Geneva High School’s FIRST Team Sponsored by The Label Printers

Geneva High School’s “ROBOVIKES” Team Attacks the FIRST Robotics Program’s Breakaway Challenge

Online PR News – 13-February-2010 – – Walking into a Geneva High School “ROBOVIKES” team meeting is like stepping into any team meeting of teenagers – they’re working, chatting, teasing, and laughing. They’re excited about what they’re building, maybe a little anxious about the upcoming competitions, but also looking forward to something that they understand, in their second year as a team, will be a blast.

The ROBOVIKES feature a mascot designed by The Label Printers’ prepress department, to the team’s specifications. The ROBOVIKE is clearly a cross between Geneva High School’s “Vikings” mascot and Robocop as he must look on the weekends when he’s working in the shop in his basement. In keeping with the Viking theme, Geneva will once again be naming their robot after a Viking god/goddess. Last year’s robot Freyja and her rookie team went to the Midwest Regionals, advancing there to the FIRST equivalent of the “Elite Eight”. This year’s team hopes to do as well, or better, in this year’s game, called Breakaway.

The FIRST program is designed so that the kids have only 6 weeks to build their robot from a kit of parts, with no instructions – one of the many life lessons that are part of this “competition of the mind” – and that 6 week time frame is a significant commitment of time and effort that is clearly understood by everyone. Mary Keyzer, a teacher at Geneva High School, draws on her years of experience as a coach, as she keeps an eagle eye on the proceedings, occasionally making a suggestion to one of the kids about what they might be working on. She says, “This year has been a little less stressful because we already had supplies and a core group of kids [from last year’s rookie team]. But it’s still a much slower process than people realize.” Trevor Deem, a sophomore veteran of last year’s ROBOVIKES team chimes in, “It’s slow, but fun. FIRST is fun.”

Senior David Foehring, who is considering an aerospace engineering major at IIT, is a rookie ROBOVIKE, and is involved with building the robot. He says, “It’s kinda fun coming up with different solutions to the challenges.” Sophomore Keane Hensley is a team veteran. He thinks that FIRST is a “great program [that] provides a lot of opportunities for anyone interested in any type of engineering. The challenge is really different this year. They did a really good job of making something really new and fresh.” He echoes Mary Keyzer’s sentiment, saying that this year “it was easier to get going because we’ve got stuff already from last year.” Freshman Matt Fee thinks that FIRST is “really fun. A different experience than what we usually do in school.” Matt is a member of the Alpine Club (Geneva’s ski club) and the freshman football team. And while FIRST may be a “competition of the mind”, Matt says that it’s like being on a football team, as everyone is “still working together for a common goal.”

In addition to Mary Keyzer, the ROBOVIKES coach, the team has two principal adult mentors who have volunteered countless hours to help the team build the robot – Kevin Keyzer, a ceramics engineer and Mary’s husband, and Joe Kane, who is the Prepress Department Manager at The Label Printers. Kevin’s brother is the teacher/mentor for the FIRST team at Lake Zurich High School and Kevin has long thought that the program is outstanding. Joe is a graduate of Geneva High School, who has a long term interest in robots, having built robots for both middle school and high school science projects. Joe says, “We have a good group of kids. There’s a lot of enthusiasm with this group. Even though we lost four seniors from last year’s team, we have four freshmen to replace them, which is good. The continuity helps.” He also echoes the idea that this year is easier than their rookie year. “They’re learned a lot. This year they’re much better at working as a team. And we can get better. This year will be a good year to get the construction part down, and hopefully future ROBOVIKES teams will be able to add other elements of the FIRST program, such as the ‘business’ aspect. For that, they’ll need community involvement and Boosters.”

Joe Kane encourages everyone to attend the Midwest Regional competition, held at UIC on March 19th and 20th. He suggests that this year’s game “should be very spectator friendly. Last year was a little chaotic to the observer – balls flying all over the place, tough to understand who had scored and how. But this year’s game is soccer themed, and I think that people who haven’t been immersed in the game for 6 weeks, trying to build a robot that will accomplish the game objectives, will better understand the action.” Twins (of the extremely identical variety) Derik and Mitchell Baer are freshmen working on construction of the robot. They think that FIRST is “pretty neat [and] offers a challenge.” They play Tri-Cities Soccer, and think that the soccer aspect of this year’s game is fun.

Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST national advisor and Pappalardo professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, advised students on how to succeed in the 21st century noting, “This thing we’re launching today [the Breakaway game introduction] is not about building a robot, it’s about changing society. Remember Gracious Professionalism™, remember informed thinking, and remember critical analysis – all three, all the time. If you do that, you will soon have real comparative advantage.”

ROBOVIKE Team Members:
Seniors: David Foehring, Kris Marut, Travis Reed, Will Zupke
Sophomores: Trevor Deem, Keane Hensley, Josh Kilmer, Jack Wilbur
Freshmen: Derik Baer, Mitchell Baer, Will Camacho, Matt Fee

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About Geneva High School (Community Unit School District 304)
Geneva Community High School is over 130 years old and has over 1,800 students, 150 faculty members, and offers more than 150 courses in eleven academic areas. Students may also enroll in one of thirty-seven academic courses in the Fox Valley Career Center curriculum. Advanced placement and honors courses are offered in all academic areas supported by the expansion of our Acceleration and Enrichment program.
While maintaining an outstanding tradition of excellence in education, athletic and extracurricular programs, our school provides a wide variety of community service learning experiences throughout Geneva and the Fox Valley. Our experienced administrative team and dedicated staff, along with the support of the community of Geneva, offer one of the finest educational opportunities available throughout the state of Illinois.

About the “Breakaway” Game:
Teams receive a Kit of Parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC, and a mix of automation components – but no instructions. Working with mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. Once these young inventors create a robot, their teams participate in competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.
In the FRC “Breakaway” robotics game, two alliances of three teams will compete on a 27-by-54-foot field with bumps, attempting to earn points by collecting soccer balls in goals. Additional bonus points will be earned for each robot suspended in air and not touching the field at the end of the match.
The bumps have the potential to flip the robot or make it crash because of its steepness. As they “run the floor” the robots will need to shoot soccer balls in their two goals (four goals total, but as in soccer, “own” goals count for the “other” team). Each goal scored is one point. Robots may play defense to prevent the other teams from scoring. As the game winds down to its last seconds, robots can score bonus points by suspending themselves off of a 7-foot tower. This earns the team two bonus points. And teams can earn three more points for every robot that is hanging off of the already suspended robot.
About the FIRST Robotics Competition:
The FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual competition that helps students discover the excitement of science, engineering, and technology and the rewards a career in STEM can bring. More than 45,000 high-school students on over 1,800 teams from the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Herzegovina, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the U.K. will participate in this year’s competition.
In 1992, the FIRST Robotics Competition began with 28 teams and a single 14-by-14-foot playing field in a New Hampshire high school gym. This season more than 1,800 teams – including 278 rookie teams – will participate. Forty-three regional competitions in the U.S., Canada, and Israel, plus seven district competitions and one state championship in Michigan, will lead up to the 2010 FIRST Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, April 15-17.
FIRST programs are spearheaded by more than 90,000 dedicated volunteers worldwide, most of them professional engineers and scientists who mentor the next generation of innovators.
Participating students are eligible to apply for nearly $12 million in scholarships offered by leading universities, colleges, and companies.
About FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology):
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $12 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) and FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) for 9 to 14-year-olds, (9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S. and Canada) and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL) for 6 to 9-year-olds. Gracious Professionalism™ is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to