The Founders of a “Robotics Program”
It all started extremely late in the Fall of 2009 with a meeting of students and a future mentor being shown a robot built to participate in a competition called FIRST FTC. All of them left with a desire to bring that kind of thing here to Lexington High School. FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team 4029, 2 Bits and a Byte,was founded in 2009 as a 10- person robotics club for students at LHS. Under the program name “LexRobotics,” the team met twice-a-week in the school computer lab. Being a public school club, we opted for an open doors policy, so anyone willing to put in the commitment could join. Several months later, a grant some fast fundraising, an 11th member and a kit of parts was ordered and delivered at end of January 2010. With only a state championship in March to participate in, things went really fast. One thing was certain though, there was a future for this kind of club activity here at LHS.
Being open doors generated rapid growth in participation, with the team having reached 60+ members at one point since its 10-member base in 2009. After reaching success at the World Championship, the community began recognizing the team in newspapers and school announcements, which both spread the word of FIRST and recruited new team members. The quality computer lab and spare classrooms also provide a comfortable, effective, and easily accessible environment to attract new students. Mentors grew more committed over time to help guide the team. Over the years, the team has come to learn how to be infinitely more structured which has benefited the team’s productivity and success, along with reinforcing the team as an engineering community where anyone of any ability level can learn at their own pace. Students participate in such wide variety of activities in and outside of school that fully committing to one is difficult. Yet they still want to be involved.
By being completely student-run and organized, people are constantly learning from one another and there is never nothing to do. We strive to think beyond competition and ensure that everyone’s passions are fostered in a safe and nurturing environment. At the same time, we value the spirit of competition which has helped unite all the members towards a larger goal. This necessitated the creation of the team/club model.
In thinking of the team vs. club aspect – the two are closely tied. The team runs the club, but the club makes the team. Likewise, the open doors policy is what has helped shape 2 Bits and a Byte into what it is today. To outsiders, the team growth seems cumbersome or chaotic. But on 2 Bits and a Byte, it is something we have come to not only utilize optimally, but to also establish the first engineering community of its kind in Lexington.