Lynbrook Robotics, FIRST Team 846 began like just another typical club at our school – a couple of students who wanted to make a difference in their school made a proposal to the Lynbrook High School Associated Student Body. The proposal was passed and the founders celebrated their success. Today, our team has evolved into a distinguished club. It has become a team in which students can share their knowledge of science and technology, learn new lessons through a myriad of experiences, write corporate grants, and motivate each other to work together and achieve success.
In 2001, the club was initiated by three students who showed a unique enthusiasm towards science and technology. Fueled by excitement and passion, Christopher Suen, Henry Chu, and Shesi Xie founded the FIRST Robotics Team at Lynbrook High School. With the help of Shesi’s father, Mr. Yang Xie, the three founded the club and were given the FRC team number 846. In the words of Henry, “I have always been interested in science and technology and this was a great way to start doing practical things with the knowledge you’ve learned in classes. In addition, it was a great way to spend time with a lot of friends doing something that most people never get to do in their lives, build something really awesome.”
Our team name, The Funky Monkeys, was given to us unintentionally by Shesi Xie. When asked for a team name during registration, the words "Funky Monkeys" popped up in her mind, and she decided to use it as a temporary name. However, the name stuck, and we are proud of it.
Awesomeness would have to be paid by hard work. As with any FRC team, the members had to face the challenges of build season and competitions. The first build season was accompanied by stress and extreme toil. However, with diligence and determination, the newcomers were able to overcome numerous obstacles and create a functional competing robot. The finalized machine was a robustly built vehicle with a simple but capable foam ball container to play the game of Zone Zeal, which required teams to place foam balls in different zones for points. A combination of solid performance and the team’s gracious professionalism was summarized by the Silicon Valley Regional announcer’s words, “This rookie team acted as a veteran.”
Expanding to what we are now
Following its first competition in the FRC 2002 season, the team received recognition from the school newspaper, television, and even the principal. In fact, school principals have recommended the team to parents and students every year since its first competition. As a result, the team experienced a substantial increase in membership. This allowed the team to allocate more resources in designing and building the robot. It also allowed the team to participate in a greater variety of activities outside of FRC.
As the team’s experience and member manpower increased from season to season, the team has also continued to grow stronger from competition to competition. Robots increased in sophistication and effectiveness every year. As the team became more advanced with its designs, it was able to secure a professional machine shop and eventually a welder. In the FRC 2004 season, the team’s robot, named Bikebot, won the Delphi Future Technology Award for its unique and advanced ability to climb the obstacles in the middle of the field.
In 2005, Stephen Giandomenico and his father, David Giandomenico, expressed strong interest in the team. “In my experience,” Stephen said, “the club is at its core fundamentally driven by the self-motivation of its members. Although it is ostensibly a FIRST Robotics Competition team, by and large the club’s activities are directed by what its members are interested in. Indeed, the club was originally founded by a group of students who just wanted to do robotics!”
With the technical and organizational expertise of David Giandomenico, who eventually became the team coach, the club was able to greatly expand and streamline its numerous activities from robot building to fundraising.
The team’s technical ability continued to increase as it seeded fourth in the Silicon Valley Regional of FRC 2006 and first in the Texas Lone Star Regional in FRC 2007. In FRC 2008, the team racked up a string of successes, including the Silicon Valley Regional Rockwell Automation Innovation in Control Award, a Hawaii Regional Judges’ Award, and the CalGames 2008 BAE Design Award.
In FRC 2011, the team won the Chesapeake Engineering Inspiration Award and played in its first ever World Championship elimination rounds at St. Louis.
In FRC 2014, the team won a regional for the first time since its inception: the Buckeye Regional in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Funky Monkeys made it to the
Boston Regional Finals in 2013,the first time
in team history that they've gone to a regional final.
In the 15 years since its founding, the club is now a well established and recognized FRC team in the Bay Area. It has gained a solid reputation, being able to make it to the elimination matches in nearly all of its competitions. However, the team isn’t satisfied with its current performance, and is striving to improve in future competitions, as it has in the past. However, robot building is only one part of this organization.
FRC requires substantial capital resources, and funding had always been a challenge for the team. In its first year, the members were able to earn over $2000 by selling concessions at events such as air and car shows. As the team gained more members and recognition, it began shifting its funding effort to applying for corporate grants. As former co-president Stephen said, “As the club has progressed with its ability to fundraise and acquire corporate sponsorship, that stress has been greatly alleviated as most years now end with a significantly positive cash reserve.” Today the team funding, which stems from membership fees, fundraising, and most importantly, corporate sponsors, has developed to a level of much greater sophistication.
With greater capital and human resources, the team has taken an active role in community outreach. The team has demonstrated its robots at junior high schools and public venues such as the Tech Museum, the JavaOne Conference, and NASA Ames Family Night to inspire young minds and share our enthusiasm for robotics. Recently, veteran members lecture about robot subsystems to local FRC team members during annual workshops held by the Western Regional Robotics Forum.
Ever since its founding, the team has planned social events for its members; such traditions include playing Laser Quest, playing billiards, bowling, going to the movies, and holding an intra-district barbeque. Outside of the club, the members excel in academics and other extracurricular activities.
Looking back at the organization that he helped found in 2001, Henry commented, “To me, it almost seems like the team is a small business now with a team for marketing and website design, fundraising, engineering and building the robot, and whatever other countless tasks there are to do.”
Today, the Lynbrook Robotics Team consists of over 100 Lynbrook High School students. Members have a variety of interests and talents, ranging from software programming, to Lego building, to graphics design and creative writing. “The team’s success was not just in competition,” said Mr. Xie. “It also made possible for team members to gain leadership, responsibility, organization skills, technical skills.”
Our team has progressed in many ways since its humble beginnings. We are now bigger than ever and will continue to improve ourselves in all aspects. We are expanding, diversifying and continually pushing our limits as a robotics team. Most importantly, we still continue to spread the FIRST vision of celebrating science and technology.