Dark Matter History
Dark Matter (FTC team 4150) is one of three FTC teams at Linn-Mar High School. Dark Matter was founded in 2010 for the FTC season Get Over It. Team 4150 was originally named The Outrageous Finger Socks, and experienced a season of learning. In 2012, we re-branded ourselves as Dark Matter to signify a new start for our team. That year we had our first major advancement. Our team gelled to a degree that we had never had before and we paid much more attention to the design of our robot. This resulted in winning 2nd place Inspire award at the Iowa state championship.
That summer, we sought out to find the reason for our success and how we could replicate it in future years. With the help of our mentors, we reflected on why our team does what we do. We were directed to a TED talk by Simon Sinek, which changed how we thought about our actions.
We dedicated ourselves to inspiring the next generation of engineers and innovators through promoting STEM activities like FIRST competitions, but most importantly, we defined why our team does what we do. That reflection resulted in this mission and vision statement:
Mission Statement: The FIRST program has made a difference in our lives, and it’s important to us to promote an provide the same opportunities to kids of all ages by partnering with like-minded organizations.
Our Vision: To inspire others to work with us in order to solve today’s problems
The rest of the summer, we put our new purpose into action. We partnered with National Instruments (NI), a billion dollar, international engineering company, to promote STEM in our community. They sent us four robot demonstration kits that were in need of repair. Our job was to inventory the kits, order new parts, make design improvements. Once the kits were fixed, NI allowed us to use those kits for the rest of the summer to make the biggest impact we could. We did demonstrations and camps thought our community at places like the Science Center of Cedar Rapids, library summer reading programs, a summer camp at Linn-Mar, and many others. Throughout the summer, we reached over 1,000 kids. NI then invited us to be exhibitors and speakers at NIWeek, their annual international engineering conference in Austin, TX that is attended by over 4,000 engineers.
At the start of the new season, we were even more successful than the year before. We won 1st place Inspire at a regional competition, the Connect award at the Iowa state championship for our community outreach, and were robot semi-finalists at the North Super Regional. We didn’t focus on just the competition, however. We continued to be involved in our community by more than 10 of our team members dedicating over 100 hours to 9 FLL teams in our school district. These achievements advanced us to the World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. There, the top 128 of the best FTC teams from over 40 countries competed. Placing 18th in our division of 64 teams, placed us in the top 1% of all teams worldwide.
Now, we are working through learning, as nearly a full new generation has come through since the days of the National Instruments presentations. With the second year of the nearly new team underway, we are focused on developing different building techniques, and training all of the new members. As we look towards the future, we aspire to create an environment that is welcoming and open to new ideas, techniques, and innovation. Adapting for the modern era of FIRST Tech Challenge is vital to the continued success and legacy of the team, and we hope to carry it on.