On, I visited Armada’s local robotics team, Fighting Pi. Â I had a great time and especially enjoyed driving one of their robots. Â Thanks to Andrew for inviting me, and to Michael for writing this story for team 1718′s newsletter.
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B Y : M I C H A E L G R A H A M
It is often said that the government is outÂ of touch with its people, but it seemedÂ quite the opposite to Team 1718, TheÂ Fighting Pi, when we had the greatÂ opportunity to meet with StateÂ Representative Andrea LaFontaine onÂ Monday, January 31st. Andrew Graham, a freshman on the team, set up theÂ meeting in an effort to help spreadÂ knowledge about FIRST and show ourÂ elected officials what the Fighting Pi isÂ doing to increase awareness ofÂ technology, engineering, and creativityÂ in Michigan. Â After receiving an emailÂ from Andrew, Rep. LaFontaine, who wasÂ elected last November and began work inÂ Lansing in January, wasted no time inÂ contacting us back and setting up aÂ meeting at our work site, the RomeoÂ Ford Engine Plant.
Once Rep. LaFontaine had filled out asecurity pass at the plant, (the guards seemed to think she was a new student), we began our tour. We started in our build room, where our mechanical team showed her our robot this year (or the progressing skeleton of it), and our completed kit-bot. We showed her FIRSTâ€™s animation of this yearâ€™s game and one of last yearâ€™s many epic matches so she could gain an idea of what insane tasks our robots have to accomplish.Rep. LaFontaine seemed very impressed by all we showed and told her, but the tour was just beginning.
One of the many highlights of Rep. LaFontaineâ€™s visit to the Ford plant came when she was led to the practice field and allowed to try her hand at driving the robot. I shall describe that event only by saying that we are confident she will be infinitely more adept at driving Michiganâ€™s government than the robot. I donâ€™t have much room to judge though, considering that the last time they let me drive the robot, the government raised the terror alert level from Code Yellow to Code Orange. Regardless of driving proficiency, getting to pilot our robot was a great way for Rep. LaFontaine to both experience the exhilaration of a FIRST competition and recognize the dedication and expertise it takes to get there.
After driving (for lack of a better word) the robot, Rep. LaFontaine talked with our team members and got to learn more about FIRST and The Fighting Pi. She learned about the organization of our team into three co-functioning divisions, our exploits at competitions like last yearâ€™s FIRST World Championship, and why we chose the nerdy name for our team that we did. (Contrary to the commonly-held belief that the name was invented by a bunch of hungry and drunken Irish football fans, the name â€œFighting Piâ€ was apparently the result of a serious set of deliberations and intellectual debate.)
Ms. Ritzenhein, the director of the MA2S academy, had also been invited to visit the Ford plant on Monday. It was a great opportunity for her to speak to Rep. Â LaFontaine about education, an issue near and dear to her. They even set up a visit for the representative at the academy sometime in the future. (A debate immediately ensued among the students State Rep. LaFontaine is shown a prototype of our mini-bot. about whether she would visit in the morning, when all the great schools like Richmond attended the academy, or the afternoon, when itâ€™s just Armada.) Once Rep. LaFontaine had been able to see all the activities going on during a regular work day, and spend more time talking with our students than the Michigan Supreme Court takes to deliberate a case, Rep.LaFonatine sat down with Â Andrew Graham and myself for an interview.
Out of the goodness of our hearts, we refrained from posing any thorny political questions (how do you balance a $1.8 billion deficit?) and focused on the Fighting Piâ€™s effect on Michiganâ€™s future. We asked questions about the importance of engineering to Michiganâ€™s future and why a business would want to sponsor our team in such a ghastly economy. Rep. LaFontaine offered exceptional insight and gratifying praise in her answers, and helped us to see FIRST and our team from an elected officialâ€™s viewpoint. We were glad to hear that what we are doing not only benefits the futures of the students on this team, but the future of the state. â€œWhen it comes to reinventing Michigan, the Fighting Pi are on the right track!â€ she said. When Rep. LaFontaine left the plant with some newsletters and a Fighting Pi shirt (will she wear it onto the House floor?), we were left with something far more valuable; the knowledge that our unending work, stress from crushing deadlines, and sacrificed sleep do not go unnoticed. To the contrary, they are helping to build a more competitive, more proficient, and more better-er Michigan.