Inspiring the Future of Engineering


Joey Arquette

Every member of the team turned to each other in disbelief team S.M.A.S.H. heard their name called during the award ceremony at the West Palm Beach Regionals in the 2018 season. With a $5,000 sponsorship from NASA to cover the entrance fee to the Houston Worlds competition, the team placed a trip on their calendars, and their second Engineering Inspiration Award on the shelf. Winning said award two years in a row was a first in the competition, and S.M.A.S.H. walked away with chins held high and their names in the history books.

The Engineering Inspiration Award is the only award in the competition that has nothing to do with your performance in the match, given out by the US FIRST organization. This award is unique in judging teams on their performance specifically outside the competition.

It has everything to do with what you do in the community, how you interact with everybody, and how you inspire people to join FIRST,” senior Skylar Davis said. “It’s how we go out and inspire and carry on what FIRST is about, [and] what it stands for. The whole idea of everybody can do it, everybody who wants to participate can participate and find their place in the program, so it’s really just going out and showing people that there are these groups, there are the activities and competitions that they can take place in and be a part of, and really inspiring the next generation of engineering.”

The team did several events throughout the year that featured a multitude of robots for kids, teens, and adults to enjoy and learn about. These events were the driving force in the accomplishment of winning the Engineering Inspiration Award in the past two years.

“The main thing was robots on the road, that was especially last year,” senior David Melendez said. “We go out and demonstrate our robots, and we have interactive robots too. There is one where you can hold up a piece of cardboard and the robot will follow it around, another one where you can hold up a piece of paper in front of a camera, and you steer it, and we can have people take that and steer it and it will control the robot, and so it’s like an interactive way of getting people involved in robotics. This year we’ve also been working on total district implementation, where in Volusia County, were trying to get every school to have an FRC team.”

Success did not go unnoticed by the team’s mentor, Fred Urquhart. The team’s demeanor showed pride in their success, and Urquhart began to see the team members’ character change after their accomplishment.

“I bet they’re looking people straight in the eyes a lot more,”Urquhart said. “Cause they’re really proud of what they’ve done. It’s a really prideful accomplishment, I tell them that all the time. But I can see it in the way they carry themselves and the way they interact with each other now, it’s a real sense of pride. There’s not many others that can say that.”

The fact that the team made history in winning the Engineering inspiration award twice set them apart from the other teams in West Palm Beach and in Houston. An award that was given to the team that spread the world of robotics across their community reflected the team’s effort to do just that with the multiple events they held that year, and it pushed them on to the worlds competition to further their success in robotics.