Sponsor Spotlight: Collins Aerospace
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
By FIRST North Carolina
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Sponsor Spotlight


We are excited to welcome back Collins Aerospace as a Leader in Technology Sponsor! They have been a tremendous supporter since 2013. Collins Aerospace not only sponsors FIRSTNC and our many events, they also provide mentors and financial support to numerous FIRSTteams across the state.

Not familiar with the name? You may recognize this instead - UTC Aerospace Systems.  UTC Aerospace Systems and Rockwell Collins recently combined to become Collins Aerospace. As they state on their website, "Together, we are redefining aerospace."

Did you know that Collins Aerospace is a FIRSTStrategic Partner?  Their engagement extends all the way to the top with Kelly Ortberg, CEO of Collins Aerospace, serving as the Co-Chair of the national FIRSTBoard of Directors.  Here in North Carolina, Kevin Gordon, Sr. Director for Advanced Technology, serves as the Chair-Elect for the FIRSTNC Board of Directors. Amazing leadership to guide a strong partnership!

Collins Aerospace states, " The anchor of our K-12 education outreach programming is our partnership with FIRST.  Our partnership includes team and tournament sponsorships, teacher training and rewards, and employee and retiree involvement.  Our educational initiatives offer students of all ages the opportunity to take part in experiences designed to go beyond textbooks and place learning in their hands."

A career at Collins Aerospace is possible for all FIRSTalumini. Check out some of the opportunities here.


Alumni Spotlight: John Tinker
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
By FIRST North Carolina
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Alumni Spotlight
John Tinker

What team were you a member of and for how many years were you on the team?

I joined FRC 2642 Pitt Pirates during the 2009/2010 season and was with them for 4 years. I first learned about the FIRSTprogram through my sister who attended NCSSM and was part of FRC 900 Zebracorns.

Where do you currently work and what is your job description?

I majored in Mechanical Engineering at ECU in Greenville.  I did an internship at Hyster-Yale in Greenville.  I now work at Crown Equipment in Kinston, NC as a mechanical engineer. This company designs and makes makes palette trucks and forklifts. The teamwork and especially communication skills I learned in FIRSTgave me the confidence and experience to go straight into the workplace!

How long have you been working there?

5 years

What is one highlight from your time on the team?

I loved driving all the robots! It was intense but the best experience of the program. It was fun working with other teams to strategize how to be successful on and off the field. I thoroughly enjoyed helping with all the outreach we did each season. In 2012 we were chosen be in the 1st seed alliance and went on to win the NC Regional Tournament. This opportunity allowed our team to travel to the World Championships for the first time. That was the best experience of my life! 

What are the top three skills you learned from your FIRSTexperience that have made an impact on your current job?

The FIRSTprogram encouraged me to attend ECU and pursue a degree in engineering. Through the program, I developed leadership skills and learned how to work cooperatively with team members. It also gave me the hands-on skills that prepared me for college. By learning how to use SolidWorks in high school I received the practice necessary to be successful in several courses in the engineering program.

How has FIRSTimpacted your life?

I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to pursue originally but my experience with the FIRST program gave me the confidence to major in engineering. During college I wasn’t as involved as much with the FRC program. However, this year I am officially a mentor with the Pitt Pirates in the engineering area. I wanted to pay it forward with what I gained from the program.

What words of wisdom do you have for current FIRSTers?

FIRSTis the hardest fun you will ever have. To rookie drivers just relax and have fun. Don’t let the stress get to you. Stay focused and work with your alliance! During the competitions I made awesome friends and it was an incredible feeling having the crowd cheer you on.

Team Spotlight: FRC 3229 - Hawktimus Prime
Tuesday, January 08, 2019
By FIRST North Carolina
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Team Spotlight

FRC Team 3229 - Hawktimus Prime

This month we shine the spotlight on FRC  3229, Hawktimus Prime. Based in Holly Springs, this team is the host site for one of the upcoming FRC District Qualifying Events.

Tell us about your team.

Hawktimus Prime is a growing team with 16 leadership positions and around 50+ members this  season. We were founded and made our home in Holly Springs, NC at Holly Springs High School. Our team reaches out to and works with our local community for members and opportunities to spread FIRSTideals.

What has been a highlight for your team over the years?

Hawktimus Prime started competing in 2010. It took our team several years to become more competitive. Two years ago we qualified for the State Championship and won! We then went on to compete in the FIRSTChampionship in Houston. This was a major improvement for our team! A definite highlight for us was repeating our success in the Power Up season and being the first North Carolina FRC team to win two State Championships in two consecutive years.

Tell us about one struggle your team has overcome and how you did so.

Improving communication within our team. We overcame this issue with cross-team communication, which included a number of things:
1. Having a set leadership structure
2. Creating a shared google drive
3. Scheduled leadership meetings to ensure sub-teams were            talking
All of these made sure everyone working on the robot was aware of what others were doing. Planning ahead and collaboration has greatly influenced our growth and has lead to our successes in competition.

What words of wisdom would you give to a rookie team?

If we were to pass any advice onto a rookie team, we would emphasize the importance of communication. Communication within a team (or maybe even with other FRC teams) is important to relay ideas and plans so everyone can work harmoniously together to be proud of the end result.

What does FIRSTmean to you and your team?

FIRST is a wonderful experience for us. This organization has provided the possibility for Hawktimus Prime's students to fully explore the world of STEM in an encouraging and competitive environment. We have been able to meet wonderful people who have inspired us in the areas of math and science and peers who share the same passions. We at Hawktimus Prime share an overwhelming appreciation for the people in FIRSTwho have made all this possible.


A Mentor Tribute
Wednesday, January 02, 2019
By FIRST North Carolina
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A Mentor Tribute

As we bring in a new year, many of us take time to reflect on the past year.  I lost one of my primary mentors in life this holiday season. And as our teams gear up to launch the new FIRSTRobotics Competition season with Kickoff on January 5, I find myself in awe of the amazing people who take the time to mentor so many students.

Looking back at how much Gerry influenced my life for over 40 years,  I realize what a treasure the mentors are as they come into our lives.  Here are a few of the key lessons I learned from him, beginning in high school and throughout my life.

1) Always give your best effort.
If something is worth doing, then putting in your best effort is the only path forward.  To do otherwise is a waste of your time and the time of those around you.

2) Mistakes happen.  What you do with them determines your progress.
Mistakes are a part of life and learning.  How we react to our mistakes makes a big difference in what happens next.  Beating yourself up and focusing on missteps is not productive nor helpful.  Rather, learn from them and move on.

3) Life isn't always fair - so what. It doesn't define who you are. How you react is more important.
Sometimes the best talent doesn't get the reward.  Sometimes your best efforts don't bring the prize home.  At the end of time, who will really remember or care?  What matters is what you do next.

4) Learning is a life-long project.  Relish every minute!

5) Humor helps.
Looking for the silver lining and finding the humor in everything helps ease the bumps in life.  Learning how to laugh at your human foiblescan make any day brighter.  

6) Love what you do and do it well.
Even though my path didn't ultimately go quite the way we both anticipated, Gerry always let me know that my choices were the right ones as long as I was happy and fulfilled.  That confidence and support have been invaluable throughout the years.

Who has been a mentor for you?  Take a moment to think about the many ways all of your mentors have played a part in your life.  And if they are still around, make the time to say thank you.

To all the mentors out there, know that you are making a difference.  The students you impact may never have the opportunity to thank you for your time and dedication.  They may not realize how much you have shaped their lives until much, much later. Your confidence in their ability to make decisions, learn from mistakes and to be good people is making a difference, each and every day.  Thank you for all that you do!

Marie E. Hopper
President, FIRSTNorth Carolina


In loving memory of Gerry Zampino
Clarinetist, Teacher, Mentor, Friend 


Your generous donation can help more students become involved.  Donate here today!  Thank you!!

FIRST LEGO League Junior Spotlight
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
By FIRST North Carolina
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FIRST LEGO League Junior

Program Highlight

Students at Jesse Wharton Elementary in Greensboro had a blast this fall participating in the FIRST LEGO League Jr. MISSON MOON season. Groups of students worked together to learn about and explore living on the Earth's Moon. They built rocket ships and moon bases to demonstrate what they learned and how their groups would make a life on the moon.  

Check out the video below highlighting the student's work and the fun they had as they carried out their mission!

Expo Highlight 

FLL Jr. teams were "over the moon" earlier this month during the FLL Jr. MISSION MOON Expo at the Carolinas Aviation Museum. Students showcased their LEGO Moon bases and Show-Me posters. They also learned about aerodynamics through paper planes, making a button, working with LEDs and more.  We ended our time together with an award ceremony, high-fives, smiles, and a little surprise for each participant. Thank you to the Carolinas Aviation Museum and FRC 3506 YETI for all your help and support to make is a great event for all!