Walt Whitman Attending the 2016 National Advocacy Conference

A week ago the team got together at the 2016 National Advocacy conference.  The team received training on several topics, practiced our pitches and networked with teams from across the county.  This is the second year the team has attended the conference and had two students get real world experience working with Maryland’s federal delegation.

We partnered with students from team 1629 and 1111 to meet with Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Benjamin Cardin to discuss FIRST Robotics, education (ESSA and Title IV Part B in particular), and the expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs.  All of the folks representing Maryland were receptive to this message, however the informed us that getting the full 1.65 billion appropriation would be tough.  Here are some specifics on the ask;

  • The newly enacted bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes a flexible block grant program under Title IV Part A, which is authorized at $1.65 billion in FY 2017. Title IV, Part A authorizes activities in three broad areas:
  • Well-rounded education including programs in STEM
  • Safe and healthy students/schools
  • Technology (professional development, blended learning, and devices
    • Districts can use Title IV Part A grants to provide students with a well-rounded education and improve instruction and student engagement in STEM by:
    • Expanding high-quality STEM courses;
      • Increasing access to STEM for underserved and at risk student populations;
      • Supporting the participation of students in STEM nonprofit competitions (such as robotics, science research, invention, mathematics, computer science, and technology competitions);
      • Providing hands-on learning opportunities in STEM;
      • Integrating other academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM subject programs;
      • Creating or enhancing STEM specialty schools;
      • Integrating classroom based and afterschool and informal STEM instruction; and
      • Expanding environmental education.
    • The Title IV Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichments Grants combines (and eliminates) several targeted programs under No Child Left Behind, including the Math and Science Partnership Grants. The Math and Science Partnership grants, which received $152.7M in FY2016, was the largest single program at the Department devoted exclusively to STEM.
    • The President’s FY 2017 budget proposal would provide $500 million for the Title IV A flexible block grant, less than one-third of the authorized $1.65 billion level. of the three listed priorities, or specific activities within one of the priorities.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill in early June to appropriate $300M for Title IV A.
  • Fully fund ESSA Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enhancement Grants at the authorized level of $1.65 billion through regular appropriation bills or through the CR process.

If you would like to learn more about the National Advocacy Conference please check out these materials.

After hitting the hill the team and out 2016 robot Maelstrom relaxed and met with staffers in a more informal setting. As bonus we were lucky enough to meet and talk with Dean Kamen, Senetor Franken from Minnesota and a few other folks that are making big waves on Capital Hill.

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Have you called your elected officials about robots yet?

If you have not taken the time to contact your county council members and Maryland state political leaders in support of robotics, please take some time today!!!  There are two Big Initiatives in the works for Robotics in Maryland and we need your help to make our voices heard!!!!

FIRST_FRC-Program-Excitement FIRST_FRC-Program-ItsaExp_0 FIRST_FRC-Program-HardestFun
Please take the time to reach out to our elected officials so we can help grow robotics!


We Need Your Voice

There are two Big Initiatives in the works for Robotics in Maryland and we need your help to make our voices heard!!!!

 FIRST_FRC-Program-Excitement FIRST_FRC-Program-ItsaExp_0 FIRST_FRC-Program-HardestFun
Please take the time to reach out to our elected officials so we can help grow robotics!


The drive train is done

Two days before the big snow storm that is going to keep us out of the shop for 4 days… We finished the CAD for the drive train and are doing our first big parts order tomorrow so that when we get back next Tuesday we can get right to work. The team is also building a complete robot prototype so that we can check all of the systems and make sure the geometry works.  Right now we are still on schedule to get done building by the end of week 4. Woo Hoo!!!

The electrical and coding team were playing with their new versa flex encoders connected to talons and have made the descision to use talons for every aspect of the robot to reduce wiring. In addition to all of this robot fun, the team has a plan for getting awards, graphics, flags, posters, story boarding for chairman’s, writing, video production and technical documents.  We are going to put these snow days to good use.

Here are some pics of the shop tonight, and maybe if you look really hard you may see our drive base…

Branding and Media



As the number of teams increases every year, it’s easy to see why brands are more important now than at any time in the past 26 years. Brands are psychology and science brought together as a promise mark as opposed to a trademark. Robots have 5 month life cycles. Brands outlive seasons. Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. Brands are valuable. Many teams rely on the value of their brand to boost their performance and odds of winning competitions. Here is a quick video that describes branding;

Team Naming

You may already have decided on a name for your team or decided to just take your school name, but if not, take a step back as the right team name can make a real difference. The following articles have been written in an effort to help you choose a team name that will help your team stand out. Choosing the right team name is a key part of your team’s branding strategy and you will be stuck with it for years to come, so a little extra thought and effort in the early stages really can pay dividends.



A logo is simply a graphic that represents your team. Typically, logos are simple, making them easy to remember. Logos are also connected to advertisements in the form of posters, flyers, videos so your school and community can learn to associate the logo with the team. It is easy to print logos on team documents such as awards, web sites, white papers, buttons, robots, videos, and stickers that can be handed out to expand the reach of the team at competition.

Some tips for creating logos

  • Find a sponsors that could create one for you
  • Ask a team member who likes graphics to design one
  • Reach out to the art club at your school or in your community for help

Here are some articles you can use to get started on your logo design

Graphic Elements & Standards

Once you have created your logo you will need to create a set of design “rules” that tie together the look and feel of all your marketing materials. These rules are often referred to as “brand standards.” Ideally, brand standards do the double duty of creating awareness of your brand and differentiating your brand from other teams. It is recommended that even the smallest teams develop and maintain brand standards. The breadth and depth of brand standards can vary greatly, depending on your needs. Keep in mind that if you are too strict, you may hem yourself in creatively, while if you are too loose, design chaos can result. Focus on strategy and consistency, check these articles out for details on how to create your brand standards

Examples from other teams and organizations


Unless you’re a design professional you’d probably find yourself very surprised at just how much time, effort and money goes into choosing the perfect font for a particular brand. You’ll never find big companies like Coca Cola, IBM, Microsoft or Google opting for a default font, for example. In fact most of these companies have reinvented typography to enhance their own brand awareness. So how do you go about choosing the perfect font for your brand or business? Well the first choice you need to make is between fonts which are viewed as being more traditional in nature, or something far more modern instead. Here are some resources t help you pick the right font for your team;



Color sends a powerful message and is key to representing your team brand. Your brand color is the most important element of your visual brand identity. People remember color because it stirs up emotions. Therefore, you want to choose colors that best represent your team and your brand.

Videos & Animation

Video content is thriving more than ever before, and print is rapidly giving way to the 30-second scripts. With massive studies done by the likes of Wistia, YouTube, and Ooyala on video engagement, and with video projected to take up over 90 percent of the online content pie within the next decade, it’s hardly surprising that teams are scrambling to keep up with the expectations set by great FRC teams, YouTube celebrities and Viners. Here are some resources to help you create better videos

Video branding resources



Once you have created all of the visual elements of your brand you will now need to use it in all of your digital and print media.


Info-graphics are the most effective way to quickly communicate a complex story.


Info graphic resources


Social Media

Social media is a way to connect on a different level with your sponsors, volunteers and students. Use it to create that personal connection with people. Why? Because relationships are super important and can be your competitive advantage. Leverage the channels it provides to be genuine and reveal a little more about your company, your brand, and yourself.


Social media branding tips



Branding your robot is a form of product branding? Simply put, product branding is how a product interacts with its consumer audience through design, logo, and messaging. It is difficult to settle on one product branding definition because branding triggers an emotional connection in consumers. If done well, product branding can be maintained and produce a solid, well-connected connection throughout the life of the product. The challenge, however, lies in how much capacity your team has to execute a well branded robot. When you start to think about branding an FRC robot you should consider the following;

  • Color scheme
  • Robot name
  • Team name
  • Sponsors logos
  • Bumpers

Product branding tips

  • Product branding



Another form of product branding is your pit. A great pit will help you build brand awareness and bring awareness to your team. You need to spend time designing a creative, professional looking interactive exhibit to have a big impact at an FRC competition.



Creating brand apparel is almost a necessity for teams. Team t-shirts are how most teams get involved with branded apparel. Branded apparel is great way to create new loyalties with your sponsors, volunteers and students and enlist them to spread your name to new audiences. But you have to do it in a way that creates viral sensations, not just oversized promotional T-shirts that end up at the bottom of someone’s closet. Team’s should consider making polo’s, sweatshirts, hoodies and other wearable items to create team unity and help teams make an impact at events.

Dress code

Strong brands, both personal and business, are clear in their communication. They know the level of detail it takes to reinforce their message because they have invested the time to do the research. The branding process is about developing clarity in goals, vision, and purpose. Brand clarity brings awareness to the details that will help to reinforce or detract from the brand, and this is why companies in particular establish dress code policies.


Additional Resources

Videos & Animation

Teams are asked to create one animation for the safety award and one video for the chairman’s award each year. Many teams also choose to make additional videos each year; please become a mentor, please volunteer, please sponsor us, thanks for sponsoring us, build season summary, event summary, robot reveal, season in year review and thank you parents videos. Here are some resources to help teams with the technical side of the videos.

Videos / Animations

All video / animation are designed for a purpose. You need to be able to identify what the video / animation is trying to achieve so that all of the design and content decisions have a common purpose. For that reason, before you start your video / animation you should answer the following questions;

  • What is the video / animation you plan to create?
  • What are the aims of your video / animation?
  • What is the target audience of your video / animation?

After you have your questions answered you need to brain storm ideas. Once you have your idea you will need to create a story board.


Story Boarding

When you’re planning a video / animation, the first step in the process is to make a storyboard so you can bring your script to life and present it to other people. A storyboard is a series of thumbnails that show the breakdown of the video, illustrating the key scenes — how the setting will look, who will be present, and what actions will take place. It’s often used as a mock-up for movie scenes, music videos, TV production, and more, and can be created by hand or using a digital medium. Read on to learn how to map your story, illustrate the key frames and fine tune your storyboard.

Tips on story boarding

Then you need to select your video / animation tool and make your video / animation.


Video Tools


Animation Tools


Video Tips

Like any other task you need to take on only what you can accomplish based on your skill and the time allotted. If you don’t have any knowledge about making a video or animation. So here are some tips on creating videos.


Animation Tips

Here are some tips on creating animations.



Video Examples


Animation Examples


Music & Sound Effects

We humans use all of our senses in communication and since we can’t taste, touch or smell video, the soundtrack is an extremely important way to convey your message. Here is an article with some great tips on picking the music and sounds for your video / animation.

Free music

Free sound effects


Additional Resources

  • TBD




The 2016 Safety Animation Award Rules are Out

Safety Animation

The 2016 Safety Animation Award topic is “Working Safely With Your Robot”.

Every FIRST Robotics Competition team designs, builds, and competes with a robot. Every team also needs to work safely with their robot when it’s being built and tested, when it’s being moved to and from various locations at events, and when it’s being moved to and from the events themselves. Create an animation showing our community the best practices for handling the robot during these times! Your animation doesn’t necessarily need to show all three of these contexts, but if you can do so in a fun and engaging way – and in the time limit for the animation – please do. Also, please create videos in keeping with the medieval theme of the 2016 FRC season. This is not a requirement, but we would love to select, as our winner, an animation that highlights best safety practices while keeping within our theme. Get creative, and help keep your fellow teams safe!

Animations must:

    • Be no more than 40 seconds long, including opening and credits
    • Be submitted electronically as .AVI, .MPEG, .MP4, or .WMV file
    • Actually be animated. Any kind of animation, including stop-motion, is allowed.

Please note that the team with the winning submission may be asked to reformat their video into a higher quality format, in order to be shown at FRC Events.

If using copyrighted music, you must have written permission. If using Creative Commons Music (CCM) online, the music must be used in accordance with the appropriate license and properly attributed.

Lyrics in music may not contain explicit or suggestive language.

Any animation that does not meet these criteria will not be considered for the award.


Animations must be submitted by your team’s student award submitter in STIMS between Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 12:00 PM, Noon (ET) and Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 3:00 PM, (ET).

By making a submission the Submitter irrevocably grants to FIRST and designees of FIRST the right to use any or all of the submission in any and all media for the purpose of describing the submission, describing the Award, and/or otherwise promoting FIRST and the programs of FIRST.


The 2015 Safety Animation Award theme is Safety Superheroes.  The winning videos are shown below.  Thank you to all 198 teams who participated and congratulations to the winners!

1st PLACE: FRC Team 133, B.E.R.T. from Standish, Maine, USA


Team 2473, Goldstrikers from Cupertino, California, USA

Team 2574, RoboHuskie from St. Anthony, Minnesota, USA


UL Safety Smart Ambassador Training


Become a Safety Smart Ambassador and help UL teach children to manage themselves and their surroundings as safely as possible through the Safety Smart Program.  In this tutorial, Bill Nye the Science Guy will teach FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) students how to educate, engage and empower young children to practice safe, healthy and environmentally responsible behavior.  FRC students will be introduced to the Wild About Safety DVD series of animated stories, user-friendly ambassador guides, and fun activities.  Bill will explain how to share reassuring, clear and confidence building messages, why the Safety Smart Ambassador program is important, where to find the materials, and how to conduct a Safety Smart event.  Check out the tutorial, become a UL Safety Smart Ambassador, be a part of helping children make the right choices and decisions regarding public health, safety and environmental stewardship, it’s easy and fun. To register, please visit: http://firstrobotics.learnshare.com.