A Supreme Court decision this week enforced a law that has been on the books since shortly after the creation of the United States: The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. For anyone unfamiliar, this Amendment prevents unreasonable searches and seizures. In other words, law enforcement cannot collect anything that belongs to you without a judge's permission, ala a warrant.
Over the past number of years, it was believed by law enforcement that the usage of technology essentially meant that the user had given up their legal rights. Obviously, this is a conversation that has been had in both public and private among most people in the country, usually spurred by issues like Facebook privacy issues. However, it never seems to be something that makes enough of an impact within the government, especially the Executive branch, to change the landscape.
The case that re-enforced the Constitution revolves around an instance in 2011 in which law enforcement collected hundreds of days worth of GPS data about a suspect in a robbery in Detroit. This data was collected and compiled without a judge's permission, bringing up privacy and Constitutional law questions, which is how it finally ended up in the highest court in the land. The case got to the Supreme Court after a previous decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that location data was not protected data.
The ruling, which came in as a 5-4 decision, is a landmark decision which makes location data protected. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote,
The government's position fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter's location but also everyone else's, not for a short period but for years and years.
It's important to note that the headline is sarcastic, as law enforcement is not at all crippled by this decision. This is no different from needing a warrant to enter a building or taking a computer suspected of containing criminal data. It's definitely a win for the country that the government is recognizing that using technology does not mean that you are giving up your legal rights, especially in a time when the usage of technology is far from an option. Printed media is nearly dead, whether we like it or not, and if the act of wanting to learn, or just owning a phone means you have no legal rights, then the Constitution would have no meaning.
So it's no secret to say that the Orlando Regional Competition is one of our favorites. And one of the best parts of our coverage is when Terri Willingham stops by for a chat. Terri was formerly a Regional Director with [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink">. She loved organizing these events and working closely with the teams as they navigated their way through the robotics program. Her new position, as Director of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI), is her most rewarding role yet.
Terri and her husband Steve are now able to take all of the knowledge gained with [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> a step further with the foundation and AMRoC (Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics Center). They are in the process of building out this manufacturing and robotics center that will be home to a permanent [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> field, as well as an [FTC" class="UpStreamLink"> field and a couple of [FLL" class="UpStreamLink"> tables. It will give students a place to come to be creative, build their robots and then test and practice. The dream is to have the makerspace easily accessible with all of the tools available for building and repairs.
Everything started to come together about a year ago when Terri applied for an Argosy Foundation Grant. The application of these funds, as well as other donations, have been disbursed directly to local community groups and programs, such as Robotics Tampa Bay and [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> teams. It's tough to make real changes when trying to tackle challenges as a national level. She now realizes that by concentrating her efforts hyper-locally, it is easier to leverage community engagement. Thus putting money, manufacturing and jobs in the community. The philosophy is basically that we can change the world in our own back yards and then scale it up from there. At the local level, you can apply a thousand dollars and see actually the impact it creates.
Make sure to watch our interview with Terri and learn more about all of her exciting upcoming ventures. Then stay tuned to watch them grow and even join in the efforts by volunteering along with all of us.
One of the things that makes a [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> team succeed is the ability to pass knowledge on from season to season. Under normal circumstances, a team expects to rotate members out every year, with a healthy portion staying and some graduating, to be replaced by freshman. Some seasons, however, a larger portion of the team graduates than others, leaving a lot of rookie members.
That is what [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> 6527, Short SirKit experienced this season. A large portion of their team were rookies (around 15), though about 5 veteran members remained, including Angel (a 2-year member), who spoke with Daniele and Marissa at the Orlando Regional. It meant that the veteran members all had to take on more of a mentoring role for the new students. Despite the higher number of rookie members, the team was doing well on the field; even better than last season.
Angel acts as a machinist on his team, working with tools like bandsaws, drill presses and a CNC machine, to produce the body and appendages for the robot. He finds the experience of [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> to be fun, and he appreciates working with his team. Before joining the team he wasn't experienced with the tools he uses, and owes his knowledge to his 2 seasons with Short SirKit.
This team works differently from many other teams, as the team exists as part of a manufacturing class and a robotics class in school, which he heard about from his mother. After enrolling in the class, he was inspired to go into machining as a career after high school. Because the team is run as a class, it means that activities are graded, but there is not as much time for the social aspects of [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink">.
Who doesn't love it when a Jedi stops by for a chat? Well, we might enjoy it a little more than your average interviewers, but that's okay.
It was great to get to know Joao with [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> 5557, BB-R8ERS. Once again it was so refreshing to see how excited and motivated a 1st year team member can be. He is a freshman in high school and this his initial exposure to [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink">. When he was looking into which high school he wanted to attend, he chose his current school because of the tech classes offered and the robotics program. He thought it would be a great opportunity to learn a lot and also have a lot of fun.
Joao started off on the electrical team at the beginning of the season and then moved over to the business side. He even presented the Chairman's Award here at the competition. His goals for the future are to get back involved on the electrical team and hopefully become a lead, while still helping out in business.
While we were talking with him about how the team was doing at the competition this year, they were actually currently on the field competing behind us. It was fun to look back and see them in action with all of their teammates cheering them on, light sabers in hand. Many were in costume and you could feel the team spirit all the way up to our booth. There are currently about 35 members on the robotics team. They start out as Padawans when they are rookies and build their way to being lead and mentor Jedi Masters.
One thing Joao loves is how even though this is a technical field, it has the feeling of a large sporting event. That is something that we at [FIRSTLooks" class="UpStreamLink"> also really enjoy. And if you are looking to also get inspired by [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink">, this is the interview that you are looking for. Check it out and let us know what you think.
We've had the chance to interview numerous [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> students over the last few years, each with varying degrees of experience on their team. Sydney with FRC 3932, Dirty Mechanics, has been on the team for 5 years. She's had a chance to be involved in just about every aspect in the process. She started out on the build team and through the years has moved more into the business side of things. Her current position is BME Team Leader. She is in charge of Business, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, which covers all of the awards presentations, essays, leadership and team outreach.
Sydney has been to the Orlando Regional Competition for 4 out of her 5 years on the team. She loves this huge, open and fun event. It's like being at a major sporting event rather than at a robotics competition. And her team usually does well at the competition. Of course there are different challenges that occur with the robot, most often with things like timing. But the team is proud that they always work together and get everything on track in time to compete.
She is loving her final season on the team and just enjoying everything. It's a good feeling to be a senior member and assist the team from that perspective. And as this is her senior year in high school, she is grateful to be getting expert assistance with her college applications and has gotten great letters of recommendation from her robotics mentors. And even though she's not quite sure exactly what direction she will go as far as her major is concerned, she's not worried at all because she is bringing along all of the confidence that [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> has instilled in her. She knows that she still has some time to decide on the perfect career. She is also already looking forward to continuing on as a volunteer/mentor in the future.
One of our favorite things to do here at [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> Looks is to get to know the teams from other countries. It always fun to connect with them both culturally and professionally. And it's wonderful to find that they have just as much passion and enthusiasm about [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> as we do here in this country.
It was great to get to know Danielle from FRC 6404, Brazilian Storm. She is a sophomore at her high school in Brazil and was previously on an [FLL" class="UpStreamLink"> team for four years. This is her 1st year on this [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> team and the transition to the larger robots was a little scary at first. This is also her first time coming to the United States. She's having a blast here at the Orlando Regionals. Her favorite thing is seeing the passion from the students here and watching all of the robots at work.
The team was faring well at the competition, even with a couple of early setbacks. They had a couple of issues in transit with a couple of their Visa's and some lost luggage. Also, they had to ship their robot in multiple packages due to size and weight restrictions and then rebuild it first thing when they got here. They are such a strong and resilient team and didn't let anything hold them back from enjoying the competition. The [FIRSTLooks" class="UpStreamLink"> control room also had fun chatting with her fellow teammates behind the scenes.
You can't help but be inspired when you see someone who worked hard to create a team and even overcome some of the hardest challenges, especially when that person is a junior in high school. Janelle with [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> 7194, iRam is proof that hard work and dedication pays off.
After taking a STEM class in middle school, Janelle knew that she wanted to also pursue it in high school and decided that a robotics team was the way to go. Her school in New Port Richey, Florida did not have a [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> Robotics team but she didn't let that stop her. As she went about making this goal a reality, she knew that they needed to get everything in order before actually joining [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> in order to be as successful as possible. They started out by taking their time to recruit teammates. They accomplished this by spreading the word through pep rallies and fundraisers. They took a hands on approach with their classmates by showing them the cool things that they could make.
Along the way, they learned about the fundamentals of [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink">, like teamwork and gracious professionalism and how important it is to help everybody reach their goals. And although it seemed kind of strange at first to help out the competition, they soon realized how great it felt to do just that, especially when it's for a team that has helped yours.
Watch Janelle's interview to find out more about this inspiring young lady and the challenges she and her team are facing and how they are doubling down to turn their setbacks into growth.
This year celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Orlando Regionals and we had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Woodie Flowers, who was in attendance to mark the occasion. Woodie, an emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a distinguished résumé with an impressive list of honors and achievements. In our circles, however, he is best known as being the co-founder of [FRC" class="UpStreamLink">, along with Dean Kamen in 1992. It was Woodie who coined the phrase and environment of Gracious Professionalism, which is truly a cornerstone value in this amazing organization.
It was great to get his perspective on how [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> has evolved over the years and the direction for the future. We've come from simplistic beginnings of having the robots decipher colors to using vision technology with the use of cameras that take the robots capabilities to the next level. But it doesn't stop with how advanced the robots get. There's a lot more to it. There's a responsibility that comes with such rapidly advancing technology because although it's wonderful to have all of these new capabilities at our fingertips, there are always those out there who will use the progress for nefarious purposes. The fact that [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> has already built in a culture of honesty, graciousness and truth seeking gives these students a tremendous edge for facing such obstacles in the future. The kids are also given the understanding that although they have the advantage of likely being very successful in their future careers, they also need to teach others along the way.
Make sure to watch this insightful interview with Woodie. He has a special way of understanding and appreciating the advancements in the world of technology and seeing beyond to how it can impact society as a whole. His favorite part of this journey with [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> is the underlying philosophy of what they do.
The culture of learning and inclusion that [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> embraces is facilitated by the mentors who help these kids adapt and grow. [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> truly has the best mentors!
Take, for example, Drew with [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> 3627, Jungle Robotics. He is the mentor for the Sarasota County School District. Drew started his career in animation and design and is now teaching robotics and engineering after the students sought him out to get involved in [FRC" class="UpStreamLink">. It's easy to tell that it is a position that he takes seriously and brings a passion for STEM learning with him. He's there for the team every step of the way, from the first day of planning and build to outreach programs and team building exercises. He also helps them realize that win or lose, they take the experience along with them.
Drew is also a part of the Scouts, acting as the District Vice Chair in charge of STEM. And although one doesn't normally see a correlation between the Boy Scouts and Robotics, after spending a few minutes with Drew, we were left wondering why we had never put it together ourselves. STEM is actually integral in the teachings of the Scouts, in almost everything that they do. And now they are designing badges, medals and programs that are specific to robotics, gaming and graphic design.
Check out our interview with Drew to find out more about the exciting Scout programs that promote STEM as well as his current [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> team and plans to expand in the future.
We never run out of interesting topics when it comes to our interviews with this fan favorite. After all, he wears a lot of different hats. Chuck Stephens is a mentor for [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> and [FTC" class="UpStreamLink">, a Board Member of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI), part of the Eureka Factory and he works for the Pasco Country Library System. We always learn a during our chats with Chuck, and we have a lot of fun too!
Chuck is currently the mentor/coach of the first ever library based [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> team, the Edgar Allan Ohms, who are here competing at the Orlando Regional today. They are based out of the Regency Park Library where they design, build and test their robots.
There is also a lot going on in the Pasco County Library system. Chuck and his coworkers are committed to ensuring that libraries continue to be a place where people can reach their potential. And we have to say that we certainly are impressed. It is refreshing to see how these library branches are reinventing themselves and not only staying relevant but giving back so much to their communities. Not only are there maker spaces where someone can come to learn a craft or teach their favorite hobby, but there are music and recording studios where they can come explore and dabble in an area that they may only have dreamed about. There's also upcoming cooking classes and a community garden in the works.
Chuck is also involved with Gulf Coast Maker and Comic Con and ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. Check out his interview to find out all of the exciting new programs that the library, Eureka Factory and FCDI have in the works.