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).
by Guest Blogger Hallie Richardson, class of 2018, college mentor
One of the moments where I felt the most pride for this team was back in freshman year of college at the state championship when CSP won the Chairman Award at the Georgia State Championship. Allow me to take it back a bit and give a bit of insight to this:
My 8th grade year, when I first joined CSP, I remember not really wanting to be very involved. I first joined the team primarily because my father was the coach, honestly. Some of the other members looked down on me because I was an 8th grader, so I already felt different than everyone else but also the team members were very focused on winning and that was it. I have always been a very energetic, social type of person and so I found it hard to let that go and focus on the robot itself, especially considering I did not really want to be there in the first place.
Flash forward a year and I was officially a freshman in high school. This was the year that I first went to the World Championship. The team was still very antisocial and borderline arrogant toward other teams and I, for the most part, tried to stay away and focus on creating good relations with other teams and be the hype person I am by being the mascot as well. Of course, I was always focused on the robot and was the electronics lead for all of my years on the team, but I was not as focused on it as my teammates, so yet again, I was left out of a lot. During the first competition that we went to, the Georgia Southern Classic Regional in Perry, GA, I spent a lot of the time talking to another team: 233, the Pink Team. They were known for having everyone on their team get up to dance, talk to other teams, have a robot that looked amazing while working great, their outreach as a Hall of Fame team, and overall the intense amount of fun that all of their members had on the team. After that, I knew that I wanted my team to be just like that. As soon as we got home from that competition, I researched what it was like to have a strong brand and how to develop that. I also started to really get into Industrial Design and how to make products/solutions that served both form AND function capabilities. I even went to a few workshops at the World Championship in St. Louis that were about brand, led by the team that I later would mentor, 1902: Exploding Bacon.
The next year, I decided to have an entire rebrand of the team. I wanted for us to wear one shirt – we previously had two shirts that we would wear: one that was black for the first day of competition and one that was blue for the next day. I knew that black and blue were two of the most common shirt colors in all of robotics, so I wanted to have a shirt that really stood out. I looked at all of the teams in Georgia and noticed that there were no teams that wore green… so we then became the Kelly-Green team. I also had an idea for a logo – something that incorporated every bit of our programs: the earth for our D.R.E.A.M.S. launches, the gear for the robotics team, and the cube that goes over it as the CubeSAT’s that we make. I had one of the other members, Ashita, make this logo into exactly as I imagined and to this day, that is the logo that we still have. I also noticed that many of the bigger teams at the competitions had flags, so I made a flag for the team. I mostly wanted to really start incorporating art into the team and recruiting artists so that we could produce not only a robot that was amazing but a wonderful dose of digital content as well as an overall sense of brand for our team.
Lastly, one of the most challenging parts of the changes that I wanted to make was making the robot and pit work amazing while looking beautiful. I tried working with some of the designers, but they would always tell me, “it doesn’t matter what it looks like -- it just needs to work.” This was one of the most frustrating things for me because I knew that the things that would make it look better would not necessarily make the design process take longer, they just did not think it was important. One of the biggest reasons why The Pink Team made such an impact on me was because of how pretty their pit and their robot were. Slowly but surely, however, they started to listen to me a bit and we had designs that were cut out of the sides of the robots, our robot was spray painted for the first time and it was one of the most successful robots we ever had in my sophomore year. This continued and we started to have robots that were absolutely amazing and also looked really good. We even got an in-house powder coater just like so many of the big teams!
One of the other biggest things about my team was that I never really felt connected to them when I first joined. I felt like an outsider the entire time because not only was I the coach’s kid – which automatically made people feel like they needed to stay away from me – but I also was interested in other things like dance and theatre and my personality made me stand out from them. I was always the only person to get up and dance to all of the line dance songs that they played at competition, I was the only one to cheer for my team, the only one to go to other teams and make friends and my teammates thought I was weird because of it. One of them even told me to my face, “I don’t care if no one likes us, I’m just here to win.” I took that as a challenge. Over the next few years, I oversaw the entire recruitment process and I got to choose the content that we used to recruit those people. Because of this, I was able to make my focus on the types of people that I WANTED my team to look like: artists, engineers, social butterflies, people who loved community service, writers, energetic people, and people who genuinely just wanted to have fun building robots.
A few years passed by and I became a senior. At my last competition, I found myself surrounded by my best friends – all dressed in green, with black pants – dancing the Cotton Eye Joe as we won match after match after match. I knew that my ultimate dream became a reality and I began to cry. I am a very emotional person, granted, but this was because I was able to know that I truly made a difference on my team and I was able to prove so many people wrong, both students and adults.
Now, while this was an extremely proud moment for me, it still does not beat what I encountered a year later. By that time, I had been in college for a year, I was mentoring Exploding Bacon, and I was only able to mentor my team from 7 hours away. I saw that my team was doing amazing things, and everyone was dancing and being themselves, but it was nothing that was very different than the year before. I got to the competition and immediately I was met with so much love from my former team members and I felt at home once again. I started to work with the Chairman team and I noticed that their presentation was good – obviously, because they won the regional event with it – but I knew that it was missing so much so I sat down with the Chairman team the entire day of their presentation. We changed some of the emphasis points, we ran over interview questions, and we rehearsed the entire 7-minute presentation a good 40 times. We had only won Chairman twice before: my senior year and at the previous competition that got them to state but we had never won at the state level. They went in, did the presentation and they said that they felt confident with what they had done, and we waited. Finally, it was time for the award ceremony. I had to help give out the Dean’s List award as I was a previous winner but as soon as I was done with that, I went to sit with my team. They started to announce the team that had won, and my heart stopped. I sat there holding the Chairman’s Team’s hands, bowing my head and praying that they won it as my mother put her hand on my back. Next thing I know, they say my team’s name. The entire team jumped up from their seats, screamed and ran to the field. As soon as we all went through and got our medals, the entire team went into a huddle full of tears and we all shouted our team chant before we watched the video. Eyes full of tears, I realized that I had gotten everything that I had ever dreamed for from my team. I no longer have to imagine my team as what it would be like if it were more like those other incredible teams I had previously emulated because they had become that team. THIS was what I always imagined my team to be like. They finally became the team that I now show to all of my college friends.
CSP had become my new dream team.
by Guest Blogger, Emme Van Doorn, class of 2019, College Mentor
CSP is a unique environment where every student is encouraged to be proactive and self-confident. I was never told no, always: ‘go for it’, ‘try it out’. Failure was always an opportunity for learning and growing: an important lesson, especially in college. After going remote in the spring, I basically had to relearn how I learned, and how I stayed motivated (thanks Netflix), and initially the switch to remote learning felt like the sensation described by Hannah Montana in the ballad of her eponymous movie. Eventually that mountain plateaued because of plenteous opportunities for growth :), but mostly because of the values I learned at CSP. At CSP, I was allowed to join any part of the team that I wanted and invest time in projects that really interested me. That ‘reach for the stars’ mentality is unique to CSP and FIRST, empowering students to take charge of their futures and our generation’s future. The instilled proactivity and confidence enabled me to become a leader in my college organizations, to self-start STEM and outreach projects, and get jobs; to go for it.
Though long hours sometimes stretched into the night at HQ, lengthening with the rise of the moon, and exhaustion peaked day 3 at competition – it was worth it. The late-night card games, Walmart snack trips, coffee runs, dancing, and laughs: all reflect the joy of robotics. Not only did I gain skills, I also made life-long friends that continue to spread that joy to this day.