Community Spotlight with Queens-Based FTC Team, Project Synthesis

July 12, 2021

At NYC FIRST, we’re inspired by the multitude of ways our teams embody “beyond robotics” and how they support their community. Victoria and Naomi, two members of the Queens-based FTC team, Project Synthesis, virtually sat down with us to share with us how they reimagined this virtual season and created the “CAD for Kids” virtual workshop series supporting their 9th grade peers.

Join the conversation and get to know Victoria and Naomi and the work they’ve been involved in:   

What sparked your interest in Computer-Aided Design (CAD)?

Naomi: When I was in 10th grade, our FTC team encountered a problem where we didn’t have access to a specific robotic part we needed, and didn’t have the funds to buy it. Instead, my mentor taught me how to use CAD to solve that problem. This was the first instance that I started using CAD 

Victoria: I was introduced to CAD in our fabrication class, but I really started learning and applying it during our FTC robot build. More than anything, I was able to learn the in’s and out’s of CAD when NYC FIRST started offering these workshops virtually. This got me excited about the potential and power of 3D elements. We learned that we could do everything through CAD to make things more precise. For example, instead of measuring physically, you could do it with the CAD tool.

Why do you think CAD is an important skill to learn and teach?

Victoria: It’s not just about CAD. It isn’t a simple skill. Learning this software goes beyond the platform and helps you enhance other skills, concepts, and logics. For example, if I’m creating a part and I want a specific pattern, then I would need to project manage by working backwards to try and make it work and conceptualize.

Naomi: Sometimes, to win, you have to make custom parts and CAD helps you visualize that part. Afterwards,  you can bring your vision to life through laser cutting and manufacturing.

Tell us a little more about the CAD for Kids workshops?

Both: The first CAD for Kids workshops launched on March 15 & 16 of 2021. We designed these lessons because we felt bad that this year’s 9th graders (rookie members) weren’t going to have the chance to build a clawbot due to remote learning. Building the clawbot is something that every 9th grader at Energy Tech gets to build in a traditional year .Although they couldn’t physically build, we wanted to give new members the tools and opportunity to digitally build a clawbot (and any modifications they wanted to add to it).

Our  second workshop launched on  May 11 & May 12, titled “Creating 3D Parts from 2D Sketches”. In this workshop, we used “Among Us” characters to teach others how to turn 2D drawings into 3D models. We wanted to incorporate fun, while incorporating as many CAD features as possible. It took a lot of trial and error but we are proud of the end result!

What inspired your team to create CAD for Kids?

Both: It all started with the Summer Bridge program. We tried to design a program, “Code for Kids” in 2020, but had to pivot because of our knowledge gap, and instead, adapted it to what we know, in which it became the Summer Bridge Program. 

Our school started doing “alternative weeks'' where students weren’t going to school and studying remotely. We leveraged the power of remote learning to coordinate with everyone’s schedules. This allowed us to curate our lesson ideas and coordinate schedules for the actual workshops, because it meant more students would be able to attend.

Are there any plans in the works for another CAD for Kids workshop?

Both: Although there aren’t any concrete dates for the next workshop, CAD for Kids has now had two separate workshops, and we plan to continue at this pace. Our goal is to put on 10 workshops before we graduate!

What challenges did you & your team overcome in creating CAD for Kids? 

Both: We learned that there are a million ways to attempt something. We had to experience each software, determine pros and cons, and decide which one was best to teach. It was very time consuming. We started the process in November, but the workshop wasn’t ready until March. However, the first workshop really motivated us to keep going. Right after the first workshop was over, we started planning for the next . 

We are currently trying to overcome the challenge of transferring this information and knowledge to others before we graduate , otherwise there won’t be anyone equipped to  continue this program. 

Can you see yourself following a career or life path that would continue building on these STEM skills?

Both: We will be graduating in June 2022, and we both want to be mechanical engineers. Eventually, once we’re a bit older, we would love to expand the CAD for Kids program beyond our school. We envision expanding it to websites like “Outschool”, so that we can sell the workshops and use the money we make to pay for our college tuition. In the long term, we want to offer this program to NY State and beyond, but we’re starting small by trying to get this program into local middle schools to promote FIRST and help create more teams.

Naomi Bio

Naomi is an 11th grader in her third year of FTC and FRC. On her FTC team, she was named mechanical captain! She has taken on the job of physically building their robot based off of the team's Fusion 360 robot digital build. She has also been working with her teammates on a CAD for Kids program. At CAD for Kids, she partnered up with two of her teammates and their mentor, Yoav Friedlander, to teach Onshape to incoming 9th graders. 

Victoria Bio

Victoria is an 11th grader in her second year of FTC. She is a part of the mechanical crew and outreach. She has been designing the 3D model for the robot and working with her teammates to arrange CAD for Kids, a workshop that teaches new high school students about robotics and 3D designing.