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Society of Women Engineers

SWE-Sponsored FIRST Team Has Five Female Mentors

Two of our FIRST team mentors are teachers, one is a safety engineer at Ford Motor Company, two are college students, and one is a community member.

Published On: March 2018


FRC team 6914 Retro5ive competed in its first ever competition the first weekend of March. Here are the results:

“We competed at the GIbraltar Event at Carlson High School in Gibraltar, MI with 37 other teams. Our team did a great job. We made it to the playoffs and were picked by the number three alliance to compete in the finals. Our alliance made it all the way to the last match of the semifinals before losing to the alliance with last year’s WORLD CHAMPION team on it, so no shame in that loss and so much pride, energy, and excitement from our team.  We may not have one a 1st or 2nd place for our driving, but we own an award that I consider even better for our first time out on the field; We won the Rookie All Star Award, an award that looks at all aspects of our team and how we embrace and live the foundations of FIRST. With this award, our team, Retro5ive, now goes to the State Championship in Saginaw, MI April 11-14, 2018. Thank you for your support as we continue on our path to learning and achievement!” – Terry Laesser, Lead Mentor, Team 6914, Retro5ive

The Team

FRC team 6914, also known as Retro5ive, from Melvindale, Michigan is a rookie team founded by Terry Laesser that is looking to make a name for itself. We have intentions of restoring and surpassing the previous accomplishments of Melvindale High School’s robotics team, which competed and won in many regional events during their 10 year run.


Our team has 25 students and 6 mentors. Two mentors are teachers, one is a safety engineer at Ford Motor Company, two are college students who are former FRC members, and one is a community member. Of those mentors, five are female and one is male. Our lead mentor is a female who founded our team this year and another FRC team at another school five years ago. Two other female mentors are engineers. Our team is incredibly diverse and is made up of 8 females and 17 males. Our female students are key to our programming team, our marketing and fundraising team, and our wiring and electrical team. Of our 25 members, we also have representation from African Americans, Arabic Americans, Caucasians, and Latinos. Each student is looked at as a member of our team, thus making them a member of our family.  Our differences make us stronger as we all work toward the same goal of becoming one of the greatest teams to compete.

The Challenge

Each year, FIRST Robotics designs a new challenge in which teams across the world compete by designing, building, programming, and driving a robot. This year’s challenge is called Power Up, which is a video game themed challenge. The goal is to get “power cubes” on a switch to control it, getting power ups by putting cubes in a vault, and finally, climbing a tower to face “The Boss”. Each match is 2 minutes and 30 seconds long and are played with two alliances, each comprised of three robots-one from each team. The alliance with the most points at the end of the match, wins!

The Strategy

As this is the first rookie year for Retro5ive, we had a lot to do. We have attended the Rookie Build Workshops with other rookie teams to team build and network with others. We attended the Kick-Off Event in Detroit, Michigan, saw what our challenge was, and immediately began to strategize what we wanted our robot to do. We feel that if we can fill the vault with cubes we can get a free levitate for our alliance, plus a boost, and power up. After filling the vault with nine cubes and gaining 95 points, our plan is to remove cubes from the field that the opposing alliance could place on the switch.  At this point in the build season, our robot is almost complete, all the wiring is done, and we are working on the final bit of programming.

While the Retro5ive build team has been busy, so has our marketing and fundraising team. We had to design our new logo (see t-shirts above), work on a business plan to be able to make ourselves sustainable in the future, and plan fundraisers to assist with getting funding and material that are needed to build our robot.  We had T-shirts made, are working on a mascot for competitions and community events, and are working on our cheer squad props to support our team from the stands at competitions.

Our safety team has not been idle, either. They gave been attending risk assessment and management trainings, fire extinguisher use trainings, and First Aid and CPR/AED trainings. Retro5ive’s safety team passes their knowledge on to other members of the team to ensure everyone is following the safety rules and no one gets hurt. The safety team has also been working on safety checklists and a safety orientation for the team.

All these different teams are an important part of FIRST and Retro5ive as a whole. We have to work together to be successful. At competitions, it is not just the robot that is recognized, it is all the parts of the team. FIRST offers many different awards for all these different parts of the team, as they recognize how everything fits together to be a success.

The Off-Season

When Retro5ive is not working hard during the 6 week build season or competing at one of their three events during the 6 week competition season, we strive to teach others what we have learned. Retro5ive maintains strong ties to our community. We have worked closely with younger students in our middle and elementary schools to establish an FLL team and lay the foundation for an FTC team for next year. Our programmers and drivers make visits to our middle and elementary schools to teach about STEAM using Sphero robots to teach block coding. The color changing and music options of the Spheros engage the younger learners and the graphing output capability add a math dimension, allowing students to see their graphed path of computer code. Our team has been invited to host a STEAM activity night at our local library for the community. While there, we will demonstrate all of our robots and teach members of the community how to drive them and what it takes to build a working robot.

The Future

We are very excited to be a part of the rookie year of Retro5ive. We have worked hours after school each day on building our robot and our team, all while keeping our grades up. Our school is supportive of our team and is thrilled to have a robotics team again. Our parents are proud of what we have accomplished in such a short time and are willing to help our team with transportation, meals during build season, and fundraisers. And our community, those that remember the old Team 5, are delighted to have us back and representing our high school once again. We look forward to sharing all that we have learned so far and all that we will learn with future generations. We also can’t wait to get our robot on the playing field and show what a diverse team like us can do when we work together!

Check out Retro5ive on Facebook and Twitter at @FRCRetroFive.

SWE has awarded grants to 10 FIRST Robotics Competition teams for the 2018 season through its Gender Diversity Grant, funded by the Motorola Solutions Foundation. Each team received a $1,000 grant in recognition of its focused efforts in creating equity, inclusion, and diversity on their roster and for including underrepresented and underserved populations in their recruiting efforts.

Sponsored by:
BP – My Achievements
Brown – Executive Master
SWE – Diverse Podcast