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The Force was Definitely with Joao from FRC 5557, BB-R8ERS (FIRST Looks)

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.

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Sydney from FRC 3932, Dirty Mechanics (FIRST Looks)

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.

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Danielle from FRC 6404, Brazilian Storm (FIRST Looks)

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.

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Janelle with Rookie FRC Team 7194, iRam (FIRST Looks)

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.

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Robots, Technology and Beyond with the Legendary Woodie Flowers (FIRST Looks)

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.

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Drew with FRC 3627, Jungle Robotics (FIRST Looks)

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.

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Chuck Stephens is an Example of All the Good Things in FIRST (FIRST Looks)

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.

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Henk with FRC 5412, Impossible Robotics (FIRST Looks)

[FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> inspires students in not just the United States but all over the world! Working internationally gives students a chance to learn from others with different backgrounds and education to accomplish the same goals within [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink">. This year at the 2018 [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> Orlando Regionals, we had an appearance from Impossible Robotics [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> team 5412 from the Netherlands.

The [FIRSTLooks" class="UpStreamLink"> crew discovered how teams from the Netherlands operate while speaking with Impossible Robotics' mentor, Henk. Henk discussed the strict schooling system that their team undergoes during the [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> season and this made it hard for students to leave for competition. As a result, only one student on their team was able to come to the [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> Orlando Regionals this year.

Many would believe that being at a competition with only one member present would be impossible but that is not the case in [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink">. With a little help from some of the local teams and a dash of Gracious Professionalism, Impossible Robotics persevered!

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Estevan with FRC 945, Banana Robotics (FIRST Looks)

After all of the years that our staff has been a part of the [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> experience, whether as team members, volunteers or mentors, you would think that we would have lost that sense of excitement and wonder around these kind of events. Oh, but it's actually quite the contrary. We still love being right in the middle of it all. The best part of producing [FIRSTLooks" class="UpStreamLink"> for us is when we talk with a student who really just gets it. We certainly had a lot of fun getting to know Estavan from [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> 945, Banana Robotics.

At the time of the competition, Estavan was a Senior at Colonial High School in Orlando. And if he didn't tell us that this was his first year on the robotics team, we definitely would not have known. He had all of the charm and charisma of a [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> Veteran, that's for sure. He was recruited to the team by his Calc teacher who knew of his excellent reputation in the Auto Club at school. Everybody knows that he's good with building and fixing and knows how to make things work. So it was natural for him to join the team and get right to work on this student built robot. He admits that it's not the best looking robot, but it meets specs and gets the job done.

Check out his interview to find out about the pressures of the build, the amazing team spirit and the pun (I mean fun) they had along the way. Speaking with Estavan and learning about his team was truly inspiring and is one of the things that makes us love what we do.

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EASY-AIR Might Just be the Solution You Need (PLuGHiTz Live Special Events)

Gulf Coast Maker and Comic Con welcomes makers of all forms, including inventors. Electrical engineer Joe Nahum is prototyping a solution to clean air after serving our country as part of the US Army in Desert Storm. He noticed air pollution in the Middle East and he decided in that moment that he wants to solve that issue. He returned to the United States and became an electrical engineer to help him with his journey.

Joe's vision, EASY-AIR, is supposed to convert carbon dioxide into pure oxygen. While the prototype is small and designed to be used in a consumer-type scenario, Nahum says the technology could be scaled to any size. While the first thought might be about the carbon offset of cleaning the air while using power, Nahum has an answer for this as well. He imagines placing a larger implementation on the device at the top of the chimney stack at the power plant, cleaning the air as the power is produced.

In addition to the conversion, it also acts as an ionizer. Similar to the process that occurs as water hits at the bottom of a waterfall, as the air flows through the device, it is energized. This is not an unfamiliar technology for many, as both Sharper Image and RadioShack had made the technology popular in the mid 2000s. Sharper Image offered the Ionic Breeze and RadioShack offered the Environizer for several years. This device combines the once popular tech with the carbon dioxide converter into a single product.

Nahum is currently in the prototype phase and came to GCMCC 2018 to gain recognition and funding for his project. He is hoping to be able to run clinical trials to verify the results as well as bring the product to market.

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