Founded in 2009 the Missoula Robotics Team (MRT) is a collective group that draws students from all three Public High Schools in Missoula (Big Sky, Hellgate, and Sentinel). For the past five years, the team has consistently been made up of around 30 students that range from Freshman to Seniors in High School. Along with this the team also includes 8 mentors, two of which are School District Employees and the other six are local community members.
MRT has a wide variety of students and mentors that join together to not only build a robot but establish leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Every type of person is welcomed and appreciated by the team, from programmers to engineers to business leaders. Currently, the team is looking to expand its mentor base to have a stronger business group. Also, the team is actively looking to recruit more female students to be a part of the team and students that are interested in business, marketing, and graphics design. Ultimately though the team will take anyone that is interested in learning or contributing to the team in any way.
Building a robot is a complex challenge so when the design and build project begins in January, all hands are on deck to conceptualize and fabricate the robot and other necessities for the game. The team bonds over the hundreds of hours spent in and outside of the shop. While they get to create a robot, they also make friendships that will last long past high school. Robotics allows students to learn how to work together to overcome obstacles, to express ideas and provide positive criticism of others’ ideas. These skills combined with hands-on experience in mechanics, electrical working and metal work provide students with technical skills that will serve them well in their futures.
Along with building robots, MRT takes pride in community outreach. Last year the team members helped mentor middle school robotics students at Hellgate Elementary, presented to several businesses in the community, toured manufacturing facilities of all types, and even shown off their robots in front of crowds at sporting events and parades. It is important to the team to get the word out about robotics within the community.
About FIRST Robotics Competition
Established in 1989 the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization that was created in order to get students excited about the Science and Technology fields. Since it’s establishment the program has grown to have four different competitions with the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) being its peak program.
FRC is a very competitive and stressful but part of the competitions ethos is Gracious Professionalism. Coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, Gracious Professionalism refers to the idea to compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. This idea is what really makes FIRST different from other competitions and creates a unique environment at the competition. It’s not uncommon to see multiple teams working together on a robot in order to get it repaired/working for the competition.