“Team Ethiopia needed a hex driver so I borrowed one from Team Bahamas.” Maria, one of the teen volunteers from Nova Labs, was problem solving at the 2017 FIRST Global inaugural international robotics challenge for youth at DAR Constitution Hall. Maria was aware that there was a spare parts station with a line (staffed by yet another Nova Labs volunteer). Yet she recognized that this inter-team swap was a quicker solution, leveraging relationships she had just formed with these international teams. This is just one exchange illustrating the value that volunteering at FIRST Global brings to teens – teens who rose before dawn to arrive at the competition by 6:30 a.m., five days in a row – and were exhausted, yet eager, for more after the closing ceremony.
At the inaugural FIRST Global challenge, there were robotics teams representing nearly 160 countries, all under the same roof, for four intense days this July. Nova Labs provided hundreds of volunteer hours from dozens of teens and adults over the last several months, culminating in the competition. This newsletter highlights a sampling of the latest efforts. Over the years, Nova Labs, which places a high value on outreach, has fostered collaboration with mentors and robotics teams at area schools, positioning us to step up to this amazing service opportunity. The opportunity shines well-deserved national attention on Marshall High School teens who went above and beyond to make this a success.
FIRST Global President, Joe Sestek, recently shared with the volunteers, “Please know that without you, FIRST Global would not have been the measure it was…you made its reach go beyond our grasp, and I will always be beholden to you for that.” I echo the sentiments of this former Navy admiral and statesman, who expresses so elegantly for FIRST Global, the gratitude I feel for Nova Labs volunteers. Volunteering is what Nova Labs does best. I am humbled by the strength and quality of Nova Labs volunteers that come through for our fledgling organization, time and again, and allow us to realize more than I can imagine.
This month, the board continued the effort to hire Nova Labs’ first paid position. As you’ll see in this month’s newsletter, we’ve posted the job description. We’re very excited about taking this first step into our next phase of the nonprofit world.
This month, Nova Labs made two capital acquisitions – a new flammables cabinet for the woodshop and a new industrial sewing machine for the Crafter’s Cove. Both should be setup in short order. In addition, the board also approved the purchase of a defibrillator (AED) for emergency situations.
As for internal board news, Jim Sweeney is working with Jim Girardi to transition the treasurer office in the coming months. Also, there is an additional open board position, stay tuned for more updates on that.
As always, please feel free to reach out to the board members on Slack, e-mail, or in person if you have any questions, concerns, or creative ideas (that’s a given!).
The Consew 206RB-5 industrial sewing machine is capable of sewing a wide range of materials from regular fabrics to almost a 1/2 inch of leather. Other materials include all weights of canvas, multiple layers of the heaviest denim, any cordura nylon fabric, neoprene, thick quilts, etc. Basically, whatever that can fit under the foot can be sewn with a few exceptions, of course. So you will be able to tackle and complete a wide variety of interesting projects.
Classes on the use of the new sewing machine will commence around mid-August.
Leather working is a broad area and one class, broken into two sessions, will in no way cover the gamut. It will, however, provide a space for those interested in exploring the wide world of leather work.
Lead Mentor Elena is in her third year volunteering with Nova Labs Robotics. FRC Team 5549 received national news coverage for their work mentoring Team Iran for the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge this July.
Over the course of the FIRST Global happenings at the makerspace, it was brought to the attention of the volunteers that it was impossible to ship a kit of parts to Team Iran due to tight security and sanctions. Thankfully, local FIRST Robotics Competition Team 5549 from Marshall High school stepped up to lend a hand. Through a series of Skype calls, pictures of designs, and late nights, the team built a robot from the FIRST Global kit according to the designs and strategy of Team Iran.
After weeks of work in their school as well as the Robot Corral, they finally welcomed Team Iran at the airport on July 11th. The teams returned to the corral for a Persian feast generously donated by Amoo’s Restaurant of McLean and a happy introduction to the robot. Over the course of the competition, members of Team 5549, volunteering for FIRST global, continued to help out the team as well as the whole event. Team Iran departed on July 25th, having witnessed the experience of a lifetime.
FIRST Global brought to Nova Labs an official competition field in early summer for use in training and demonstration. Not only did officials train on the field in the Robot Corral, it was also used for Team Afghanistan who was denied a visa until days before the competition. Afghan Americans practiced running Team Afghanistan’s robot in the Robot Corral in preparation to stand in for the Afghan team.
A hardy team of volunteers battled the sun, heat, humidity, and birds to install the practice fields on the south veranda of DAR Constitution Hall. It was teamwork of the highest degree (figuratively and actually). There was even a volunteer who answered the Meetup call for volunteers and trekked downtown to assist.
There was a slight delay because the foundation platform on the veranda was not wide enough. We pressed forward to assemble all of the pieces we could, and positioned them for final assembly when the platform was widened. It took a solid team of build professionals to make it all work. Despite the heat, we accomplished much in a few hours. We stayed hydrated and got way cool FIRST Global water bottles.
During breaks, we cooled off inside Constitution Hall. Lots of activity to ready the venue. Country banners galore and serious activity to set up the main stage. Note: the AC works really well inside – it was comfy cool inside.
Have you ever been to an escape room? If so, you’ve probably see the myriad ticks, puzzles, codes, and technology that make them fun and engaging. Nikki Rooney, one of Nova Labs’ seed grant awardees, became involved in puzzle solving and puzzle making almost 10 years ago – this love of code breaking, clue finding, and problem solving inspired her to moonlight at an escape room (right in Herndon!) where she gained experience running the rooms, brainstorming puzzles, and even working on some of the electronics.
Through her work, she realized that the same puzzle theories, combined with available technology, could be utilized to help kids learn, explore, and improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills while, at the same time, having a “magical” experience. Since no such thing existed, she took it upon herself to use what she had learned to create interactive puzzles for her children. And what’s even better? Her kids don’t have to go to an escape room as she’s made them portable – and as anyone who’s traveled with kids knows, mobile entertainment is always a challenge. Like an actual escape room, all the puzzles are connected through content, but unlike an escape room, they are all physically modular. For example, one of her projects, a jigsaw puzzle, when completed, lights up and gives a clue to the next puzzle.
Nikki’s creations use multiple technologies that’s she’s learned about through her work experience as well as through Nova Labs classes. These include Arduino, Raspberry Pi, RFID, reed switches (reacts to the presence of a magnetic field), and more. We’re excited to see the final versions of her imaginative designs.
Nova Labs is currently seeking a volunteer to serve as secretary on the Board of Directors with skills in communications. Responsibilities include community building, strategic communications, and strategic planning. Before starting board service, the selected individual must agree to key membership, if not already.
The open term is through 2018, to complete the term of Kelli Kedis Ogborn, who recently resigned. Lieselot Whitbeck is serving as secretary in the interim.
Interested individuals will have an opportunity for a conversation with Nova Labs community leaders, facilitated by Callye Keen. To nominate a candidate, or volunteer yourself, please contact Callye or one of the directors:
Nova Labs is hiring its first paid position – a makerspace coordinator! This is an important moment for any non-profit – the hiring of its first paid staff. We’re looking for a customer service superstar who can coordinate events at the makerspace, ensure they run smoothly, make everyone feel welcome, and assist the President with membership management tasks.
Initially, this will be a part-time position of roughly 20 hours per week (position may be shared). We’re excited about this important step as Nova Labs continues to grow and prosper.