Last spring, when we returned from the Houston FIRST Championship, we shared our next steps in our 2018 post event update, ” In the coming weeks, we’ll be meeting with community partners to get planning for our fall ROBOTICON event underway (#ROBOTICONinSpaaace! thanks to FIRSTs early reveal of this year’s FIRST Launch space theme for all programs!) , working with the ARM Institute to learn some best practices and leverage project funding and support opportunities, and to get AMRoC established.  We’re excited about the future here in Tampa Bay, and the collaborative partnerships that are making it possible!

Now, a year later, freshly returned from the 2019 FIRST Championship in Houston, where we shared our work with AMRoC Fab Lab (and this time with our FIRST Tech Challenge team competing as well!) ,we’re happy to report that we’re right on target with those next steps.  As a matter of fact, AMRoC Fab Lab will be fully open to the public by the time ROBOTICON 2019 opens its doors October 12 & 13 to celebrate the new season suite of games, FIRST Rise.

FCDI in the House

This year, we were fortunate to attend the FIRST Championship with the majority of our board, as well as with program partner, Scott Ertz, of PLuGHiTz Live and FIRST Looks.  With so many of us on site, we were able to spend more time speaking with more people and learning as much as we could about work being done in other communities to improve access to FIRST programs nationwide.

Sharing AMRoC Fab Lab

We were especially happy to be able to meet up with the board of Swerve Robotics, of Woodinville, Washington. Swerve founder and executive director, Heidi Lovett, sat in on our AMRoC presentation, and found we had a lot in common. Since most of their board was in Houston, and most of our board was in Houston (and our two FIRST Tech Challenge teams were pit neighbors!), we found some time to meet up and share some ideas for coast to coast collaboration. We plan to  connect again in the near future and hope to return to the 2020 Houston FIRST Championship with a collaborative presentation on broadening access to FIRST for more youth.

There was generally a lot of interest in our work at University Mall, developing a FIRST Robotics Center at AMRoC Fab Lab.  We fielded a lot of questions, and gave out a lot of cards and AMRoC flyers.  We’ve also archived our presentation, Building a FIRST Community Center, on our Resource page, for easy access, and hope to have a video of our presentation online soon.


Go Team Duct Tape!

It was also a lot of fun having FIRST Tech Challenge Team Duct Tape competing while we were in Houston.  The team was up against some stiff competition, and held their own, with some good wins and close losses.  They didn’t win any trophies, but as we told them, they were winners when they walked through the George Brown Convention Center doors, an experience only 4% of FIRST teams achieve.  FCDI is deeply grateful to RD Management, owners of University Mall where AMRoC Fab Lab is headquartered, and to SOFWERXCollins Aerospace and the many kind contributors to the team’s Go Fund Me campaign for their generous support of Team Duct Tape’s Houston Championship journey

Team members made the most of the experience, serving as student ambassadors for tours, attending workshops, enjoying the Innovation Center, and meeting some iconic FIRST figures, like Dr. Woodie Flowers and Dean Kamen.  They also got to see our home state teams make a great showing in Houston, especially fellow FIRST Tech Challenge team 3101 Boom Bots, of Palm Harbor University High School, who captained the Winning Alliance in an exciting finals match in Minute Maid Park. You can read about the team’s FIRST Championship journey here on their website.

Next Steps

Now it’s back to work in Tampa, as we double down at AMRoC to finish building out the machine shop area, the Audio-Visual studio, and get workshops and programs in place for our grand opening in June! We’ll be working closely with our partners at Tampa-Hillsborough Public Libraries, the Hillsborough County Extension Service, PLuGHiTz Live, U.S. Auto Training,  and other great organizations to pull together a robust calendar of activities and programming for all ages.

We’ve also got ROBOTICON 2019 on the calendar for October 12 & 13 at the University of South Florida Yuengling Center, where the AMRoC FIRST Robotics Competition field will be front and center as teams from around Florida compete in Destination:Deep Space one more time!  Registration for teams and free public tickets will go online soon, so stay tuned to the website and related social media.

We look forward to competing our build out of a STEAM powered community center for all ages in Uptown Tampa, and look forward to sharing our next chapter at the 2020 Houston FIRST Championship next spring!