Windermere Preparatory School is the host school for the FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1649, Engineers Mentoring Students (EMS). Team EMS is a 4-H, Youth Robotics Program open to anyone that wants to join.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, the first insulin pump, the Crown Stent, and many other medical devices. FIRST is themed around the issue of inspiring the youth of America to become interested in science and technology. Dean Kamen states that the whole purpose of FIRST is “To create a world where science and technology are celebrated … where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.”
Involvement in FIRST provides the students with access to over $16 million in collage scholarships through more than 750 individual scholarship opportunities.
For the ninth consecutive year Team EMS has made its home here on the campus of Windermere Prep. Every year the school provides work space and assists with some of the funding necessary to sustain the team and attend the competitions. The students raise the additional money needed though fundraising activities and corporate sponsorship.
The team is headed by faculty advisor Jacky Brantley and guided by volunteer Engineering professionals from Lockheed Martin and Walt Disney World.
Every year on the first Saturday of January, FIRST releases a new game across an international audience via NASA broadcast where teams, just like EMS, gather to learn what the competition will be for the year. On this day, over 2500 teams from over 50 different countries in the world, (including Canada, Mexico, Brazil, England, The United States, and more) join in on a 6 week journey to start from scratch and create a robot. These robots usually have dimensions of 5-6 feet tall and weigh about 120 pounds. Just like in the real world of engineering, the high school teams have to design a robot, build it, program it, test it, and ship it all in 6 weeks.
During this time the students and mentors work six days a week after school and on weekends to develop a machine that will not only perform the tasks necessary to play the game but hopefully will do it better and more reliably then the other teams.
After a short break, in March, the Students attend the Orlando Regional Competition held at the University of Central Florida, a three day event where they compete against 60 – 70 other teams for the opportunity to go to the Championship event in St Louis Missouri, another three day event held in April where nearly 500 teams compete for best in the world.
The program is not just about building a robot, it includes many other activities that support the team such as the Communications team that design and produce team shirts, signs, banners, a website and videos to promote the team or help in fundraising.
The students also learn about logistics as they make arrangements to ship their robot to and from competitions along with providing transportation for the team, equipment and supporters that will be attending.
Team EMS is much more than just a club, it’s a life changing experience for everyone involved.
“The hardest fun in life you’ll ever have”
– Dean Kamen
To learn more about FIRST and the different scholarship programs offered, please visit www.usfirst.org
To learn more about 4-H please visit their website at www.4-h.org
Be sure to check out the Team 1649 History page.
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