- Two visionary and talented programmers, Tom and Cathy Saxton, retired from Microsoft in 1998 with a desire to inspire students in math, science and technology. Filling a curriculum void for accelerated students, they began volunteering their time that year founding and teaching the first programming and advanced math classes (calculus BC and beyond) at Issaquah High School.
- In 2003, Tom and Cathy Saxton attended the FIRST Microsoft Seattle Regional Robotics Competition inspiring them to create the Issaquah Robotics Society in the fall of that year. Two other mentors and eight students (4 boys and 4 girls) completed the team.
- To establish the team, the Saxtons made presentations, obtained funding, enlisted mentors, arranged space, managed paperwork, oversaw financing, acquired tools and materials, and headed technical mentoring for the newly recruited club members.
2007 - In transition to a student run club, students integrated the best practices from the Saxtons, students formally took on leadership roles as the Saxtons took on bigger roles in FIRST regional competition management.
2008 - Each year the team faced dissolution from lack of funding, a common FRC problem that crushed approximately half of all established FIRST FRC teams and formed an entrance barrier for others. The Issaquah Robotics Society confronted this obstacle by taking the FIRST message to Olympia for a congressional hearing in 2008. Impressed, the legislature granted $150,000 in funding for FIRST teams throughout Washington State. The subsequent season, the number of FRC teams in Washington jumped from 25 to over 100. Hundreds of new FRC and FLL teams have formed throughout the region using this continued funding. Although congressional funding targeted new teams, the media exposure of the campaign promoted corporate sponsorship and ensuing solubility for the team as well as other local teams. Students augment this funding through auctions, spaghetti feeds, and car wash ticket sales.
Outreach: Team 1318 promotes STEM through a program we call “Taking FIRST to the Streets”. When possible, IRS extends these opportunities to other FRC teams in the area.
Training: To ensure member and team sustainability when our team transitioned to a new school advisor just as many of our technical leads graduated, IRS undertook these projects in 2012:
- Weekly summer training classes in: JAVA programming, CAD, and electronics.
- Handbooks for students, mentors and parents on the history and expectations for IRS members.
- Fall “test bots” to experiment with actuators, sensors, CAD, and programming, geared to train new members and expand skill sets for returning members.
Future and Beyond
Off-season training programs: The summer and fall training program started in 2012 will expand in future years. The team plans to broaden the scope of training and to invite members of nearby teams to participate.
Issaquah Robotics Alliance: Over the last several years, team 1318 spearheaded the process of joining with the other teams in our school district (teams 4131 and 2976) to form the Issaquah Robotics Alliance. This group envisions making joint appearances at community events in the Issaquah area and sharing off-season technological training.
Internal Organization: To maintain consistency, team 1318 is developing models for student, mentor, and parent sub-organizations within the team. These structures will allow us to function more efficiently with increased growth and provide accessible resources for newly formed teams.