The Anne Arundel Homeschool Robotics Group is a self-funded group of homeschooled individuals who are trying to improve and excel in science and technology. This program gives students the opportunity to compete, learning not only programming and engineering but business and presentation skills as well. This week’s Friday Focus we caught up with Aileen Hahne, President of the Anne Arundel Homeschool Robotics Group, and learned how these students are provided mentors and professionals to help them achieve goals they never thought imaginable.
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)
A: We are a 501(c)3 non-profit to promote STEM activities throughout the homeschool communities of Anne Arundel and Prince George counties. We currently sponsor a high school robotics team, FTC 4081, finance their competition fees, supplies for the team, parts for their robot and travel fees. Our team is comprised of nine boys and one girl. In the past we have sponsored teams through FLL and JrFLL for students in grades K-8 as well. All these teams compete in the series of competitions through FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology). The FIRST World Championship is in St. Louis this year and you can find out more information about our program by visiting their website here: www.usfirst.org
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: My favorite moment is when I can turn a student around from being afraid of math or engineering and see the excitement on their faces when they accomplish a task they thought to be impossible. Most of these kids are truly gifted, yet there are very few outlets where they can showcase their ideas or creations. Having professionals in the fields of science, engineering and computer technology come to judge their competitions gives them the confirmation that what they are doing is truly significant. Currently, there are three former students who all happen to be female who didn’t think they were “smart” enough to join a robotics team. Now those young women are majoring in electrical engineering, computer science and business management. This robotics program positively changed their future, as well as the future of everyone involved.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Our biggest challenge is two-fold. Each year we struggle to find a meeting place. This past year we were in a team member’s garage. With the need for a workshop to cut metal and plexiglass, as well as clean space for using our computers for CAD (computer aided design). The ideal workspace would have two rooms: one large room for meetings, testing the robot, setting up the competition field and a second room for a workshop where the students can cut, drill, grind and fabricate unique design pieces for their robot each year. Every year the challenge changes which means manufacturing parts every year.
Our second challenge is mentors for the engineering design process. We have coaches and parents willing to invest the time into these students, but finding mentors for engineering and computer programming is an ongoing struggle.
Q: Are there any upcoming events?
A: The current Maryland FTC 2015-2016 season has ended but the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis will be next week, April 27-30. Anyone can watch the action live via their website http://www.firstinspires.org/
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
A: Anyone interested in getting involved may contact Aileen Hahne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always looking for any help. The team can also come and demonstrate our robot and explain what the FIRST Tech Challenge is all about. These students don’t just build a robot. They must create a business plan, create a team image, promote themselves, maintain a detailed engineering notebook where they document their progress throughout the season and finally create an oral presentation for the Judges at each competition where every team member must contribute. The goal of FIRST is to educate the whole person, helping students become well-rounded engineers, business managers, computer programmers, or public speakers. It is an amazing program.