This post is a brief history of what VEX robotics and the FIRST Robotics community have inspired me to achieve. My hope is that this post also inspires others.
I first fell in love with robotics after watching the first episode of the t.v. show, Cubix: Robots for Everyone. I won’t give details but in short, the show was about a boy and his friends who went on adventures with their robot friends fighting good and evil.
After watching it, I began to experiment with electronics, and a year later in my 4th grade science class we did experiments with simple circuits. This intrigued me, and my teacher inspired me to learn more. During that summer, I got an electronics kit where I built a simple AM radio from the instructions. Once again, I was amazed.
For the next 3 years I bought Owi Robot kits and assembled them. Usually I would mix and match parts from two kits and try to make one robot. I can still remember the very first robot I built by myself without any instructions. It consisted of two small, DC motors hot-glued to a floppy disk and plugged into a microcontroller from one of my kits. The wheels were just bottle caps shoved onto the axles of the DC motors! It was really a pathetic little robot, but I was proud of it.
A couple years later and I discovered the VEX Robotics System. It was on sale at RadioShack, and my parents bought it for my for Christmas. Over that Christmas break (and even now) I built countless configurations of robots. However, I knew something was missing. That something was programming.
I had dabbled around with basic during 7th grade, but quickly got bored with it because I wasn’t really solving any problems. The VEX Robotics System gave my many problems that I could solve. I spent the $99 and bought EasyC. At that same time, I joined a FRC team - 904. I decided to be a programmer, and we actually ended up using EasyC to write our software. I ended up solving many problems that year!
When I felt comfortable with EasyC, I decided to teach myself how to write code. I saw some of the mentors and more experienced students on 904 do this, and I was curious. So I downloaded Visual Studio 2005 and got to work. I also figured out a way to get MPLAB for free (totally legal) and use that to program VEX bots.
Fast forward to 2009, and I learned how to program using an object oriented language, C++. Later that year I made my own website, and I’m continuing to improve it.
Probably one of the most exciting things that happened to me because of robotics was the formation of a new FRC team in my neighborhood. Several mentors/students from 904 decided that we were going to form our own team, and in late October we formed the COMETS. We actually just attended our first competition where we won the “Rookie All-Star Award” AND placed 7th overall! I can’t wait to see what we’re able to accomplish in the years to come. (**note: we’re still in the process of finding sponsors, and we need $4,000 to go to the Michigan State Championship. If you’re interested in sponsoring us or know anyone who might be, contact us).
My roles on this team are: web developer, programmer, and “marketing guy”.
When I was a member of 904, one of my duties was to recruit sponsors for the team. After doing a short “demo” of the robot to a new sponsor, I was approached by the president of the company who encouraged me to apply for an internship at his company for the following year.
Good news. This month I was interviewed at the company for 2 hours, and yesterday I received word that I am one of their interns for the summer of 2010!
So that is what robotics has done for me. I am still learning many new skills, and solving many new problems. It seems like each year I continue to learn new things. If you had said to me when I first joined 904 that two years later I would be setting up my own server, coding websites, and interning at West Michigan’s second largest software development company, I would have thought you were crazy. However, because of a lot of hard work, really good FRC mentors, and the desire to do my best, I am doing all of those things.
I hope that this post inspires you all to do your best, keep on teaching others, and continue to be involved with robotics. If anyone else has a story to tell, please feel free to respond to this thread. I know that I’d love to hear it!