Five Questions with Erin Flynn, New England Tech’s FIRST Robotics event coordinator

The manager of admissions outreach and events at the New England Institute of Technology talks to PBN about the upcoming FIRST high school robotics competition.

Posted by Providence Business News on January 9, 2013

Erin Flynn is the manager of admissions outreach and events and the New England Institute of Technology. Flynn has been employed at New England Tech for 25 years and also serves as the contact person for the RI FIRST Tech Challenge.

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” and is a nationwide is a robotics competition for high school students.

Flynn, who holds a Masters in technical education as well as a Bachelor’s in communications from Rhode Island College, talked to Providence Business News about the upcoming FIRST competition taking place at New England Tech.

PBN:

Can you explain a little bit about what the FIRST robotics competition is?

FLYNN: 

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, N.H., the charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.

There are three levels of FIRST Robotics for Rhode Island students to get involved. Rhode Island FIRST Lego League, ages 9- 14. The Championship is this weekend at Roger Williams University with 60 RI teams. Once the students have “aged out” of Lego League, our hope is that students will continue on to the FIRST Tech Challenge. Currently, we have several students on multiple teams who have done this. The FIRST Tech Challenge is for students ages 14-18 years old. The teams are comprised of 10-12 high school age students and can be run through the high school, after school, or club team. High school students have the option to get involved with the third level FIRST Tech Challenge, of which there are five teams in Rhode Island.

New England Tech is serving its seventh year as the Rhode Island Affiliate Partner for the FIRST Tech Challenge and as a major sponsor. I serve as the point person for the college. I work with the high school educators and after school teams, the Rhode Island industry volunteers as well as the National FIRST Office. I ensure that all teams have the information they need, that Rhode Island industry volunteers are ready and well prepared, as well as coordinate all event details.

Rhode Island high school age students in the FIRST Tech Challenge compete head to head with robots they have designed. Each year the game or challenge changes. This year is the game RING IT UP.

FIRST is a great way for Rhode Island students to explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers in a hands-on fun way. I like to think of this event as STEM in action! Rhode Island teams of up to 10 students are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using a variety of languages. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as for well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

PBN:

How did New England Tech get involved with the competition?

FLYNN: 

NEIT got involved with FIRST seven years ago. U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin invited FIRST founder, Dean Kamen, to the Business Innovation Factory event to talk about FIRST. After Dean Kamen spoke about FIRST, then Governor Carcieri encouraged all the schools to get involved.

Through the Business Innovation Factory and other funding that NEIT was not involved with, the materials needed for high schools to get started in the FIRST Tech Challenge were purchased. The group needed someone to be the state FIRST Affiliate Partner and run the details of the program. My understanding is that Tech Collective suggested NEIT.

Part of my responsibility at New England Tech is to organize high school events. The college had hosted contests here in the past such as SkillsUSA and the Ocean State Automotive Contest. Our ability to organize the details of this type of tournament was what NEIT could offer. Once the initial funding for the project ran out, NEIT felt strongly that this event was important for RI high school students and took on the fiscal aspect.

PBN:

The actual building of a robot seems like a tough task for high school students, how much adviser help is there?

FLYNN: 

The building of the robot is tough, but students can get through it. There is great on-line assistance for teachers, coaches, and mentors. I will also say that the coaches and mentors are in touch with each other and are great about offering support to one another. NEIT does host workshops for educators and students as needed.

One of the important lessons students learn from this experience is how to work on a team. Some students may be better designers, builders, or programmers. Within the team, the students are encouraged to take on various roles. Certainly the educators or parents involved do a great job with the teams.

Teams are encouraged to reach out and work with Rhode Island business partners, which are of great help! Individuals from Rhode Island businesses that specialize in Information Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, or Mechanical Design Technology can offer a team a different perspective. Rhode Island high school students meeting and discussing design ideas with Rhode Island industry professionals is a great connection to make.

As part of designing, building, and programming the robot, teams need to keep an Engineering Notebook documenting the process of building the robot. Teams will be judged on this notebook as well. Judges are looking to see what processes the teams utilized to reach their final design.

PBN:

What is your favorite part of the FIRST program?

FLYNN: 

My favorite part of the FIRST program is when the Rhode Island high school teams are at the tournament, their nerves have worn off, and they are completely engrossed in the experience. The energy level, the crazy costumes and hats, the fun they have meeting each other all add to the event while they are making sure their robot is competition ready. The last match is like the Superbowl! It makes all the work worth it.

PBN:

Why do you think programs like this one are important for high school students?

FLYNN: 

We know that high school students select careers based on what they know and what they have experienced. The FIRST Tech Challenge encourages the Rhode Island high school students to get involved with math, physics, programming, designing and building a robot in a fun, competitive manner. STEM in action!

Check Out What Employers Are Saying About New England Tech Grads

New England Tech - Where New England HiresCheck out what employers are saying about New England Tech Grads:

 “Of all the local schools in RI, New England Tech has been the most responsive when it comes to recruiting students and alumni.”
American Ring Co., Inc.

“The trend for NEIT grads is still positive relative to finding jobs.  A great school with great results!”
Jeffrey Tracey, Manager, IBM

“We have had a great deal of success using NEIT grads to staff our organization. Fully one-third of NetCenergy employees are graduates of or current students at NEIT.”
Don Nokes, Present, NetCenergy

“We have been very impressed with the quality of the applicants that you have forwarded to us here at Astro.  In fact, we had hired six previously who continue to work out well and have also hired two more in the past week.
Mike Fanning, Astro of New England LLC.

New England Tech - Rhode Island's technical college

 

Cool Mechanical Engineering Video … all for the sake of sharing a Coke

Three Million Open Jobs by 60 Minutes

The following snippets are taken from the transcript of a 60 Minutes segment, “Three Million Open Jobs”, which aired on Nov. 11, 2012. Byron Pitts is the correspondent. David Schneider, producer.

It’s called “the skills gap.” How could that be, we wondered, at a time like this with so many people out of work?

Karl Hutter: Yeah, we hear way too much about the United States manufacturing, we don’t manufacture anything anymore. Not true. Not true.

Three hundred and twenty-five people work at Click Bond, making fasteners that hold cables, panels and pretty much everything else inside today’s planes, ships and trains. Their customers include the Defense Department.

The F-35 has 30,000 Click Bond fasteners.   The workhorses in this factory may look old, but they’re computer controlled machines that make precision parts, accurate to a thousandth of an inch; the thickness of a piece of paper. Click Bond needs employees who can program the computers, operate the machines, fix them and then check to make sure the results are up to spec.

Ryan Costella says Click Bond ran into trouble when it expanded production and went to buy these machines from a factory in Watertown, Conn. The company didn’t have enough skilled labor back home in Nevada to run them, so it bought the entire factory just to get the qualified employees and kept the plant running in Connecticut.

Nationwide, manufacturers say the lack of skilled workers is the reason for hundreds of thousands of unfilled jobs; a number Ryan Costella says is about to get bigger.
Ryan Costella: You have a massive wave of baby boomers who are leaving the workforce very soon.

Despite the bad economy, our Career Services Office* reports active hiring of New England Tech Mechanical Engineering graduates!

There is still time to enroll for classes beginning this Winter.
To view the entire 60 Minutes segment “3 Million Open Jobs” Click Here

Five New England Tech Mechanical Engineering Students Achieve CSWA Recognition

We are so proud of five of our students in our Associate in Science degree program in Mechanical Engineering Technology program who have successfully passed the Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) exam.

This exam is proof that these students have the SolidWorks® expertise and cutting-edge skills that today’s employers are looking for. SolidWorks® is an extremely popular mechanical design software package used worldwide. New England Tech students have the opportunity to take the exam during the winter and summer quarters for free as long as they are registered students which is a plus.

Currently, there are 35 certified SolidWorks® associates in Rhode Island and 23 of those are from New England Tech!  That’s amazing!

The students who recently earned this highly regarded certification are:

  • Waren Barck
  • Eric Dykstra
  • Kraig Pereira
  • Jessica Peloquin
  • Benjamin Lyons

We are proud of these outstanding students for their accomplishments and for representing our college so well.

 

#newenglandtech #rhodeisland #mechanicalengineering #neit

 

7th Annual Rhode Island FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Tournament

SAVE THE DATE!
Saturday, February 9, 2013

FIRST Robotics CompetitionMark your calendar! Plan to attend the 7th annual Rhode Island FIRST® Tech Challenge robotics tournament on Saturday, February 9, 2013, sponsored by New England Institute of Technology. The mission of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is to engage students in acquiring science, engineering and technology skills through the fun of creating a custom-designed robot. More than 30 Rhode Island high school teams will be on hand to test their skill on the competition field.

The FIRST® Tech Challenge will be held at NEIT’s Center for Automotive Technology located at 101 Access Road, in Warwick, RI, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

As the event sponsor, New England Tech will serve as the central point of contact for all participating high schools as well as various after school robotic teams. Join your high school team or create one of your own!

For more information on the FIRST® Tech Challenge, contact Erin Flynn, Manager of Admissions Outreach and Events at NEIT, 401-739-5000, ext. 3462 or eflynn@neit.edu. To learn more about the FIRST® organization, please visit www.usfirst.org.

#rhodeisland #newenglandtech #neit #mechanicalengineering #NEITRobotics

Tech Nite Open House 2012

Come to Tech Nite and learn more about NEIT Don’t miss this chance to learn about the more than 35 technology programs offered at New England Institute of Technology.  Stop by our “Tech Nite” Open House at the East Greenwich Campus located at One New England Tech Blvd. on Wednesday, November 7, 2012, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Just report to the East Greenwich campus where tours of this campus, as well as the Post Road and Access Road campuses, will depart.  You will have the opportunity to tour our campuses as well as to speak with faculty, Admissions and Financial Aid personnel.

We have so many new Associate in Science degree programs to offer like Veterinary Technology, Respiratory Care Technology and Health Information Management Technology.   Our Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology now offers a cyber security concentration which is a fast- growing field in the computer industry. Licensed Registered Nurses may learn about Rhode Island’s first online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program.  We are very excited to now offer our new Master of Science degree in Information Technology.

If you need more information regarding “Tech Nite” or any of our programs, just call our Admissions office at 800-736-7744, 401-467-7744 or visit the college’s website at www.neit.edu.

We hope to see you on November 7th!

#technite #rhodeisland #newenglandtech #neit