetings and the start of the FRC meetings. I would help around where I could, a little bit here and a little bit there. I was quite active for a VEX kid helping with the FRC team. It was kind of awesome how me and another student managed to make the tank-track robot have suspension on it.

The following years I was (and am at the time of me writing this) an official member of the FRC team 1024, the Kil-A-Bytes. Over the years I have seen people come and go, most commonly ageing out of the program. After this year I will also graduate from the team. We have a lot of newcomers this year, and it is a good thing too, as many of us are on our way out. There are many great memories that I have with this team, and some great experiences, and I have learned some great skills because of this team. I will miss the ones here with me this year, as much as I miss those who are gone like Ryan, Bobby, and Zack.

My best best friend, Cris Carter, is also a part of the FRC, he is  part of the FRC team 1747, Harrison Boiler Robotics. He is really great guy to know. We knew each other before robotics, but we both are really happy to be part of our teams and it is awesome to see him at competitions.

By Jacob C.

2016 and 2017 are the years that I wanted to try new things. While trying new activities has always been difficult for me, I was ready to take on the challenge. This year when someone mentioned robotics to me, I believed that it might not be a bad idea, considering that I was looking for an extracurricular to do. I also thought that it would be great for me to look into robotics since I have never attempted anything in the engineering field.

I remember the first day that I came to the shop and was actually quite surprised. I remember being immediately welcomed by both mentors and team members. My anxiety from before arriving to the shop dissipated, and I felt very comfortable. Prior to coming to the robotics shop, I simply thought that robotics was like one giant team project where people only connected on a “business casual” relationship. However, this is not the case at all. Multiple team members have told me that not only is robotics a place where people come together to build an awesome robot, but it is also a place where people come together and develop team building skills and, as some people would say “a family like relationship.” Team members and mentors are incredibly helpful and patient, which I very much appreciate.

Though I haven’t been on the robotics team for that long, I am really enjoying my time on the team. I’m learning a lot about the different tools in the shop and started to learn about the CAD program Inventor. I realize that robotics is not so much what you know, but rather, how much you can learn and apply your engineering, programing, and building skills. I’m glad to feel welcome in the shop and that everyone on the team is willing to help me learn new things, whether that is learn how to use a new machine, a new tool, understanding a new program, as well as the many other aspects of robotics. I’m excited to pursue more robotics activities and ready to learn more about the engineering skills and all that robotics has to offer.

By Emily, Sophomore

Hello I’m Sarah, and this my first year on FIRST Robotics team 1024, the Kil-A-Bytes. Since I have joined the team, I have learned many new skills like building, communication, and data collecting. In robotics I was put up to the task of learning scouting. At first I thought that scouting wasn’t for me, but I was persuaded that this job was one of the best ways for me to contribute to the team.

When I started looking at scouting I found that the team wanted to use a program called Tableau, which is provided for free to every FIRST Robotics team. This program helps people organize their data into charts and graphs, so everyone can decipher the information. Come to find out, my mom uses Tableau for her job! I have asked her for help teach me how to use this program, and along the way, I’m learning how to build up my own data collecting skills for the team.

The tasks that I need to work on include identifying the man variables (what you want to measure) in the game. I also learned about writing down your variables and all possible ways to get them. Another task I need to work on is creating a format (scouting sheet) for the data. The most important thing I learned so far is that scouts need to understand the game and all of the components very well, because if you don’t you will never know where to start.

I can’t wait to try scouting in the 2017 FIRST Robotics competition, Steamworks! I also wish good luck to all teams!

-Sarah, Sophomore

2017 marks the second half of my sophomore year in high school. In the fall and winter of my freshman and sophomore years I participated on the 1024 VEX team. Freshman year my team finished third in the finals of every competition we were at, while this year my team didn’t even qualify for the finals at the only competition we’ve been to. 2017 also marks my first year on the 1024 FRC team. Although I don’t know much of the programming language, I joined the programming team to hopefully learn more. Some major differences between VEX and FRC are obviously the programming language, size of the robots, the overall technical aspects of the games, etc. But more specifically I’d like to talk about how the team is structured. In VEX we split into 5-6 teams, each one building and working on their own robot. The team is still unified as one, but if pitted against each other at competitions we showed no mercy to one another. Meanwhile, here at FRC, we still split into different teams, but here it’s divided into building, programming, and design teams, all working together to make one robot.

Overall I feel like FRC is a much more difficult challenge than VEX, in terms of both game complexity and robot design. In VEX, you use a select set of metal parts that you can bend and alter at your leisure, although you have to go off of what you start with and some pieces aren’t as customizable as others. Meanwhile in FRC you can more freely design and use your own parts, rather than have to use a specific set of parts. I also feel like there’s a closer bond between FRC teammates than there is between VEX teammates, what with the team dinners on Monday and Wednesday, and all teams needing to work together and communicate to accomplish one common goal. Also having a distinct time crunch with the build season lasting only a small handful of weeks gives us more of a drive to get things done as opposed to being unproductive for several meetings at a time. Overall I feel like the experience in FRC is more productive than VEX, as in VEX we only met two nights a week for two hours each, as opposed to four nights a week for three hours each. To anyone considering joining FRC in the future, I suggest you join your school’s VEX or VEX IQ team first, as they are both perfect entries into competitive robotics.

-Sophomore Kylan