Tag Archives: Robotics

FRC Team Edgar Allan Ohms Helps Pay It Forward for Paul

Edgar Allan OhmsMiller B is  a student at Sunlake High School, and a member of the Edgar Allan Ohms FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)  team at the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library.  Like Team Duct Tape, the Ohms have benefited from the counsel and support of Paul Markun, and Miller wanted to share just how much their time with Paul has meant to his FRC team.

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Please Help Us Pay it Forward for Paul!

We’ve posted Miller’s story at Mr. Markun’s YouCaring fundraiser page, but it can be hard to see the updates there, and we wanted to make sure Miller’s story was seen by as many people as possible, to help everyone see why we all want to help Pay It Forward for Paul.


I’ve been on the Edgar Allan Ohms team for 2 years and have learned an immense amount of robotics and engineering knowledge from the mentors, with one person going so far as to allow the team to use his tools and expertise to enlighten the students.

Paul Markin has been helping the Edgar Allan Ohms team and many other FIRST teams learn and accomplish their tasks and goals for years, and he had no problem helping us when we asked for it. Paul has invited members of the Edgar Allan Ohms teams to his machine shop ever since the formation of the team, which we greatly appreciated and, quite truthfully, needed.

Back when we were in our first year in FRC, no one on our team had any experience with FRC, and our mentors had only done FTC before, so it was a complete gamble to see if we would pull it off, and Paul made the project possible. The kind of metalworking that is needed in order to build a FRC robot was completely foreign to everyone on the team, so we went to Paul’s machine shop and were able to learn about an immeasurable amount of metalworking, as well as hundreds, if not thousands of various engineering tips that are extremely helpful in working with a budget and deadline.

We had the robot concept when we first went to his machine shop, and he told us to make the robot in CAD first, which would delay us from building the robot, but we all realized that if we didn’t do this crucial step before building, then we would be wasting even more time and money on a robot that we wouldn’t even be sure would work. He has always been there for us when we needed him and even when we didn’t, as we made a battle-bot and he came all the way from St. Petersburg to Tampa to support the team, even when we didn’t need his help anymore.

All the work that Paul has done for us, such as allowing us to use his machine shop, has been free of charge to us, and when we damaged a grinder wheel, he didn’t get mad, but instead used it as a teaching lesson to all of the members of the team who were there, and then insisted that the team not pay for a new grinding wheel, and instead use that money to further our robot and education.

What I have said here are only a few of the many times that Paul has performed miracles and allowed the team go grow into a self-sustaining program that teaches kids about robotics and gets them interested in STEM related programs, and I wish that I had more words to express just how awesome and great Paul has been to many teams of the various FIRST programs, but I don’t. If I had to sum up what Paul meant to me and the Edgar Allan Ohms as a whole, then I would say: He is the reason that we even exist.

We and so many more teams have learned more than we would have ever learned if we didn’t have him there to teach us, scold us, forgive us, and guide us to a level where we are able to achieve greatness on our own, and are able to give back to the community, just like he gave to us.


Please help us all Pay It Forward for Paul by donating at YouCaring.com/PayItForward4Paul

Gratitude & Insights

We’re Jumping for Joy and with Gratitude!

Thanks to the amazing generosity of our supporters, we’ve met our stretch goal with seven days left to go in our Kickstarter campaign. Additionally, students have raised another $400 on their own, so far, taking our summer fundraising efforts to nearly $2000, giving us a good start to the new season.

And we’ve also gained some thoughtful insights from some of our contributors, including this perspective setting post from donor Jake Schostag, who wrote, ” I was on a FIRST team in high school ≈15 years ago, and the experience has proven exceptionally valuable in my career. I’m not an engineer (at all). But having some background in CAD, programming, electronics design, etc. gained through that experience has provided me with a significant leg up on some of my counterparts in the regulatory compliance (legal) world surrounding electronics and power sports manufacturing.

“Get everything you can out of the experience. Engineering is a good place to end up – but the work you’re putting into this will be valuable for your future successes regardless of where you ultimately land.

It’s really wonderful to hear from someone who was on a FIRST team when FIRST was less than ten years old, and who not only found the experience “exceptionally valuable” but valuable “regardless of where you ultimately land,” reinforcing our conviction that however much fun the robot build might be, this is totally about so much more than a robot!


This is about skills development in everything from tool use, design and programming to relationship building, team work and “stick-to-itiveness” – a particularly useful quality nicely symbolized by our signature duct tape mascot.  “Rip it! Stick it! Done!” isn’t just a goofy cheer, it’s homage to conviction, endurance and durability.

Being part of a FIRST team means never giving up – on your build, your competition and especially on your team mates.  It’s easy to be supportive and cheerful when things are going well. It’s a lot more challenging when things aren’t going well, when things break, when there are differences of opinion, when nothing works.

We’re going to take Mr. Schostag’s advice to get everything we can out of this experience, and we’re very grateful for his and for others’ support and encouragement . We’ll continue paying it forward to our students and our FIRST community, no matter where we land!

Rip it! Stick it! Done!



KickStarter Helps Duct Tape Keep Rolling!

We’re all doing the Happy Dance now, like Marissa and her little sister at left.  We’re so very grateful to all our great supporters for helping us reach our KickStarter target goal of $1000 so quickly!   For the first time in five years, we have a comfortable budget to work with at the start of the season. While our success has never hinged on our budget (we’re experts at making due with what we have!), being able to purchase the right parts and materials instead of making something “close” fit, will make a big difference in providing solid educational engineering and design instruction.

While there are different robotics education platforms with lower or comparable participation costs, we’ve always felt  the return on our FIRST investments are solid and enduring, with its more than two decades of character based, high energy, mentor driven success and $16 million in scholarships for FIRST students behind the experience.

Additionally, FTC build components are robust and adaptable to a variety of construction needs. The FIRST Tech Challenge program utilizes a combination of Mindstorms and TETRIX  educational building materials, which are offered to FIRST teams at a 30% discount.  While that helps, costs can still be significant.  Here’s a partial list of some of the TETRIX pieces we use and their discounted costs:

  • Motor Encoder pack: $56
  • High TechnicDC Motor Controller: $56
  • 4″ Omniwheel: $25 each
  • 4″ Standard wheels: $18 each
  • Gear pack: $70
  • Individual gears (40 tooth to 120 tooth) : $18 to $21
  • 12v NiMh 3000 mah Rechargeable Battery : $35
  • NXT Rechargeable Battery: $44
  • NXT DC Rechargeable Battery Pack : $55

We can reuse a lot of items year to year, but some things like encoders or gears and even rechargeable batteries, wear out or get damaged, and some things like registration fees and software license renewals have to be paid every year.  And this year, with the option of the Matrix build system, more new learning and building experiences will be available to us.

Other costs include:

  • Annual registration fee: $275
  • League fees: $250
  • Software license renewals: $100
  • Aluminum and plastics: $100+
If we make it to the State Championship, there are additional event and travel related fees.  And, new this year, the addition of the SuperRegional, a new level of competition between the State Championship and the FTC World Championship.

Your support gives us a healthy start to our season and the ability, for the first time in five years, for our students to be able to create a full season budget and add a new business aspect to their learning experience.

We’ve got more than three weeks left in our Kickstarter campaign, and hope you’ll continue spreading the word about our team to help us grow our 2013-14 budget even more and keep the Duct Tape rolling!

Thank you!