The intention of this page is to tell you a little bit about what I do on a daily basis with my robotics team centralized in Penfield, NY at the high school.
Is a program aimed at inspiring young minds to go into the fields of science and engineering. FIRST is For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology created by inventor Dean Kamen and Co-founder Dr. Woodie Flowers (MIT professor). Basically, what they did was create a “Super Bowl of Smarts” where three different levels of Robotics come together and students compete.
Our team, Rolling Thunder commonly competes at two regionals (typically in March) and the championships (April) when we qualify (which has been every year so far).
In 2009, our team traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to compete at one of the best regional events held during the competition season. Our team won the Chairman’s award, which is the highest ranking award, and most prestigious award that is given to the team that exemplifies the entire embodiment of FIRST’s goals: inspiration and appreciation for technology as well as leadership and community awareness.
That year, FIRST released a new award called the Dean’s list award. The Dean’s list award is given to two students from an FRC team at each regional event totaling to 91 Finalists around the world. I’m happy to say that I am one of the 91 people. With over 500 submissions total around the world, each student was written an essay that best described their affect on FIRST around the community, within their school, and team.
Despite them spelling my last name wrong on the first certificate I received, all I could remember that day at the Boston regional competition, was my team swarming me as they called me and the other winning student down. I’ll never forget Mentor Kim’s expression and reaction when I won. She was the primary author of the essay submitted about me to be evaluated.
The best part about all of this, was that my mother was with me. When I was given this title of a “Dean’s list Finalist” I was given so many hopes and I stand knowing that robotics will take me far in life.
Woodie Flower, Dean Kamen & me.
So here’s the essay:
WaFfLeS!~ is the enthusiastic salutation that closes every message from our Junior Student Leader Crystal Vongnaphone! You would never believe that the loudest cheers and attention-getting “Hey Everyone!”s come booming from this little 4’11” young woman! Her enthusiasm is incredibly contagious!
Crystal channels her enthusiasm into organizing events and making sure every student on the team gets involved in build season and at team activities. If we need something done, Crystal will volunteer to do it! She organized team members into jobs to help our pre-ship Rally run smoothly, planned our FLL postseason event, referees at all local FLL events, arranged several community service trips to sort medical supplies for third-world countries, and runs numerous robot demos year-round.
In her three years on the team, she has gone from our happy cheering pit runner to an elected student leader as our Communications Director. Every week, she sends out the team email with details on meetings, events, activities, and reminders. When she took on this task, she implemented a new exciting html format that attracts interest and keeps people wanting to read on! She also posts notes from all leadership meetings on the team forums. As a student leader, she helps plan the year’s schedule for 1511 and helps lead weekly team meetings and build season integration meetings. She writes press releases and coordinated students to write the WFA and Chairman’s Award submissions for which she is the primary author.
Crystal proves that the most enthusiastic people are often the most creative. Her freshman year she tackled leading our Flare team, creating fliers and choosing handouts for the team. In two years, she has produced many great videos for our team. From those for the school’s morning announcements, our 1511 event and competition highlights, to the Chairman’s Award, her creations help promote FIRST. She wears our red camo team gear everywhere so that she gets noticed and has more chances to talk about FIRST!
Crystal has taken advantage of all that FIRST has to offer, including practical experience in electrical engineering. From wiring the robot and controls to specializing in schematics and soldering, it’s clear she has discovered a talent and passion! She never has idle hands, and seeks more challenging tasks from electrical mentors. No later than the second time she picks up a tool, she has it mastered. Due to her excitement for FIRST, she enrolled in Project Lead the Way Design Drawing Production and Digital Electronics classes, and works hard to understand all of the material.
Getting her hands in everything, at competitions she has filled roles such as scouting lead, electrical pit crew, driver and pit scout. She attends Championship leadership lectures and organizes students at competition to stay on schedule and get tasks completed! Her favorite part of competition is getting to know FIRST teams from around the world. Last year, when 1511 mentored a city school rookie team, she was the first to volunteer and met with them four times a week to help them build and wire their robot. She was instrumental in welcoming them to the program and helping them understand FIRST and Gracious Professionalism!
The team will miss her next year as she plans to head off to a four year college to study electrical engineering. She is attempting to graduate early and take engineering courses at a community college to accelerate her degree. She has big plans to help start up a new team, return to mentor 1511 and will always be involved in FIRST! She knows that, as FIRST has changed her life, she can help change the lives of so many others.
As she motivates students, wires up control boards, helps out other teams, cheers her heart out, connects with other teams, organizes every kind of 1511 event and WaFfLeS goodbye at night, Crystal is a truly an enthusiastic leader in the FIRST community!