November 10, 2010 Interview with Ken Boddie
Oregon Pythian News
Page 10 Oregon Pythian News
Ivanhoe Supports Robotics Group FRC Teams 1432 & 4125
to see complete article with pictures go to http://www.oregonpythian.org/op/June%20issue%202012/OPN%20Spring%202012%20-%20FINAL%20(1up%20version).pdf
Ivanhoe Lodge No. 1 was the host of the Umatillla FIRST Robotics Competition team 4125 for the 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition season Kick Off. 23 students and 5 adults made the Lodge their home away from home along with FRC team 1432 starting Friday night so that they could all get up at 5 AM to drive to the Kick Off in Vancouver. (For a quick video about the event go to http://couv.com/business/robotics-future-workforce After several hours of speeches they were rewarded with finding out what this year’s game would be and then given their kit of parts to start planning what their robots will look like for the competition March 9 and 10 at the Memorial Coliseum. While at Kick Off, teams 4125 and 1432 were featured in a promotional video being shot by Boeing. We’ll let you know when it’s completed After looking at all of the new toys, the mock up of the field, and some very informative classes, they all returned to the Ivanhoe Lodge for lunch (provided by the Knights), brainstorming, and planning. FRC Team 4125 from Umatilla is a Rookie team and will be mentored by FRC Team 1432 during the competition season and as needed for the next year. One way team 1432 mentored team 4125 was to share their Boeing mentors for planning and strategizing. After many hours of working on the planning and scheduling and reading the four inch thick rule book everyone went to bed so that they could get up and take the five hour ride back to Umatilla.(Boeing mentors Tim Berry and Ejvin Berry teaching Umatilla about planning and prioritizing) Thanks to the generosity of the Ivanhoe Lodge, 23 high school students got to participate in a program that will change their lives forever. Want to help? The Umatilla team could use some more mentors and you don’t have to be an engineer to be one, just be a trust worthy adult interested in helping kids. If you’re interested contact Knight Alan LohKamp, Ivanhoe Lodge (firstname.lastname@example.org) There are teams all over the state and most of them could use help with something. The Umatilla team gratefully left a Thank You card and compliments on the meals provided. Thanks Knights!
Submitted by Rebecca LohKamp
Ivanhoe FRC Team 1432 Updates & Schedule Spring has sprung and that means that the team has yard work to do. Two days after this, of course it rained, but it was nice while it lasted. FRC Team 1432 would like to thank the Knights of Pythias for their very generous donation of $1,000 to our program. Thanks to the generosity of the Knights of Pythias we should have enough money to feed our students while they work on their projects. We just did a visitation at Central Catholic and we are hopeful to be able to help them start their own team. If they can’t get enough kids, we will train the ones they have, and then they will be able to start a team of their own the next year. The season is over but now they have to get the robot pretty and running for: ♦ school visitations, ♦ May 25-28—Multnomah County Fair at Oaks Park, ♦ June 9—our Open House from Noon to 6 PM, ♦ June 16—Spaghetti Feed at Reedwood Friends Church, 2901 Southeast Steele Street, Portland, OR 97202 ♦ July 12-15—Marion County Fair, Salem, Oregon. ♦ Our end of the year Awards Dinner will be August 4 at the Ivanhoe Lodge. We would love to have as many of you as can make it come to all of our events but especially our Awards Dinner and the spaghetti feed. It’s only $7.50 for all you can eat spaghetti, green salad, homemade garlic bread, and dessert. For those that like to gamble we will have raffle baskets too. Hope to see soon.
By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE April 4, 2012It’s been a struggle for mentors and friends of FIRST Robotic Competition (FRC) Team 1432, known as “Mahr’s Metal Beavers”, to keep the robot-building club together – after being turned out of their eight-year home at Franklin High School in 2011.
In the pit area, team member William Atkinson – a senior at Cleveland High School – explained how the team’s mechanics were busy testing the belts that drive the systems, and resetting a driving motor.
Franklin High’s former robotics club celebrates survival, competition
Although cast out of their longtime home – Franklin High School – for reasons still unclear, mentors and students of FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1432, “Mahr’s Metal Beavers”, didn’t quit or give up.
Instead, they say they’ve had a very successful year.
So enthusiastic about their club’s season were they, the group hosted a banquet for team members and supporters on June 27 at their new home, the Ivanhoe Lodge, Knights of Pythias, in Lents.
After those present had dined on the three-course supper, mentor Rebecca LohKamp and team members presented a program that outlined their year’s challenges, successes, and future.
“Our biggest accomplishment is that we survived,” LohKamp began.
“Nobody was giving us good odds that we would make it, and we did,” she added. “Franklin High School was hoping we would not make it, because if we folded, they would get to keep our grant money. Unfortunately for them, we survived.” The Southeast Portland Rotary Club’s Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, volunteered to become the team’s fiscal sponsor, and helped the team retain their grants and apply for new ones.
“We not only survived, we built two robots. After our ‘competition robot’ was shipped, we took out our second robot on public-relations outings to schools, and also a visit to the Oregon State Legislature. We are the only FRC Robotics team that has been presented before the Oregon House of Representatives.
“We competed. Not only did we compete, we also scored.
“We have a new place to meet, and we have fixed it up. There is still work to be done, but the kids have worked really hard.
“We helped start a First Robotics Team in the City of Gresham. We took them to the kickoff event, brought them back to our clubhouse, and helped them brainstorm to help them get started during their ‘build season’. We didn’t score well in the competition, but the Gresham team went on to the World Championship. They said it was in no small part due to us.
“We hosted a team from Mexico. It was a lot of fun and a great experience for the kids. We have developed international friendships with that team that continue; they say they are anxious to come back next year and want to be here with us.”
LohKamp concluded, “And, we visited the Oregon State Legislature for a second time, with the hope of persuading the legislature to pass legislation that would allow mentors to be considered to be the same as athletic coaches. Other states do this, there’s no reason why the state of Oregon can’t! After all, the FIRST motto is, ‘Athletics for the Mind’.”
The team members also shared their goals for the 2011-2012 season. Interestingly, “winning” wasn’t high on their list.
Instead, their first goal was to improve their robot design process. “Because we got kicked out of Franklin High just before the ‘build season’,” explained LohKamp, “We were busy moving, organizing, and trying to find tools. They look to have a more structured, focused [robot] design process [next season].”
Their second goal is to learn how to nimbly operate computer-assisted drafting software programs.
The third is to raise money. “It’s expensive to do this program,” LohKamp observed. “The base cost is $10,000. The nonprofit Southeast Rotary Club Foundation volunteered to be the fiscal agent for the team when Franklin High ended its association with the team, and all the previous financial grants to the team that Franklin High had tried to return were retained.
LohKamp continued, “But, this team has other expenses; every single kid on our team last year was from a family at or below the poverty level. We feed them at every single meeting – for some of the kids on this team, it’s the only meal they can count on. During the summer, the program continues to meet three days a week – and we have continued providing meals for the students at these meetings, too.”
Doing better in advertising and promotion was next on their list. “Our team members know that this is a program that helps change people’s lives; they want people, especially kids, to know about it,” explained LohKamp.
Way down their list of goals is “Do better in the competition”. While they’d dearly love to travel to the world competition, LohKamp pointed out, “What makes me the proudest is that they see that ‘learning’ is more important than ‘winning’.”
Since the banquet, the team accomplished another goal: Building a graphics-dedicated computer powerful enough to run Autodesk’s AutoCAD computer-aided drafting programs.
After student and sponsor awards were presented, mentor and Boeing engineer Ejvin Berry challenged the team to, over the summer, build a “Show Bot” to help them further promote the FIRST Robotics program at fairs, parades, schools, and other public events. In their lair, Mahr’s Metal Beavers is currently designing that robot.
If you know a high school age student in Southeast Portland who would like to learn more about this program – or would like to help sponsor the team’s activities – learn more about the club by visiting their website:www.team1432.org . They meet at Ivanhoe Lodge – Knights of Pythias, 5400 S.E. 84th Avenue at Insley Street.
NASA Headquarters, Washington
NASA AND BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA UNVEIL
NEW MERIT BADGE In WASHINGTON –
Boy Scouts now have the opportunity to work with
NASA and other technology professionals to design,
build, and demonstrate a robot to earn the new
Robotics merit badge.NASA and BSA developed the
badge because of the wide-reaching impact of robotics
and its role in science, technology, engineering, and
math, or STEM careers. The badge is now part of the
BSA’s new curriculum emphasizing STEM activities
and will help young men develop critical skills relevant
and needed in today’s competitive world. The new
merit badge is one of 31 STEM-related merit badges.
Scouts will have access to engineering software and
work with professional mentors worldwide to earn the
“This unique partnership is another clear example of
NASA looking at new and creative ways to inspire our
youth to consider STEM careers,” said Lyndon
Bridgewater, NASA aerospace engineer and lead badge
coordinator from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in
Houston.The badge involved approximately 14 months
of development and input from 13 organizations and
more than 150 BSA youth members and leaders and
industry professionals from across the nation. To earn
the Robotics merit badge, a scout is required to
understand how robots move, sense the environment
and understand how to perform an operation. Scouts
will spend approximately 14 hours meeting the
requirements of the badge, during which they will
design a robot and demonstrate how it works. The BSA
anticipates more than 10,000 Robotics merit badges
will be earned the first year.”While the guiding
principles of Scouting — service to others, leadership,
personal achievement, and respect for the outdoors –
will never change, we continue to adapt programs to
prepare young people for success in all areas of life,”
said BSA Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca.For
more information on BSA and a full list of the
requirements to earn the badge,
http://www.boyslife.org/robotics To view the badge, visit:
Franklin High’s banished robotics club flourishes at
BY DAVID F. ASHTON
The Bee, Mar 2, 2011
About four weeks into their six-week “build season”, First Robotics Competition Team 1432 – “Mahr ’s Metal Beavers” – were hard at work, when we visited them on February 11th.
“It’s been a hard grind, but we will be at the competition in March,” said one of the team’s sponsors, Rebecca LohKamp. “The Ivanhoe Lodge of Knights of Pythias has been a Godsend – we would have had to fold, if they hadn’t opened their lodge to us here in Lents.”
Franklin High sophomore Gabrial Guodace was elected to talk to us about this season’s project.
“Counting the summer before my freshman year, this is my third season with the club,” Guodace began.
The challenge in this year’s competition, Guodace explained, is to build a robot that can pick up and move objects that look like inflatable pool toys. “We have to guide them onto pegs of different heights, some of them up to ten feet tall.”
They hope to have better success than at their last competition. “Last year, our robot was failing. This year, we’ll have only two or three things to worry about; and our manufacturing and construction seems to be going well.”
About having to move out of Franklin High School, which many team members attend, to their present location in the Lents neighborhood, Guodace was sanguine. “It’s a longer commute; and we had access to professional-grade tools in Franklin’s shop. But, here at our new shop, everything’s right here.”
Mentor Alan LohKamp took a moment from his duties to update us on the club’s funding situation.
“From what I understand, the Franklin High School office sent our grant check back to Intel Corporation sometime after they said they did. And apparently they didn’t send it back to the originators of the check, so it probably bounced around a few desks.”
This delay was problematic, LohKamp said. “We were taking money out of our pockets to buy the things we knew would be in short supply. Robotics teams all need to buy the same equipment and devices at the same time.”
As of the time of our visit, LohKamp said they still hadn’t received their Intel grant funds back. “They did manage to track it down, backwards from their source; I’m confident we’ll get it.” Shortly afterward, they did, via the Southeast Portland Rotary Club Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit which agreed to replace Franklin High as the receiver and disburser of the team’s grant funds, allowing them to continue to receive grants.
About their new fiscal sponsor, the Southeast Portland Rotary Club, which meets on Monday noons at Woodstock’s Our Lady of Sorrows’ parish room, LohKamp had high praise. “They’ve been very good to us, and are helping us work things out. I look forward to a being associated with them in the future.”
Rebecca said the team was also grateful to the Hankin’s True Value Hardware on S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard. “They’ve given us $2,000 in product, to get re-established.”
Asked about their chances of taking home a trophy this year, Guodac said, as we left, “Win or not, it’ll be fun!”
The team’s Internet website is: www.team1432.org . The regional FIRST Robotics competition this year will be on March(correction – Competition date is March 26th at the Memorial Coliseum – Its Free!) 5th and 6th at the Coliseum; it’s open to the public.
January, 2011 – Vol. 105, No. 5
EQUIPMENT & CASH RETURNED
Robotics team survives its exit from Franklin High
By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE
THE BEE was there – as mentors, students, and volunteers hustled to load FRC Team 1432’s materials out of the otherwise-disused auto repair shop at Franklin High School, when the school granted a brief opportunity to remove them on November 22. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
EQUIPMENT & CASH RETURNED
Robotics team survives its exit from Franklin High
By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE
As the many e-mails to THE BEE from around the world during the past month have demonstrated, those who know how FIRST Robotic Competition (FRC) teams help young people learn and gain experience in engineering, problem solving, computers, and electro-mechanics, were flabbergasted to learn that FRC Team 1432, “Mahr’s Metal Beavers”, had been dismissed from Portland Public Schools’ (PPS) Franklin High School.
As of the time the last issue of THE BEE went to press, the club’s members had been locked out of Franklin’s disused auto repair shop where they had been meeting – their equipment and supplies impounded, pending an “inventory” – and their funds were being held by the school, which had been serving as their nonprofit fiscal agent.
The youthful engineers of “Mahr’s Metal Beavers” – originally named to honor the Franklin High teacher who helped start their group – and their adult mentors did not despair. Instead, they chose a new motto: “Never give up, never surrender”.
After we went to press, an e-mail arrived from the PPS District Office demanding that an attached letter, dated November 30, on PPS District Office letterhead, be prominently published. It is in this month’s “Letters to the Editor” column, reproduced in its entirety. The letter asserts that the situation has been resolved.
We asked one of the team’s founding mentors, Rebecca LohKamp, to comment on that official statement.
“It is resolved – [but] only in that the school has successfully removed us from Franklin High,” LohKamp said. “And, if we don’t use the $2,219.93 in our account within 12 months, they get to keep it.”
Regarding the referred-to inability, “despite several attempts”, for school administrators to find a staff advisor for the team, LohKamp said she questions the sincerity of the statement.
“The Principal stated that she had spoken with the teachers at a staff meeting, and that there was no need for us to contact them again,” LohKamp said. “When we asked if we could personally appeal for an advisor, she refused. We found five teachers who were interested. Then, for some reason, their minds were changed.”
LohKamp listed the names and dates of contacts with Franklin High teachers or staff members who initially indicated an interest – and who then backed out. We fear that publishing their names could jeopardize their employment with the school district, so we will not reveal them.
About the school’s decision to go ahead and let the team pick up their tools and supplies, LohKamp said, “Yes, they did. But it took them 31 days to do so.”
George A. Hubel, a parent of two youths on Team 1432, who spoke out in the previous article, told of his involvement. “After getting nowhere with PPS Cluster Administrator Lynne Shlom Ferguson, I decided we were talking to the wrong people,” Hubel told THE BEE in a December 2 interview.
“As part of a November 15 conversation with Franklin’s Business Manager, Steve Matthews – he essentially said ‘I do what I’m told’ – he suggested that I talk with the District’s legal counsel.”
Taking that advice, Hubel said he immediately called PPS staff attorney Jollee Patterson. “Ms. Patterson called back on November 16, listened to our grievance, and said she’d look into the matter.”
An e-mail from Matthews, sent on November 17 at 2:39 pm, indicated the club’s property would be returned, grants would be refunded to their grantors, and that the team’s cash funds held by the school district would be available for their use for one year, said Hubel.
“I’m a little puzzled why the letter [to THE BEE] stated that the issue had been resolved on November 15,” Hubel added.
The date set for the team to recover their property was Monday, November 22. “They gave us four hours, from noon until 4 pm, to clear out our things,” LohKamp said.
At the appointed hour, LohKamp said, she was pleased to see that the school had sent down their IT instructor, and a former team advisor, Dennis Swofford, to supervise their departure – instead of the security guards who had originally showed up to lock them out.
“Mr. Swofford was very kind and helpful,” LohKamp said. “We got everything, except one roll-around tool box and a stool we believe are ours; we’re happy to get what we got.” THE BEE was present to document the event in photos.
The last hurdle facing the team was the loss of grants needed to build robots to enter this season’s competitions – it takes up to a year to certify an organization as a 503(c)3 entity, and only a 503(c)3 can receive these grants.
“We were within a week of losing our major grants – funds the school district had returned [to the grantors],” LohKamp said on December 8. “Then, the Southeast Portland Rotary Foundation stepped in, and agreed to be a fiscal sponsor, taking us under their umbrella.”
Bill Meyer, Treasurer of the Southeast Portland Rotary Foundation, discusses with team mentor Rebecca LohKamp how the foundation would be able to step in as a nonprofit fiscal agent for Team 1432 with team mentor, during the December 6th meeting at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Room in Woodstock. The parent Rotary Club meets there on Monday noons. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
This foundation, a 503(c)3, is affiliated with the Southeast Portland Rotary Club, but has its own Board. Current Board President Eric Norberg commented that the Rotary Club members, having assured themselves of the bona fides of the group and the soundness of its procedures, agreed to be the receiving and disbursing agent for the club until it gets its own 503(c)3 status. “The FIRST Robotics program is very important in building tomorrow’s scientists – and in the meantime keeping students engrossed in their education,” Norberg commented.
Meantime, “Mahr’s Metal Beavers” is now meeting in the basement of the Knights of Pythias hall at 5400 S.E. 84th Avenue. “We’ve committed to be at the Oregon Regional [competition], March 24-26, 2011,” reported LohKamp.
Large concerns, like Boeing, have agreed to donate registration fees, and have given in-kind donations to the former Franklin team – items such as drill bits. Platt Electric has stepped up with supplies, and other generous people and organizations have offered the loan of a Jet-16 milling machine and a lathe, and rechargeable power drills. “After hearing about our need, Nick O’Brien from Minnesota sent us a flat-screen computer monitor,” smiled LohKamp. (The team owned its own computer, but the school owned the monitor.)
“When they say the school is ‘proud to have offered the Robotics Team for so many years, and are proud of students’ accomplishments in the team’,” LohKamp commented about the letter published in this issue of THE BEE, “It’s true. They repeatedly pointed to the robotics team as one of the reasons why Franklin High School should not be closed, when the PPS held the public meetings regarding the high school redesign plan.”
About the experience of being ejected from Franklin, LohKamp said, “It’s a hard place to be in, but it will turn out to be a blessing. The kids are learning all kinds of civic lessons they wouldn’t have learned in the classroom. We’re continuing our commitment to help start new FRC Teams; we’re now working with a group getting started in Gresham.”
During our last conversation, LohKamp asked that we share the most important facet of this story, which has yet to be told: “We’ve always been ‘The team that shouldn’t exist’. The majority of our kids’ parents are unemployed or under-employed, and up to 75% of our students are on free or reduced lunches. We welcome any young person who wants to participate, and who sincerely commits to do their best.”
While they haven’t yet brought back gold medals from international competitions, “Our ‘trophies’ are seeing students grow and succeed. Some of these are young people who the school system had ‘written off’ as failures, or considered fated to hold a minimum-wage job. Our most recent ‘crowning jewel’ is a young man who was destined to go into a cleaning job. He joined our program, and because of his participation, received a full-ride scholarship – and just graduated from Portland State University.”
While they’re sincerely thankful for their workspace at Knights of Pythias hall – it is our own conclusion that a heated industrial space, located closer to Franklin High (where members of the team are still students), would be helpful. And, all donations are welcomed.
To learn more about FRC Team 1432, or to donate online, visit their Internet website: www.team1432.org.
Unanswered is a question we raised in our last article a month ago: Why is the Portland Public Schools “Student Responsibilities, Rights and Discipline Handbook” that broadly defines a “club” and states it must be supervised by “an adult who is approved by the Principal” – in conflict with Portland Public SchoolsAdministrative Directive “4.40.050-AD Student Clubs”, which places clubs into two categories – staff supervised and approved-adult supervised?
Why must all school clubs, with the exception of “religious, political and sports clubs”, have a staff supervisor? And perhaps most importantly, why are Portland Public Schools Administrative Directives so inflexible as to not permit FRC Robotics to be considered a “sports club”? After all, FRC’s trademarked slogan is“The varsity sport for the mind”, adding that their program “combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology”.
In a city that bemoans its elevated high school dropout rates, and the lack of opportunities for young people, many people are scratching their heads, wondering why what appears to be a strict adherence to inflexible policies and procedures are trumping no-cost after-school programs that offer some of our most at-risk youngsters a second chance?
12-06-10 – New story in the Bee soon. The
school requested a rebuttal to be printed.
The S.E. Portland Rotary has saved the day with taking on our
grants and acting as fiscal oversight! More to come!
At the Rotary meeting the editor of the Bee said he was receiving contact about our story from all over the world.
Please be assured we have our stuff back – honest. They had it under lock and key for 31 days but they released it. We got everything but a large roll around red tool box to store our many hand tools in.
Clearing up the Facts and Misconceptions
Misconception: There weren’t any teachers willing to be our advisor(s).
Fact: WE had at least 5 teachers willing to be our advisor but when the went to the office to sign the paper they were talked out of it.
Misconception: Unions are the problem
Fact: That although the principle of the school assured us that we could not pay a teacher to be our advisor because the union wouldn’t allow it, the truth of the matter is the union disagreed with the principle on all counts.
Misconception: The School is Continuing to with hold our money.
Fact: After 31days the school has returned all of our grant money to the original granters and that the small individual donors ($5/plate dinners) money is still in the club account $2,219.93. They did make a purchase order for the three Lego League Kits for Doernbecher Children’s hospital available for our use as per our request $1375.
Portland Republican Examiner
November 30th, 2010 3:11 pm PT
Quietly over the holiday weekend, the Bee, a community newspaper covering SE Portland, reported that Franklin High School had closed the doors to the robotics club, Team 1432, aka Mahr’s Metal Beavers. The club had been part of the FIRST Robotics Competition, a group formed over 20 years ago to foster interest in science and technology. Franklin states the club had to close because it did not have a faculty member on staff serving as an advisor, and no teacher volunteered to take it on. Now, the doors to the shop where the group met are locked, and they were unable to even get their robot out for an OMSI display. The group finally was able to get their robot when the principal allowed them to, but their equipment is still locked away, and funds they have raised are unavailable as well. The team says they raised $7,500, which they may never get back, and the team fears the school or the district will keep the funds.
While Franklin’s business manager Steve Matthews saidthat the school will teach smaller-scale robotics courses, it does not give students the chance to learn and compete with others. The school is keeping clubs for Yu-Gi-Oh! and other anime’ themes, and comics and gaming, but a club that would actually teach problem solving and scientific skills cannot be kept because a teacher can’t be found to be an advisor, and therefore cannot even meet on the school’s campus, despite the auto shop area’s vacancy. The Portland Public Schools require a teacher supervise any student group or organization other than those that are religious, political, or sports themed. The team now meets at the Knights of Pythias, but without their resources. Hopefully local high tech companies like Intel or Nvidia will step up and help them out, since this club may have future employees for these firms. If the schools will not invest in the future, companies will have to.
Yet once again, the district has shown that education is not their top priority, and keeping kids engaged in areas that interest them is immaterial to them. Students who are interested and engaged are far more likely to stay in school and be better citizens. The increase in gang activity in the city can be tied to the cut backs in schools. Disengaged and disinterested students will find other ways to belong and have purpose.
Oddly, the Portland news outlets have been quiet about this story, save for the Bee. This story has attracted national attention, though, when MythBusters hosts Adam Savage and Grant Imahara tweeted links back to the story over the holiday. Grant has been a mentor to Bay Arearobotics teams, helping kids there discover what he grew up loving. He received an electronics engineering degree from USC and was one of the operators of the R2D2 units in the Star Wars prequel movies. Both Grant and Adam have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, so many people nationally and internationally now know about the disgraceful way Franklin handled this with their students. At a time when the President is calling on the MythBusters to help with science education, it serves as another highlight of how broken our schools are to see a club canceled because no teacher wanted to step up. How 5 quirky special effects artists from San Francisco who host a fun edutainment show are supposed to save science education in America is a mystery, since they should only be supplementing what kids learn from their teachers and their parents. Yet if schools keep continuing on the path that Franklin is on, perhaps MythBusters will be all that’s left.
Nov 28 – update
WOW What a Weekend!
You probably already noticed, but the youtube video got linked on fark.com – http://www.fark.com/cgi/comments.pl?IDLink=5788013 … and the bee article was linked on reddit - http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/ectvj/franklin_high_banishes_its_robotics_club_may_keep/ mythbusters posted about it on twitter, here’s the actual posts, from one of the hosts of the show, then retweeted by one of the staff: http://twitter.com/donttrythis/statuses/8913648630112256 http://twitter.com/grantimahara/statuses/8916479206494208 We have received an offer to help us set up a 501-C-3 but it can’t possibly be ready in time for this year. Our most pressing need at this point is borrowing someone’s for this year to get our grant money before its lost.
Front Page – The Bee
December 2010 Portland, Oregon Vol.105,NO. 4 http://www.readthebee.com/
Franklin High banishes its robotics club; may keep its cash By DAVID F. ASHTONfor THE BEE
Current members of the first Portland area high school robotics club – chartered as “Team 1432” by FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) – ponder the club’s future as they sit with their only asset – last year’s robot – in the dank basement of an aging fraternal organization’s clubhouse in the Lents neighborhood. For seven years, members of “Mahr’s Metal Beavers” (for Peter Mahr, long time Franklin High teacher and department head), the club’s brand name, were proud to say they were from Franklin High School. But now, going into their eighth year, the students and volunteer mentors
find themselves physically locked out of the disused auto repair shop they once called home, in the bowels of the Inner Southeast high school. The now ex-Franklin Team 1432 struggles to compete in competitions in a national and international arena. It has even mentored teams at Benson High and Cleveland High, as reported in THE BEEin an April 2010 story. FIRST Robotics Competition, founded by prolific inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 “to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology”, has by now spread to 44 countries, with 150,000 participating students. FRC’s slogan, “The varsity sport for the mind”, sums up the program – which “combines the excitement of sport, with the rigors of science and technology”, according to the organization. To be recognized as an official Franklin High club, it must have a “staff advisor” – a person they’ve lacked since their last advisor chose to resign the volunteer assignment, in favor of helping to teach in the school’s Oregon MESA Program. After repeated requests, not one of Franklin High’s approximately 100 staff or administrative staff would step up, reported one of Team 1432’s main mentors, Rebecca LohKamp. “We found ourselves standing outside the auto shop waiting to get in on October 21st,” LohKamp says. “Three times previously, Principal Shay James refused to let us have our robot for the OMSI display on October 23. Finally, James allowed us to remove the robot only. All of our computers, parts, and tools are still locked in the auto shop.” Asked if issues have come up that would cause hard feelings between the club and the school’s administration, LohKamp said, “In all the years we’ve been there, a Principal has never come to see us. When we’ve talked to her in the past, she always seemed pleasant.” Although we called and requested to meet with Principal James, or at least talk with her on the telephone, she did not respond. Instead, Franklin High’s Business Manager, Steve Matthews, returned our call. Matthews said that the school has chosen to have classes that teach smaller-scale robotics. These classes would give opportunity to have more kids involved, he said, and to be a classroom activity, presented as an academic course. We asked why Franklin High couldn’t host both a robotics club and the Portland State University-based outreach program “Oregon MESA”. “We can’t do both,” Matthews responded, “because we don’t have a teacher who can commit the time required – to be involved in the [FRC] competitions and the club.” Matthews added that the school favors offering the MESA coursework. “We have a teacher, Ms. Merritt Dalton, who is certified in that discipline. Assisting her with the course is the former robotic club advisor, Dennis Swofford.” In the Portland Public Schools “Student Responsibilities, Rights and Discipline Handbook”, given to Franklin High students when school began this year – under the section “Clubs, Student Participation” – defines a “club”, and states that clubs must be supervised by “an adult who is approved by the Principal …” THE BEE asked why the current volunteer mentors, Allen and Rebecca LohKamp – adults vetted by other youth group organizations – didn’t qualify, under these rules. Matthews referred to Portland Public Schools Administrative Directive “4.40.050-AD, Student Clubs”, that defines school clubs as “… recognized student groups or organizations that may be curricular or non-curricular.” Matthews then quoted from Section I, Subpart 5, “Supervision of student clubs” which states: “… All clubs with the exception of religious, political, and sports clubs must have a staff supervisor.” Because the robotics club is not a religious, a political, or apparently even considered a sports club, it must have a staff supervisor under PPS rules, and if such a person isn’t available, it can no longer meet at, or be affiliated with, Franklin High School, Matthews contended. As of this writing, no one at the school, or at the Portland School District offices, has been able to have clarify the glaring discrepancy between the PPS Administrative Directive and the Student Handbook. “The ‘staff supervisor’ doesn’t have to do anything for the club,” LohKamp told THE BEE in frustration. “We do our own fundraising, and have eleven club mentors, most of whom are professional engineers, working with us.” About the club’s parts, computers, and tools, Franklin’s Matthews to us that they have been secured, pending an inventory. “I sent out an e-mail asking about it today, November 8.” As of this writing, however, the inventory has yet to be done. But that’s not the only problem the high school is causing its former club. Further frustrating the efforts of the club is the inaccessibility of its funds. “The last printout from the school I saw shows they are holding $7,500, funds dedicated to ‘Team 1432’,” LohKamp added. “Now they claim the money that we raised was given to the school, and might now belong to the school district.” George A. Hubel, a parent of two youthful members of Team 1432, told THE BEE, “My reaction to all this is complete and utter frustration. All I want them to do is to negotiate with us, and find a solution.” Franklin High’s unused auto shop is an ideal location, Hubel observed. “Building a robot requires a large industrial space. And, since most of these kids attend Franklin, it means they don’t have to travel to attend club meetings.” But, after a meeting with Portland Public Schools cluster administrator Lynne Shlom Ferguson, Hubel said, “I went in hoping we could find a solution; I came away in disbelief. The response was, essentially, that things are the way they are – and the issue is closed.” About the club’s resources, Hubel commented, “There it all sits, under lock and key. It’s bad enough that they’ve ‘stolen’ a month of meetings, so far, from the kids. And, you don’t go around stealing children’s money! They’ve all but threatened to take the club’s money; it’s a filthy tactic. Instead of adults coming up with a reasonable solution, we feel threatened by the school, and the district.” Hubel said, in the broader prospective, he’s “dismayed” that the school district wants to “throw away” a proven program that encourages kids to stay in school, to graduate, and to pursue further engineering education. “Unlike classroom studies, this kind of program promotes a ‘spark of excitement’ in kids to learn math and science.” While not a spokesman for the other parents, Hubel said he thinks they’d agree with his three demands: “Negotiate with us fairly; release our property; and, pledge to return the money.” In their new meeting space, the Knights of Pythias Hall, LohKamp brought the meeting of Mahr’s Metal Beavers to order on November 9. Instead of bemoaning their apparent fate, the group turned its attention toward creating a business plan to move forward. Goals listed by the students included finding a way of getting tools and supplies so they can compete this year. One of them suggested, “I think finding a way to meet at Franklin, our school, would also be a good goal.” Will the winner be education – or bureaucracy? Time will tell. Team update November 22 - We were able to get all of our stuff except one three drawer roll around tool box. We were sorry to lose it but considering we got everything else we weren’t going to fight about it. Pretty crowded in the basement now but after 3 days of organizing we should be able to walk around. We still need to replace the equipment that we had access to at the school (lathe, milling machine, band saw, drill press, and grinder, and find a place to put it.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The Bee, Mar 2, 2010
Robotics kids at Franklin ready for competition
Editor, At Franklin High School in Southeast Portland, a team of aspiring young engineers and scientists jump into action each evening at the call, “Students, man your robot”. A team of 18 youngsters between the ages of 14-18 respond by
checking parts and systems on a robot they hope will earn them acceptance for trip to Atlanta, Georgia, for the “FIRST Robotics World’s Competition”, and ultimately lead to advanced academics. The team, commonly known as “Mahr’s Metal Beavers”, is officially FRC Team 1432, and will be competing with 60 other teams from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and California. The team received a package of robot building materials on January 9, and had only until February 23rd, just six weeks, to complete the assignment. The “Autodesk Oregon Regional Competition” will be on March 5-6 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland. The Franklin robot weighs 120 pounds, and can kick a soccer ball 54 feet into a goal, defend its own goal, cross 18-inch high field berms, and raise itself on a bar six-and-one-half feet above the ground. The project offers a “true learning experience for under-served youngsters in Southeast Portland, and the Franklin area in particular,” according to Rebecca LohKamp, team mentor. In building a robot, students are required to use applied math and physics, learn to use tools, develop basic computer skills and become adept at coping with challenges needed for higher education or obtaining a better job. During the first 15 seconds of competition the robot must operate autonomously, without human handlers. After that the students operate their robots remotely. The Mahr’s Metal Beavers team was founded in 2003 by Peter Mahr, head of the industrial arts program at Franklin High. The first team involved five male students. This year’s team includes 15 young men and three young women students. Nationally, FIRST Robotics students have the opportunity to win scholarship awards of more than $12 million this year alone. I hope BEE readers will go to the Coliseum on March 5 and 6 to see them compete! Doug Porter, via e-mail