OCCRA ORGANIZATIONAL MINUTES
INFORMAL MEETING OF 6/28/00

                Meeting called to order at 4:10 p.m. by Roosevelt Daniel in room 315 of the Oakland Schools building.
            Present were: Mike McIntyre, Norman Peralta, Marsha Voncina, Justin Howard, John Morrison, Terri Kroll, Kelly Shoulders, Jim Zondag, Ginny Taylor, Kyle Hughes, Pat MacIntyre, Paul Yowchuang, Gerald Dunifer, Jeff Conn, Mike Martus, R. Daniel, Mary Kaye Aukee and Joe Johnson.
            R. Daniel welcomed the group and led introductions.  M. McIntyre reviewed the proposal he wrote and Oakland Schools endorsed for the Fall Competitive Robotics League

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            M. Martus and J. Johnson showed a sample robot and kit of parts from the Chief Delphi Invitational Robotics Competition.  Much discussion followed about the direction the kit should follow; many suggested that the kit use the Innovation First controllers currently used by the FIRST organization; the group expressed concern that the cost be kept down but rich enough in motors, speed controllers, etc. to allow for robust robots and exciting competitions; programming would come eventually, but probably should be excluded the first year so as not to overwhelm new teams; it was suggested that the kit include the minimal number of components needed to create a functioning robot, but additional parts should be available to teams that what to be more elaborate; fairness to all teams must always be taken into account;  ways to cut corners were shared by many but the specifics will be left to the Game/Kit subcommittee.


            M. Voncina and J. Howard showed a 5 minute video of what a robotics league experience would be like, taken from the experience of participating in the 1999 Chief Delphi Invitational Tournament; they then reviewed the kind of commitment to be expected from participants in the league: the kit of parts is expected to be approximately $2,500 with several hundred additional dollars for supplies, tools, etc.  Cost of the kit is expected to go down considerably the second year as the control system and many parts are reusable.  Also, corporate donations would drive the cost for schools down even further.  Other commitments of resources were listed but can only be approximated since each school district will likely handle them differently.  These commitments included things like: uniforms, travel expenses, coaches’ salaries, insurance, and hand and power tools.


            M. Aukee gave assurances that the county would support this league with staffing and financial help.  She explained that six or seven school districts called to relay their interest but were unable to attend due to the lateness of the notification.  M. Aukee requested that membership and committees be kept open to allow all interested schools’ participation, and that minutes of this meeting and all information shared in it be forwarded to these other school districts.


            The open discussion by the group addressed many of the “road blocks” lying ahead:
- Cash flow- Orders need to go out soon, even before teams have financially committed to the league.  Oakland Schools can probably pay for kit materials up front, knowing that schools would pay them back when they signed up. (The parts would eventually get used and Oakland Schools could carry an inventory).
-Pressed for time- Only two months remain to get the league organized.  “Many hands make for light work.”  If enough volunteers join each of the seven sub-committees, no one school/person needs to be overworked.  Many preparations can go on simultaneously.  
-Staffing concerns- Will there be enough teachers/coaches willing to put in the time? Current FIRST teams could mentor novice schools, paid positions along the lines of high school sports may be started, and the county may organize stipends the first year if revenue sources can be found
-”Sticker shock”- Schools on limited budgets may be reluctant to spend several thousand dollars, especially since most budgets for this fiscal year have been set.  Superintendents and Principals do have some discretionary funds, teams can hold fund-raisers; donations from corporations could drive the cost down, county may organize “team scholarships.”  Costs would probably be no more than for typical sports teams.
-Negative impact on FIRST- Some teams may opt out of FIRST because of the new league.  However, the new league will likely create demand for involvement in FIRST, will promote the forming of corporate-school partnerships, will reduce the initial shock that people feel when first overwhelmed by the enormity of the FIRST challenge, and may therefore actually inspire the formation of more FIRST teams than it will steal away.
-Hesitancy of new teams- Teams without a FIRST background or vocational/technical staff members may be scared off by the complexity of the kit.  Curriculum needs to be written to teach the teachers.  A practical handbook with step-by-step directions for building a basic, working chassis would be a good idea.  A how-to video could be made or interactive teleconferencing and seminars given to assist new teams.  Also, teams new to robotics could be matched with experienced FIRST teams, the veteran teams serving as mentors. 
-Financial/resource commitment uncertain- We have an approximate idea already and would be able to come up with exact costs before the school is needed to commit in August. Knowing that under $3,500 is involved will be acceptable to many; between teachers, paraprofessionals, engineers and parents, most schools should be able to find 2 adults to help out; veteran teams can mentor rookie teams; schools not wanting to commit might be able to just “help out” other teams the first year while they see first-hand what the experience and commitment is really like.


            Other ideas discussed:
-Let’s create a road map for other teams to follow; if this league is successful, many other teams from across the county; state and country will want to know how we did it. 
-Events need to be fairly uniform.  Rules, refereeing, etc. need to be consistent.  Perhaps officials may be required to attend a workshop to get certified.  This would enable them to then be paid a certain rate for each competition that they officiate.
-Teams who wish to host events pay the expenses just as sports teams do.  Permission slips, health care forms, insurance issues, etc..... would be similar to what is currently covered by high schools sports teams.
-A web page for the league should be maintained and linked to the county website.  This page could answer questions, give information, etc. 
            A sign-up sheet was passed around so that all people interested in serving on committees could sign up.  M. McIntyre will e-mail the complete list to all who signed up and update it regularly. Each person willing to help organize the league was asked to sign up for a committee; committees need to select a chair, co-chair, and recorder; chair or designee also serves on advisory (steering) committee and reports back July 18th; the seven identified committees and their respective assignments are:

            Membership:                Establish criteria for team membership; set a nonrefundable entrance fee and application procedure that applies toward the kit expense; communicate with potential member schools...etc.;

            Game/Kit:                     Decide on a kit of parts and game to be played; identify source(s) of kit parts and arrange for the packaging & distribution logistics; write up a rule book...etc.;

            Ways & Means:           Seek out corporate support; develop school-business partnerships; work with county to establish system for managing finances...etc.;

            Public Relations:           Seek out publicity and support for league; develop a press packet to give the participating schools; establish media contacts; develop contacts at economic development boards, State Board of Education...etc.;

            Curriculum:                   Develop curriculum to assist mentors and coaches with utilization of kit components;

            Events/Scheduling:        Establish timeline; select dates for kit delivery, tournaments; secure facilities and personnel for tournaments; coordinate planning of competitions;

            Governance:                 Draw up recommendations for league governing body, including by-laws, from each of the other six standing committees; suggest procedures for selection of league officers, term and description of office...etc.; propose name for the organization;

FUTURE MEETING dates and times were offered:  
           
            Advisory Committee: Comprised of chairperson of each subcommittee, report back on July 18, 2000 (tentatively for 3:00 at OTC-NE);

            Committee-of-the-Whole:         Convene at Oakland Schools Kiva at 4:00 August 15, 2000 to hear final recommendations and make all decisions requested by advisory committee.

Minutes submitted my Mike McIntyre; please contact him at mcmike51@aol.com if there are inaccuracies or omissions that you think should be corrected.

 

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