BadgerBOTS FRC Team 1306 Wins Wisconsin Engineering Inspiration Award

BadgerBOTS Team 1306 FIRST Robotics Team, which includes students from nine Madison-area schools, will join other teams around the globe to rev up the original robots they designed and built during an intense six-week season to compete for honors in the FIRST World Championships April 25-28 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO.

BadgerBOTS FIRST Team 1306 – collected the Engineering Inspiration Award – the second highest honor at the Wisconsin Regional in March – to win a $5,000 NASA grant and the opportunity to attend World Championships with students on 400 teams from across the US and countries, including, Brazil, Israel, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

Madison’s Memorial High School’s Ben Senson, aerospace engineering and physics teacher, earned the prestigious Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, presented to an outstanding engineer or teacher who best demonstrates excellence and effective communication in STEM teaching. Both in the classroom and through BadgerBOTS, Senson has inspired hundreds of students to challenge themselves while being of service to others.  Senson is among a group of finalists to compete for top honors at the World Championships.

Tagged a “Sport for the Mind” by Dean Kamen, founder and inventor of dozens of medical devices and the Segway Human Transporter, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), is an after-school program for kids in 1st-12th grades to transform the lessons of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math into real-life projects for the 21st Century.

FIRST robotics allows kids to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world solutions,” explains Ole Olson, an owner and electrical engineer at Madison’s Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing – a sponsor of Madison’s BadgerBOTS.

“They are working with their minds as well as their hands. This program definitely gives them an education in science and engineering and they also learn business, sales, marketing and accounting.”

As students pack up tools, batteries and equipment to board buses at 6 a.m. Wednesday, April 25, at the BadgerBOTS Education Center, 7615 Discovery Drive, Middleton, for St. Louis, they note some lessons learned.

“This was our most successful season ever,” points out Tom Vermuellen, 17, a senior at Memorial and team president who plans to major in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “We made a lot of progress training new members and building them up. They made a big impact this year.  We received the Engineering Inspiration and Woodie Flowers awards and our robot made it to the semi-finals.”

Participation in  FIRST and BadgerBOTS, gives students an opportunity to work alongside professional engineers to learn and use sophisticated tools, equipment and software, as well as develop design, project management, programming, teamwork and strategic-thinking skills.

“I’ve grown as a leader,” says Josh Orton, 18, a Memorial senior and a five-year BadgerBOTS member who plans to major in engineering at a four-year university. “I’ve learned a lot of new things from engineering principles, to how to lead group discussions and how to talk to company executives about FIRST and robotics.”

In January, students watched a video of the 2012 season’s game “Rebound Rumble,” then picked up a kit of parts, NO directions and built robots the size of a riding lawnmowers. They worked with engineering mentors who helped them think through the process without doing the work.

The game is played between two alliances of three teams each on a 27-foot-by-54-foot field. Each alliance competes by trying to score the most basketballs in the hoops during a 2-minute-15-second match. Balls swooshing through higher hoops score more points. And bonus points are scored if robots balance on bridges at the end of the match.

Students from Middleton, Edgewood, Verona and Madison’s Memorial and West high schools as well as students from 21st Century eSchool, Eagle, Wingra and O’Keeffe Middle School, participate on the 31-member team.

Madison companies, including GE Healthcare, Google, Isthmus Engineering, H&H Electric, jcpenney, Helical Robotics, Electronic Theater Control & Sector 67, have powered up support for BadgerBOTS and FIRST.

Senson launched BadgerBOTS in Madison in 2004. Now a nonprofit organization, BadgerBOTS offers the FIRST family of programs, including  FIRST Lego League for students in 4th-8th grades; FIRST Tech Challenge to students in 8th & 9th grades and the FIRST Robotics Challenge to students in 9th-12th grades. Summer camps begin in June.

Further information about FIRST is available at