In 2004 a group of students came together with some very motivated parents to start FRC team 1389. The original name for our team was Popender and the team competed at the 2004 Chesapeake Regional. We had a lot of help from teams 888 the Glenelg Robotiators and team 1111 the Power Hawks who were able to provide parts and guidance on our rookie year robot. The team had a very independent spirit in its rookie year, here is a quote from one the team’s founding members:
My team, 1389, had only 2 adults helping us out, neither of whom were engineers. They did help us very much when needed, but we pretty much took care of things on our own. There is not part of the robot that at least 1 or 2 people don’t COMPLETELY understand, and we figured everything out based on resources on the FIRST website, previous knowledge, trial and error, etc. We were able to learn so much because it is what we had to do in order to build the robot. If adults want to help the team, then teach members off season, so you can test their knowledge during the season. Otherwise, how are they really making any progress?
After our rookie year the team changed its name to team Robit and started to get a bit more serious about making a good robot. We attended a build season scrimmage with 18 other teams and ran into some issue that the team was able to fix prior to competition. This gave us the leg up we needed to perform well at the 2005 Chesapeake Regional. So well in fact that we went on to our first and only World Championships. We also attended our first off season event, Capital Clash which helped our team learn more in the off season and gave us our first taste of eliminations.
The hard work from the previous two seasons paid off in 2006 when the team was selected for the 3rd alliance and made it all the way to the semifinals. This success continued to motivate the team through the off season where they competed in not one but two off season events.
2007 was a tough year for the team. It had lost some of the founding members and some key parents who were doing a lot of the heavy administrative lifting for the team. The team competed at the 2007 Chesapeake Regional, but struggled to put single digits up on the board for their alliance.
In 2008 the team started to get back some of it mojo and attended a build season play day with other teams from the national capital region. However, the team struggled with low team attendance, minimal mentor participation and did not get much traction on or off the field for the next few seasons. One bright spot was that team decided to change its name to the Body Electric in honor of the Walt Whitman Poem by the same name.
In 2010 the team attended the USA Science and Engineering Festival at the National Mall in Washington DC. Also in 2010, as luck would have it the team was a recipient of one of the $5,000 NASA sustaining grants. This funding created some momentum that carried the team into the 2011 season, when the team earned its first winning record and attended its first off season event in over 5 years.
The momentum continued into 2012 when the team earned its way to the semifinals as a first pick at the Greater DC Regional. Walt Whitman also attended two regional events for the first time in the team’s history. With the success came more students and some growing pains. Historically, the team made decisions by committee. But with over 25 kids on the team getting consensus became harder. This resulted in team leadership fractures and an increase in stress for students, mentors and parents. The team’s new teacher Mr. Chen, who was new to FIRST and FRC recognized the need for more structure and started to implement some organization for the 2013 season.
The team performed well in 2013, making into eliminations at its second regional as a first pick, and earned a finalist award. This year over year success led to even more growth and more change for the team. The team pushed through the season, but vowed to examine itself and make the changes necessary to create a great learning environment for the students that would allow the team to continue to succeed.
In 2014 the team was now up to 3 technical mentors, 4 non-technical mentors, 1 teacher and 35 students. This was the largest the team had ever been. The team had also instituted some processes to help with decision making, communication and organization. The team was confident it would have a great season with all of the resources it now had at its disposal. The team did trade studies, used CAD and worked with a supplier to fabricate the drive train all, for the first time in the team’s history. The team’s expectations were high, however delays with fabrication and taking on more than the team could accomplish resulted in a robot that had to be rebuilt between our two regional events. What some saw as a bad season, other saw as one of the best learning experiences a team could have. The Walt Whitman students tore through all of the failures and learned more about design, fabrication, scouting and working within our means than they had in all of their previous season combined.
In 2015 the team was ready to break out from the past that had helped it get to this season and start to be the team that they always knew they could be. They started the season off with a game analysis that was spot on and allowed the team to design the best robot the team had ever designed. Not only did the team make it into eliminations at every one of the 5 tournaments it attended. It was an alliance captain at 2 of the 5, it was in the finals at 2 of the 5 and it won 1 of the 5. This was the best season the team had ever had and it has created more momentum than the team has ever had going into a season.
In preparation for 2016 FRC season the team has taken the success from 2015 and doubled down. The team is working harder in the off season to improve ourselves, our school and our community than we have ever done before. The team is growing faster and more capable and will continue to learn from our failures so that each year we break our own records and maybe in a few years we start breaking world records.
We can’t wait to see what this season has in store for us…
Take a look at details and images from previous season