FRC Flash of Genius - FIRST Robotics

aeSolutions Erich Zende helps his FIRST Robotics Team with their robot. Nice pants Erich! Pictures courtesy of FRC Flash 1319

As insightful as conventional high school career aptitude surveys with pen and paper can be — hands-on, real world experience is instrumental in shaping capable young minds. Add high stakes adrenaline and stiff competition to the equation, and FRC Flash 1319 Robotics Team emerges as a fusion between the three. This FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics team hails from Greenville, SC and competes in state and national level field games under the adept guidance of mentor and aeSolutions SIS FEL Specialist, Erich Zende. We conducted an informal interview with Erich at the close of the team’s regular season to discern a better understanding of the year-round volunteer effort he lends so much of himself to


aeSolutions: What is your role on the FRC Flash 1319 team?

Erich Zende: I am the Lead Mechanical Design Mentor and Drive Team Coach for the robotics team. I lead the students through the design, prototype, and build phases during a six-week build season, and I also advise students on the safe use of tools and other safety procedures.

Pictures courtesy of FRC Flash 1319

aeSolutions: The advisory role concerning proper tool usage and safety procedures makes sense, given that safety is one of the fundamentals that embodies the spirit of aeSolutions. How much of your personal resources (time, money, energy) do you invest per season?

Erich Zende: During the build season I meet with the students for roughly 30 hours a week, for six weeks, and during the weeks leading up to the competitions I meet with students somewhere between 20-30 hours. The majority of this time is spent practicing with a prototype robot along with packing spares and tools for the competition, as well as going over the presentations prepared by students for the judged technical awards at completion. Typically, FRC Flash 1319 competes at 2 or 3 select events. In total, I contribute an overall average of 250 hours give or take. In order to mentor to my fullest ability, I contribute 8-10 days of my time- off-with-pay, my hotel rooms expenses, occasional robot parts, and a trailer to transport the team’s robot.

Pictures courtesy of FRC Flash 1319

aeSolutions: It goes without saying that you volunteer in multiple capacities. In regards to the season ending though, what does the “off-season” look like when the team isn’t gearing up for the building phase and qualifier competitions?

Erich Zende: In the time period that we refer to as the “off-season,” I focus my time on recruiting and training new members. In regards to a combined effort, the team attends outreach events in addition to hosting several Lego League tournaments for the younger students interested in S.T.E.M. activities. Recently we hosted an event with one of our sponsors, the Synnex Corporation, to put on a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Girls Night Out. This was a Makerspace event created to inspire, empower and engage girls in grades 3rd to 8th in Greenville County. The goal was to help foster young girls’ appreciation for STEAM and raise STEAM awareness among parents. The event boasted an overall attendance exceeding 350 students. Aside from requested team demonstrations at Roper Mountain Science Center, we also take part in the IMAGINE Upstate Annual Festival; which showcases pre-K through 12th grade education and STEAM career pathways centered on having fun and hands-on learning.