By Jay B, Second Year
As Black History Month 2021 comes to a close, I wanted to take this article to recognize an important thing that occurred this month. On February 18, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed on Mars. You might think to yourself, “What does any of this have to do with Black History Month?” It has everything to do with Black History Month because a black woman played a pivotal role in the Perseverance’s landing. Breonna Ivey is a senior engineering major at Georgia Tech who got to intern with NASA last summer. As reported by news station WGXA, Ivey was on the mobility team who were responsible for the rover’s key functions. The mathematical work that Ivey did alongside other engineers at NASA helped in getting Perseverance to land. There is so much importance in what Breonna did.
Earlier today, I got the opportunity to participate in a live discussion with other students that was hosted by Columbus, Georgia, Black Student Union. The overarching subject of this discussion was on black history in the conversation. There was one thing that one of my peers said to me that truly resonated with me. The student was talking about how students are not taught the wide range of things that black people have done throughout history. They used themselves as an example, saying that they were not aware that black people could have occupations, like Astrophysiology and Aerospace Engineer. This student’s statements resonated with me so much because I know that this is a truth that many black kids are taught in school. It is unfortunate that many black kids do not have the opportunity to see the wide range of things to do when they grow up. There is so much more to the talent and excellence of black people outside of the entertainment and sports industry, and black youth aren’t being taught this enough.
The accomplishments of people like Breonna Ivey matter so much because of the lack of representation of black people in fields that a white male dominated, like STEM. Ivey’s role in the Perseverance landing is so important because there are many black kids out in the world who unfortunately do not know that there are black people contributing to studies on Mars. There are so many black children who do not know of the greatness of their people and the rich, deep history of black people. What Ivey did will be an inspiration to many. I am sure that somewhere out there, in this big wild world, there is a child who is saying, “Look, this person looks like me. This person is doing amazing things. Therefore, I can do amazing things too.”
It is my belief that Black History Month is something that should go beyond the bounds of the shortest month of the year. Black History Month is only 1/12 of the year, black accomplishments are happening year round. It is important that we highlight the innovators, the people who are everyday pushing forward history. We must show the black leaders tomorrow that they can do it, and that anything they want to do is very much possible. Whether it be becoming the greatest entertainer of all time, creating the super soaker, or assisting in the calculation that brings Earth one step closer to the moon. It is all possible, anything is possible. Black history and black innovation is something worth celebrating yesterday, tomorrow, and forever. Happy Black History Month.
by Mrs. Richardson, guest bloogger, Media/Outreach Coach
For years, people have been studying the effects of social media on (especially) young people. In this pandemic world, it seems the chickens have come home to roost. And as a result, depression and anxiety for ages 15 – 22 is the highest ever. Considering that we’ve had alarming results before COVID, this is a topic affecting more than a generation.
Don’t believe me? A study conducted in 2016 – 2017 of people aged 15 – 20 shows numbers that will take you off guard. Before COVID, 39% reported depression! Before COVID, 60% reported anxienty at least once the previous week! Before COVID, 31% of high school and college aged kids had seriously considered suicide! Worst of all, before COVID, 60% reported feeling “very lonely.” This is a crisis that is ignored by too many.
Why are they suffering? We’ve known that the prominence of social media was a lot of it. But why? I can only speak for the young people I know but considering how many folks report their friends “live on their phone”, it makes sense. With COVID, you’d think young people would be “doing fine” with the lockdowns and digital connections, but that’s not what’s happening.
Social Media has exacerbated the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). When you only see stuff you can’t do or places you can’t go or people you can’t meet, you compare that with the lack of fun and lack of companionship you live through daily. Of course, you forget that time in social media shows someone’s highlights not their reality, and with filters and photoshop they actually make it look BETTER than reality! Add to that the “serial monogamy” and “hookup lifestyle” that the media promotes, so “friends” is a confusing relationship status that can’t adjust naturally because of digital availability alone. Let’s say you are willing to accept that reality and that there are people interested in more than a hook up, your only choices right now are Tinder or nothing! There is no informal socializing. You can’t join organizations. The people you can manage to come across in this generation were never taught to engage with people that they don’t know face-to-face. They’re digital natives – but reality tourists.
This world situation theoretically has tons of opportunities. You can “talk” with people all over the world. You can find people with similar interests even in the smallest towns or where you are different from those around you. But PEOPLE (like our simian friends) are social creatures. In the time of our youth, we are looking to make connections outside of our families. In the COVID world, this is a crisis that is not being addressed enough. You, it’s important to be safe – especially around compromised individuals. But we can’t leave behind healthy ones out of fear. They can’t get this time in their lives back. We must look for ways to help and support young people – or they will never grow old.
So that’s the challenge. I’m looking for ideas. There have to be options that will work. I have too many young people in my life struggling with loneliness. As an introvert myself, I dealt with feelings of being alone in the world, but I’m not 15. Or 18. Or 20. Don’t just say Call a Friend or Call Family. That’s what they’re already doing, and it does NOT fill the void. Staying busy on “stuff that matters” (school, work) is all that seems to help. So, here’s the appeal – especially at Valentine’s Day – what works? We can’t lose a generation to loneliness.
by Maggie F, Third Year Junior
GEMS, or Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science, is an afterschool program dedicated to encouraging and strengthening passion for engineering, math, and science within girls by providing a positive representation of women interested in STEM and creating a supportive sisterhood. Moreover, GEMS helps girls understand possible STEM fields by providing opportunities to explore various fields.
In 2017, GEMS was established at Richard Middle School here in Columbus, GA. The club helped encourage girls to explore STEM fields by working closely with their community, including tours of the labs at Columbus Water Works and Skype calls with female professionals at NASA. Over time, the GEMS club moved from Richard Middle School to Columbus High School. Now, the GEMS club operates out of Columbus High to encourage high school and middle school girls to explore STEM.
The GEMS club has started several new initiatives designed to provide girls with various opportunities to explore STEM. Last year, GEMS and Build Brave Girls partnered to create various posters and in-person presentations that encourage Columbus High girls to take AP STEM classes. This initiative helped create a more than 30% increase in the number of girls enrolled in AP STEM. Moreover, the GEMS club has recently launched a podcast and YouTube channel. Both of these platforms allow GEMS to highlight the STEM community's achievements; specifically, these platforms make it easy for young girls to be inspired by successful women. Moreover, GEMS has launched a tool kit and middle school mentorships that make it easy for anyone to start their own GEMS club.
Ultimately, GEMS is a diverse group of girls that share a love for STEM. This passion drives the GEMS club to make learning accessible to every girl, and it creates an environment where girls feel empowered to be themselves. To learn more about GEMS, visit their website at https://colgagems.weebly.com/.
By Jay B., 2nd Year Sophomore
This past Thursday, January 28, 2020, marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of the fatal Challenger Space Shuttle explosion that tragically killed Dick Scobee, Judy Resnik, Greg Jarvis, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, and Christa McAuliffe. On Thursday, I spent a lot of time thinking about the influence of Challenger, what went wrong, and it’s crew, specifically Ron McNair. McNair served as one of three mission specialists on the Challenger. Born and raised in Lake City, South Carolina, McNair was inspired by his family and a teacher that saw potential in him to work hard in his scientific studies. McNair received his bachelor’s in physics from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and his Ph. D. in laser physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went on to become one of the first African Americans selected to be astronauts along with Guion S. Bluford, Jr. and Frederick Gregory. In addition to these accolades and the work McNair did for NASA, he has received three honorary doctorate degrees and numerous distinctions. And to me, McNair is, and will always forever be, a great inspiration.
McNair was born and grew up in a struggling family that lived in a racially segregated city. To be living in that environment comes with a wealth of adversity and hurdles that one must go through. To overcome great tribulations can be very difficult and sometimes discouraging, however, McNair was able to overcome these challenges and receive a wealth of accolades and become the best of the best. In this way, McNair inspires me so much, and in some ways, I see myself in him. I, like McNair, did not come up in the best circumstances, of which were statistically impossible to overcome. However, I overcame. To see someone like McNair, black and from a struggling household, be able to become highly successful in a field that did not at first have space for minorities, is empowering and inspiring, especially to young black kids who have an interest in STEM. His legacy is one that many can look at and say, “Wow, I can do that too.”
We can look back on Challenger thirty-five years later and ask ourselves the “what if” or “what could have been prevented” questions, but I believe that those questions don’t matter as much as the legacy that the crew members left behind and the influence that the Challenger crash had on the future of space exploration. McNair truly did leave behind a lasting legacy, one that shows that anyone can make a difference, anyone can make it to the top and achieve greatness with hard work and dedication. To McNair and the rest of the Challenger crew, I thank you all for your service to the many generations that have been inspired by your courage, bravery and strength. I thank you for showing people, like myself, that anything is possible, and that anyone can shoot for the stars and aim for the moon.
by Laura Richardson, Mentor
The 2021 season is well on its way, having finished week 3 of Build. We have 1 ½ robots, and we are well on our way to competition season. Luckily, we have experienced build team members so we are handling the COVID-build world fine. The thing is that we pride ourselves on being #MorethanRobots. The brand side of the team is well represented and set for the future. The robot side is progressing nicely, and will work out by competition. The issue is the outreach side. Why? Because we have always put our emphasis on quality instead of quantity.
CSP has long focused on making a real difference in our team members lives and in that of those we support. Other teams will focus on drastic numbers – thousands or millions of people “reached.” We would rather make a real difference in 100 people’s lives than just make 1000 aware of our existence or that of FIRST. It is because eof that our COVID world has drastically affected our programs. Match that with the change made in 2019 to only count three years of impact for Chairman and the loss of half of the 2020 season with a wide-range shut down for a full year, and we have less impact with our existing programs. Luckily, we realized early on in the summer that the impact to mental health and to the social justice programs were opportunities that needed addressing. Unfortunately, they don’t fit into the “robotics int eh classroom” structure we follow, but it identified new and exciting programs that we are addressing. But is that going to be different and impactful enough to provide “proof” for the 2021 Chairman season? We just aren’t sure.
In fact, we talked just yesterday about the possibility of taking a year off from Chairman because our new programs have few results so far, and we have lower results with the last two years on our existing programs because they require face-to-face programs. Heck, the local FLL/FTC programs were cut in half or more this year due to the COVID shut downs. Although we are much more involved in local teams than previous, there are fewer teams with which to connect. And, worst of all, #TechItOut was cancelled the day before it happened and will not happen this year because of the changes – and since half of our rookies were introduced to FRC and to CSP with Tech It Out, this is a huge loss for us.
We know our programs are good and are strong and are impactful. That’s the point of “quality.” We know we will continue past COVID because they are set up to be sustainable, and we will continue to expand. But, do we want to put in the effort to apply this year? Who knows? We don’t believe in doing anything unless it’s done with high quality. Stay tuned to see if we decide to apply. Maybe we will; maybe we won’t.
by Jay B, 2nd Year, Sophomore
A year ago, I sat alongside my peers at CSP’s HQ swimming in excitement as we prepared for the FRC 2020 season kickoff. A year later, I have participated in my first virtual FRC kickoff. In that time between the two kickoffs, so much has happened and it’s interesting to reflect on my rookie season.
Although I had years of previous experience in both FLL and FTC, I was very afraid going into my rookie season. Before I became a member on the team, it seemed as though it would be impossible for me to find my place on the team. These same feelings I carried with me when I became a CSP rookie. At first, I had hoped to become a programmer and a media team member (here’s a hint: one of those, I wouldn’t be for long). Through much trial and error, I found something that I truly loved, media.
One thing that I learned through my rookie season and becoming a part of the media team was how much I truly love to create. Creating has always been a love of mine, but making things for CSP has pushed that love even farther. Being on the media team taught me so much I didn’t know before, like how to create things digitally. As a rookie, I felt extremely proud to see my first pit signs be put onto the pit. That’s when it really felt as though I found my place on the team. When the pandemic hit, it was unfortunate to see my first season be cut off so short, to be here one minute and gone the next. I had many regrets about things I didn’t get to do last season.
As the 2021 season is just now gearing up for FRC, I still realize that I have a lot to learn. And I think that’s the beauty of FRC, even as a veteran student, there’s so much to learn, no one’s learning journey is ever over. And I believe that rookies should not be afraid of what’s to come of their season because there’s always a place for everyone on the team.
By 3rd Year Junior, Maggie F
Both FIRST and robotics as a whole are incredibly challenging subjects that require intense attention to detail and even larger amounts of skill. More importantly, however, robotics teaches students what it takes to be an engineer. These lessons discuss various topics and, ultimately, what someone takes away depends on who they are. However, there is one lesson that holds true for every aspiring engineer. Success, especially in the beginning, is not the point.
The Columbus Space Program has an extremely efficient and detailed manufacturing process. This process is designed with extreme detail to ensure that the robot is efficiently built with as few design errors as possible. And yet, without fail, there will be significant failures initially, and these failures will always lead to some design change. Moreover, even when the original design does work, there will be some instances during competition when a flaw or problem arises. This is, as described by a number of CSP students, merely the nature of robots. It is also the deep-running, barrier-breaking lesson that every aspiring engineer will learn at some point in their life. Engineering requires breaking barriers and experimenting with new ideas. Therefore, failure and setbacks are, more often than not, the inevitable outcomes. These failures can be disheartening and can lead to one questioning their abilities. But, without fail, the engineers who experience these failures and, despite their doubts, continue to search for solutions become the best engineers.
Engineering is the ultimate test of human thought and imagination. For these ideals to fail and succumb to the merciless laws of nature is merely inevitable. As a result, engineering is predicated on failing and learning from those failures. At both the high school and the professional level, failing is the only true sign of being an engineer. Failures push engineers to think creatively and, as a result, develop exceptional solutions to complex problems. This can be seen every day at CSP’s HQ and competitions. Facing and overcoming failure makes an engineer and, consequently, it is what will make CSP students engineers.
by Jay B, Sophomore 2nd Year
As many you already know, the past year as well as the beginning of the new year have been far from what any of us would deem normal. March 2020 was a month of doomsdays as cities all over the United States began to completely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic; chaos, uncertainty, and fear ran throughout the country. In the midst of the madness was robotics. In March, FRC 4188 had been winding down from victory in Gainesville and now was in preparation for our Columbus qualifier, which was to be hosted by us. Unfortunately, the night before what was to be another victorious competition, our season was brought to a complete halt when the Columbus qualifier along with the rest of the 2020 FRC season was cancelled.
The team, like everyone else in America, had settled into their homes for quarantine. For the longest, it seemed as though quarantine would last a lifetime, and robotics was far gone. However, hope struck when we were granted permission by the school board superintendent to meet for robotics under COVID-19 restrictions. We were excited to meet after many months spent apart. Meetups began and things were back to “normal”, well except for one thing. Me, I had become a virtual robotics student.
Due to the virus, I decided that it would be best for myself to stay home. However, I did not want this to hinder my robotics life, so I decided to do my robotics work virtually. Most of my media work for the robotics team is already on the computer, so it was not a drastic change for me. However, what has been the hardest is balancing school, robotics and my mental health. I’ve come up with ways in order to keep the balance and try to stay on top of everything that life has thrown at me. In order to keep up with the rest of the team, I use resources such as Zoom and Slack. In order to tackle both school and robotics, I allocate specific days to spend my afternoons doing robotics or schoolwork. Then, in order to unwind, I go skateboarding. These strategies have helped a lot with keeping me on top of things. Throughout the time of this new normal, I genuinely feel like giving up everything, but then I remember my friends, family and wonderful team that I have behind me supporting me in all I do. And that makes things a bit easier.
by Maggie F (3rd year, Junior)
The Columbus Space Program (CSP) is a unique team for a variety of reasons from all program areas. From outreach to mechanical, the DREAMS program to the #SeeItBeIt program, CSP has something for everyone. Moreover, what makes the CSP so unique truly lies in the eye of the beholder. Everyone takes something different aware of their time on the team. Consequently, everyone learns to value various aspects of the team. Personally, I have found that the most distinguishing factor of CSP is the atmosphere.
Like most sports teams, the CSP atmosphere is a second family to a number of its students. However, what makes CSP different is that the members of this family come from extremely diverse backgrounds. The best way to illustrate this is to recall a conversation I had with one of my peers before a school vacation. The two of us discussed our family plans for the break, and my peer explained to me that his family would be going on a yearly ski trip. Moreover, this explanation developed into stories of the numerous family trips to Europe this peer had experienced. My peer also discussed their experiences with moving and the small houses they had to live in for short periods. To contextualize this conversation, my family spent that same holiday in a friend's cabin, which was extremely unusual for us. Furthermore, all the houses I have ever lived in were, at best, houses my peer called small. Unlike other teams, our different backgrounds don’t impact the way we work together as a team. .
The CSP atmosphere is a family atmosphere which focuses on what people can accomplish with what they have, not what they don't have. My peer and I are an excellent example of this. The two of us don’t view the world with the same perspective, yet CSP allows both of us to succeed so long as we genuinely attempt to do the best we can. Ultimately, the CSP atmosphere is the personification of a quote from Randy Pausch, a computer scientist. "Engineering isn't about perfect solutions; it's about doing the best you can with limited resources." CSP not only teaches this ideology, but the very team itself embodies this ideology.
This year, we started a program that has already made us so proud of its accomplishments. We recognized that during COVID the focus was usually placed on physical health of people, with mental health and social needs placed at a lower priority. While many teams elected to work on supporting health care workers with PPE, we found a new program that will outlive this horrific pandemic. We have helped provide PPE as needed like many teams, but we decided that developing a program in support of the general population would be an important difference.
We launched the program in October. Since that is Breast Cancer Awareness and Childhood Cancer Awareness month, we thought we should support the John B. Amos Cancer Center with a donation for survivors. This led to a donation drive that we can continue annually. November, we wanted to support the homeless community and those who are dealing with colder temperatures without family support. This time, we collected food and personal items for the homeless community and donated our proceeds to Feeding the Valley. We thought this was a great way for us to continue reaching special communities in Columbus. December is about family celebrations for most people, and we are all dealing with loneliness this year, so our focus was on Nursing Homes. We know that this community has been hardest hit by the virus and that the warnings to avoid gatherings will impact our long-term care residents even more than most. Selecting a home to provide our donations allowed us to spotlight ways that we can support a community that is part of the Greatest Generation. And, hopefully next year, we’ll be able to expand this program to include visitation to local Nursing Homes.
This is not a Covid program. It might have started that way, because we wanted to do more outreach even during the pandemic, but it’s become so much more. We are already planning our next months’ donations and themes, and we know that this will help people in ways that support their mental and physical health. Hopefully, we will grow this program even more after this pandemic.
We figured a lot of people would want to know our future themes; in case they could help us to support the community.
As you can well, we have delineated many parts of our community in support of more than just physical needs. For us it’s about – Caring for Special People (CSP).