Now almost a decade old, since our founding Team Duct Tape has:
- brought more than 40 students through our community FIRST Tech Challenge team.
- introduced more than 20 students to the FIRST experience for the first time
- graduated nearly 20 students from our team, more than dozen of whom have gone into science and tech related fields of study or work
- impacted hundreds of youth through our extensive outreach programs, including camps, conventions and fairs.
In the Beginning – 2008-09
Before there was FTC Team Duct Tape, there was an awesome FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team known as Team Mu. FLL Team Mu, coached by Valerie Crouse , held the genesis of what was to become three strong Tampa Bay area teams: FTC Team Minotaur, at Middleton High School; FTC Team Mechanical Flightless Waterfowl, which eventually became FTC Team Smoke and Mirrors, in Pasco county, and FTC Team Duct Tape.
Chris Willingham, third from right in the FLL photo with FIRST founder Dean Kamen, became a founding member of TDT in 2008, joined in short order by Aaron, Hunter, BJ , Joel and Chris 2.0, who would help set the standard of success that TDT would come to value and enjoy.
Team Duct Tape the First had a stellar first year, during the Face Off! season, earning a spot in the 2008-09 Florida FTC State Championship and enjoying the wild ride of the big learning curve of being a high school level FIRST Tech Challenge team. Our founding year is also the time when we made the acquaintance of super mentor Paul Markun, of Tampa Technik, the first of many great team guides, and the most enduring.
In their first event in their first year, TDT brought home the Inspire Award, and went on in a subsequent tournament to win the Think Award and Winning Alliance Awards in both qualifiers. At the State Championship, they earned the Finalist Alliance Award, and came back hooked on FTC and planning ahead for their second season.
TDT 2.0 – 2009-10
The 2009-10 season proved even more exciting, as the team grew to a full ten members, including then apprentice, Ethan, and yet another Chris – Chris 3.0 – as well as Denn, Logan and Lee, and brought home a slew of awards in the Hot Shot! game, including the PTC Design Award, Connect Award, Winning Alliance Award and Inspire Award at their qualifiers, and winning the Florida State Championship as captains of the Winning Alliance, earning their first spot at the FIRST World Championship, held in Atlanta that year, and one of the highest games scores in the nation, with 500 points in one of our qualifying tournament alliances.
This was also the season we began to distinguish ourselves as a champion outreach team, taking our robot on the road to everything from professional association meetings to camps, to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, a tradition of community involvement we continue to this day.
The 2009-10 FIRST Championship was an exciting and challenging experience, as the team learned the value of solid teamwork, communications and the real meaning of Gracious Professionalism. The real challenge wasn’t the competition, it was themselves!
Ultimately, the World Championship experience proved infinitely instructive and incredibly fun, and TDT was determined to earn their way back soon!
TDT 3.0 – 2010-11
Chris 2.0, BJ, Aaron and Denn graduated at the end of the previous season, and Team Duct Tape 3.0 saw new members, Ben, Damien, and our first female member, Natalie, join the team, a
signature event in many ways. Natalie came aboard with interests in programming and a focus on getting the job done.
The 2010-11 game, Get Over It!, proved a programmer’s playground, and Natalie and Chris 1.0 created one of the most memorably moments in the game when their autonomous program triggered the first ever (however inadvertent!) double autonomous balance at the Florida FTC State Championship!
We ended the season with 2 PTC Design Awards, Connect and Inspire Awards, a Winning Alliance Award and, from the Florida
State Championship, the Finalist Alliance Award.
TDT 4.0 – 2011-12
Ben and Lee graduated at the end of our third season, and the start of our fourth season brought us a new apprentice, Ryder, a few other fresh faces, including Adi, Mark, Cody and Johnny and a brand new game, 2011-12 Bowled Over! This proved our most challenging season yet, with changes in team management and a complicated robot build that took us through three completely different robots in the course of one season!
Despite the challenges, TDT 4.0 earned their way as Inspire Award Runners Up, to the FTC World Championship a second time, (this time in St. Louis) when Florida won the lottery to send a third team to the event. Team members, led by one time apprentice turned project lead, Ethan, with Natalie as programming lead, invested an extra 30 hours a week prior to the Championship, to create a Championship worthy robot.
Otis the Elevator bot more than lived up to its name, a flawless scissor lift robot hand crafted by team members that consistently lifted baskets ten feet or more. This time TDT made it into the semi-finals at the World Championship, making it all the way to top of their division, and ultimately finishing in the top 6 of the 128 teams at the event.
Sadly, the last of our founding members graduated at the end of the 2011-12 season, along with several of the last couple of seasons members, for a grand total of seven graduating students. While proud and happy for our grads, TDT would essentially be a “rookie” team again in 2012.
TDT 5.0 – 2012-13
Joyfully, we started 2012-13, our fifth season, under the wonderful leadership of new coaches, with an amazing crew of almost all new students, none of whom had any experience in FIRST, with the exception of Ryder, our videographer and former “apprentice” and Mark who had a little bit of FRC experience before moving to FL from CA. This was an opportunity to test our theory that over the previous four years we had developed a solid coaching and mentoring system coupled with a firm organizational foundation codified in our Team Duct Tape Handbook. This was an opportunity to see if we were successful just because we had an experienced group of natively talented students, or if it was something more.
FIRST also rolled out a new competition format that year, with Florida beta testing a meet system quite different from previous qualifying tournaments. Since our team members were almost all brand new to the experience, the meet system didn’t throw them, but the game did. They finished at the bottom of the heap after their first competition.
But working with dedicated mentors and coaches, and keeping their focus on our team mission and goals , TDT 5.0 gradually got it. Over the course of the season, learning to play “Ring It Up!‘ and learning to work together, they brought themselves up from nearly last place among more than 60 teams, to earning a spot in the solid center of the top 24 teams going to the State Championship, keeping intact their record of attending the FTC State Championship every year since their founding.
And in the end, our veteran team of rookies finished the season with yet another Finalist Alliance Award as well as the Judges Award for most improved team, and couldn’t wait for the new season to start!
TDT 6.0 – 2013-14
Into our 6th season, we’re confident in our students and our methods. In 2014, we welcomed new members Koen and Jacob, and the addition of the Super Regional in San Antonio, adding a new layer of both challenge and opportunity.
And we finished our 6th Season in fine form, earning the top Inspire Award at the Florida FTC State Championship and a spot in the South Super Regional. We encountered a lot of technical challenges there, but had a great time at the competition and cherished our experience together in San Antonio.
TDT 7.0 – 2014-15
We welcomed new member, Michael, to Team Duct Tape this season, the third member of his family to be part of the team in the last three years. (We’ve joked that it’s a right of passage for his siblings – 3 more to go!)
In our 7th season, we played an integral role in the development of Tampa’s first public makerspace, the Hive, at the downtown John. F. Germany Library in Tampa, and continue to have a robust presence on the field and off.
Season 7 was especially notable because our mentor, Paul Markun, received the Compass Award at the FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship! The Compass Award recognizes an adult Coach or Mentor who has provided outstanding guidance and support for a team throughout the year – and Mr. Markun was long overdue for recognition for his 7 years of support to Team Duct Tape!
Two of our members, Mark and Danielle, graduated from high school and started their new college journeys at Florida Polytechnic University,
TDT 8.0 2015-16
In our 8th season we welcomed two new members, Claudia and Alyssa, and a brand new operating system for FIRST Tech Challenge: an Android phone!
Adding to the learning curve of the new control system, was this year’s challenging game FIRST ResQ , and the biggest field of FIRST Tech Challenge competitors ever – with 150 teams in Florida this year! – and it made for a busy, nose to the grindstone season!
But we made it into the FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship for the 8th straight year, and took home some trophies, and the pride of having one of our members, Ryder, become recognized as a Dean’s List winner!
At the end of the season, we also welcomed into the TDT alumni ranks (as opposed to saying goodbye to them as high school graduates!), Bryce, Marissa, Joshua, and Alyssa , bringing to nearly 20 the number of students who have graduated as members of Team Duct Tape!
TDT 9.0 2016-17
Our 9th season saw the addition of six new team members, all FIRST LEGO League alumni ready for the FIRST Tech Challenge experience. This season’s game, Velocity Vortex, is challenging and exciting. With nearly 200 FIRST Tech Challenge teams in Florida now, and six leagues, it’s more challenging than ever before to make it to the State Championship level – but we did, finishing in 25th place, out of the 29 teams going to the State Championship, and earning a spot there for the 9th straight year! You can meet the entire team HERE.
TDT 10.0 2017-18 – coming soon!
Team Duct Tape will start our 10th season at our new home at Regency Park Library in New Port Richey, where we join FIRST Robotics Competition team 5276 Edgar Allan Ohms, based at Land O’Lakes Library, as a Pasco County Library FIRST team. We’re excited about this opportunity to bring our great award winning FIRST Tech Challenge program to New Port Richey, and to be housed in what will soon be one of Pasco County’s newest library makerspaces. Stay tuned for more information later in 2016.
What makes TDT successful isn’t how well we do on the field – that can be hit or miss, although we try to hit more than miss. It’s how well we do off the field, in the garage and at meetings, with great mentors willing to share their expertise and insights, with dedicated coaches willing to share their homes and their time, with devoted parents willing to ferry their children to meetings, field trips and events, and with students willing to apply themselves, work together, and do the hard work of learning for the fun reward of competing.
Students don’t have to come to the team with any previous experience for the team to be successful, They just need to be curious and interested and willing to learn, and experience has shown us that they do, and that in the course of learning, they make Team Duct Tape successful and fun.
We’re proud of our past, of a history of successful competition, good and caring students, energetic STEM outreach and enduring friendships. Alumni members mentor back to the team now, and join us at annual potlucks when they’re in the area.
It’s another new season, and we’re plunging in again, ready for the fun, friendships and new knowledge that every season brings!
Rip it! Stick it! Done! Season 10 here we come!