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Rookie All-Star Award

4-H Force team member Chelsea Folmar at the 2012 Pittsburgh Regional FIRST Robotics Competition; photo courtesy of Jeff Swensen

4-H Force team member Chelsea Folmar at the 2012 Pittsburgh Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. PHOTO: JEFF SWENSEN

There is one moment that first-year FRC teams hold their breath waiting for: the announcement of the Rookie All-Star Award. It’s a big deal. It’s meant to recognize the strength of the partnership among team members and with their mentors and the community, for one thing. It’s also a nod to something that is hard to quantify—how you inspire others to want to learn more about science and technology.

Susan Alexander, 4-H youth educator and co-leader of Team 4031, the Jefferson 4-H robotics club, remembers the roaming judges who would walk through the pit area at the Pittsburgh regional event. “When they would come to our pit, it was the kids that would talk to them and explain to them exactly what the robot could and couldn’t do. Our kids—they built it. They had some help from the adults and guidance and such, but they knew what it did and how it did it,” she says. While she was beyond thrilled when Team 4031 was announced as the Rookie All-Star team, she wasn’t shocked. “I think that was a lot of what got them that award—their ease in talking to the judges and answering the questions the judges might have.”

The Rookie All-Star team advances along with the regional finalists to the FRC championships, held in April 2012 in St. Louis. There 400 teams competed. 4031’s robot, the Enforcer, played nine matches, for a record of three wins, five losses, and one tie.

Alexander notes that both corporations and colleges had informational tables set up at the arena. “The kids had opportunities to see firsthand how being on the team can relate to college and career,” she says.

Back home, the team’s attention is on cleaning the Enforcer up. It’s in big demand to be shown off in the upcoming local parade season. Beyond that, the team notes that kickoff for the next FRC season is January 5, 2013. They’re already counting down the days.