The Bound Brook High School (BBHS) Robotics team (Team 56) won the prestigious FIRST Impact Award at the Mount Olive District Competition, and the Team Sustainability Award at the Warren Hills District Competition. Both competitions took place in March.
The FIRST Impact Award has only been won twice since the team’s inception in 1997 (first in 2019 and now in 2023). This is the second year in a row the Team Sustainability Award has been achieved. The team’s award-winning sustainability plan focused on how the members have been able to stay active and sustainable for the last 27 years with hopes of continuing these practices for at least the next 27 years.
The FIRST Impact Award, presented by FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), honors the team that best embodies the organization’s core values and who serve as a model for other teams to emulate. Members of Team 56 worked together to craft the multiple components required for award consideration–an executive summary, an essay, and a video—which the team presented to the judges during an interview process.
Kimberly Chaves and Olivia Scire, sophomores at BBHS and members of Team 56, emphasized the team’s significant efforts to craft the FIRST award submission that encapsulated the spirit of their entire team and their goals for the future.
“It requires a lot of time and process,” Scire says. “In our essay, for example, we wanted to emphasize our team’s inception and our struggles, and specifically how we used those struggles and turned them into a golden opportunity – promoting more STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] education and involvement in our community.”
One of those opportunities involves the team’s work at the Raritan Valley Science and Technology Showcase (RVSTS), hosted at Bridgewater Commons in October 2022. The showcase consisted of an all-season robotics competition, demonstrations, as well as other events to help teach younger children. It became the largest STEM school event in Somerset County and reached over 50,000 people.
The video for the award focused on the team’s outreach programs, Equity Action Plan, robot reveal, as well as community events such as food donations and coat drives hosted by the team that positively impacted the wellbeing of adults and K-12 students.
Upon winning the top award, Chaves recalls the moment that left their team emotional and elated in what she describes as an amazing experience. While a few members went to accept the award, Chaves remained in the stands to collect herself, “As soon as I heard our name being called out, I instantly just burst into tears.”
The team’s advisors, Matthew Hueston and Lauren Belli, express the same sentiment. “We congratulate ALL Team 56 team members, as the entire team deserves recognition, especially Kim Chaves, Jessica Garcia, and Andrea Avendano who wrote the essay, filmed the video, and interviewed in front of a panel of judges together to win this award,” they said. “As the team’s advisors, we are so proud of these kids and couldn’t be happier to be their coaches and mentors.”
An Opportunity for All
Hueston was recently nominated for the Woodie Flowers Award, which recognizes an individual who leads, inspires, and empowers using excellent communication skills while also challenging students to be clear and succinct in their communications.
The advisor/mentor is nominated by the students on Team 56, however, Hueston did not feel he should win the honor, instead choosing to emphasize the importance of having diverse mentors. While he helps to guide the team through competitions and events, Hueston’s goal is to have mentors who represent students of all backgrounds.
Hueston explains that students can start their own mentorship roles early through teaching robotics to younger children in the district. He wants to continue building upon this goal to help more students see themselves in a field in which they may feel underrepresented.
“When I started building the club, I wanted to maintain the fact that robotics is for everybody, and everybody can excel in it,” Hueston says. “It is more helpful when students see others like themselves on such a level—whether it is directly in the field or on the mentorship level. We strive to promote diversity and gain equity.”
The team’s achievements sent them off to the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship at Lehigh University in early April, where members competed at a high level throughout the twelve qualification matches.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about the different honors one can receive after a competition or event,” Hueston explains. “It’s about what the students learn, how they eventually grow from it, and how they take these experiences into their very promising futures.”
Team 56 hopes to continue teaching, learning, and inspiring to represent Bound Brook at its best. Learn more about the team at: www.team56.com