It all started a little more than a year ago, when Soohan Kim, then a freshman at Dover High School, was invited by a friend to check out a FIRST Robotics Competition at the University of Maryland.
“It really inspired me,” said Kim, a STEM enthusiast who plans to go into the engineering field. “I looked it up, and found that there were no [FRC] teams yet in Kent County.”
So he decided to start one himself — no small feat for a high school student, considering FIRST teams must have nonprofit status, build and practice space, a minimum of two adult mentors and a budget to accommodate competition fees and travel expenses.
Just a few years ago, Delaware had just one FRC team: the 2001 championship-winning Miracle Workerz, based in New Castle County. Today, there are five: Palindrome and Thermogenisis out of Middletown; Dickinson High’s Robot Alchemy Manipulators out of Wilmington; and, now, thanks in no small part to Kim, Dover’s Razor Steel Robotics.
“I had no idea where to start, so I looked at the Palindrome Team,” Kim said. “They had gone through 4-H. I contacted 4-H of Kent County, and within a month had nonprofit status.” He also contacted STEM educators, including professors at Delaware State University.
By the kickoff of the 2015 FRC season in January 2015, Kim had assembled 15 students on the team, mostly his friends and Dover High classmates. With the help of their team of mentors, lead mentor Greg Hainsworth, programming mentor Marwan Rasamny, CAD mentor Mohammad Amir Khan and Greg Klim, they’ve become a full-fledged rookie team.
The team is learning the ropes of FIRST as they go, visiting with other FRC teams in the state, studying robotics online, and assembling kit robots as practice. They even joined Palindrome for a community presentation at the Delaware State Fair last summer.
Razor Steel is well on its way to establishing itself as a part of Delaware’s FIRST community, but, like all FRC teams, funding is an issue. “Funding is the biggest worry,” Kim said. The team has received some grant money from 4H and have started to land sponsors to help out with fees.
They’ve also gotten lucky with finding a space for the team to meet and work — thanks to a connection from one of the team’s students, they have access to the Elizabeth W. Murphey School gymnasium and basement.
Razor Steel attended its first FRC competition as a team at October’s Duel on the Delaware off-season competition in Carney’s Point, N.J., and plans to compete in Mid-Atlantic Regional FIRST events in 2016.
“The goal is to become a leader of STEM in our community,” said Kim. “When it comes to STEM, Kent County isn’t necessarily the best in Delaware, but we’re hoping that, as the community sees more of us, they’ll see what we can do and see that we should be focusing more on STEM in education.”
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