Thursday, October 1, 2015

USNA Alumni Support STEM Outreach at First Robotics Regionals

By Brian Horais (USNA '71)

More than 30 USNA alumni from five chapters staffed college representative booths at five FIRST Robotics Regional Competitions across the United States during March and April 2015.

Three FIRST Robotics student competitors with USNA alumni
CAPT Chris Cassidy (USNA '93), LT Mike Seymour (USNA '09),
Marine Capt. Alan Cortes (USNA '04), and LT James Dietle (USNA '06)
(Photo courtesy of John Kendall)

This alumni support provided the USNA Office of Admissions with new resources and venues to augment their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) outreach activities.

The nationwide FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition is considered the "varsity sport for the mind" and combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams of 25 students at the high school level are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.

Over 73,000 students, comprising more than 9,300 teams competed at 56 regional competitions, five district championships and 48 district events on their way to the championship event in St. Louis, Missouri, April 22-25.

The 2015 quarterfinal Peachtree Regional FIRST Robotics Competition
(Photo courtesy of Ed Brownlee)

With the emphasis on STEM-related degrees at USNA (nearly two thirds of the degrees awarded at USNA are in STEM fields), the FIRST Robotics Competitions offer the USNA Office of Admissions an ideal outreach opportunity to get the word out about educational and career opportunities at USNA. Based upon the success of a pilot program conducted in 2014 by Brian Horais (USNA ’71), member of the USNAAA Board of Trustees, and alumni from the Knoxville/Oak Ridge chapter, the Office of Admissions approved expansion of the Alumni outreach activities to five targeted regional events in 2015 where they wanted to have increased emphasis on STEM outreach.

Use of alumni to staff the college representative booths provided the Office of Admissions with a motivated volunteer resource to augment their activities. The five alumni chapters and regional events that supported the outreach were the Alamo Chapter, San Antonio Regional; Atlanta Chapter, Peachtree Regional; Chicago Chapter, Midwest Regional; Knoxville/Oak Ridge Chapter, Smoky Mountain Regional; and the Houston Chapter, Lone Star Regional.

Principal points of contact at each of these regionals were:  Dave Driskell, (USNA ’63) from the Alamo Chapter, Ed Brownlee (USNA ’81) from the Atlanta Chapter, Fred Weber (USNA ’75) from the Chicago Chapter, Brian Horais (USNA ’71) from the Knoxville/Oak Ridge Chapter, and John Kendall (USNA ’64) from the Gulf Coast Chapter.

Marcus Greenspan (USNA '93) and Alan Cortes (USNA '04) talk with a
STEM Robotics participant.
(Photo courtesy of John Kendall)

All of the more than 30 alumni who supported these outreach events thoroughly enjoyed their interactions with the students and stated that they would volunteer again.  Many alumni who participated were surprised that a large number of students were not aware of the U.S. Naval Academy or its STEM-focused academics.  These outreach events offer a template for similar support to the USNA Office of Admissions activities in the future.

A tip of the hat to Ms. Marti Kwon and Mr. Everett Marshall in the Strategic Outreach Department of the Office of Admissions for their support and dedicated involvement.


  1. That picture is from the 2013 competition, not this years.

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  5. This place was amazing! Great food, it's smaller than others I guess but it is still a fair sized fun. The decor at LA event venues was amazing as every note of music reverberates off the beautiful walls. Everything about this venue is nothing less than 5 stars.


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