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Everett Schools’ Jackson High Wins Rookie All-Star Award at FIRST Robotics Competition and Heads to World Competition

Team Faculty contact:
Maggie Thorleifson
Jackson High School
Tel.: +1.425.385.7000

Team Mentor contact:
Brian Gattman
The Boeing Company
Tel.: +1.425.342.6710

Altair Company contact:
Michael J. Kidder
Altair Engineering, Inc.
Tel.: +1.248.614.2400, ext. 269

Seattle-area students, using Altair software, are honored as a model for other teams to emulate in regional competition

Troy, MI, April 1, 2009 – The 15-member team from Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Wash., has won the Rookie All-Star Award in the FIRST Robotics regional competition, qualifying the group to participate in the world competition at Atlanta April 16-18. Perhaps even more important, the classroom grades of the team members have soared as a result of their work.

Led by instructors Maggie Thorleifson and Richard Graham, along with Boeing engineer Brian Gattman and four other mentors, the students learned about structural mechanics, robotic propulsion and other engineering factors, starting with the most basic principles. With the student team members devoting more than 4,000 hours to the project since September—and mentors dedicating more than 6,000 hours to the team—the group entered the Washington regional competitions March 26-28 for the first time. The Everett Public Schools group was chosen as the top rookie team among 27 first-time teams at the regional event, which hosted 64 teams from all across the country and nations as distant as Turkey.

Thorleifson reports that, despite the immense amount of time they have spent focused on the FIRST project, 11 of the students improved their grades in the classroom (and the others continued as straight-A scholars). More than half the team members raised their grade point averages one full point as a result of their work in math, science and technology in association with the competition. Some team members elevated their GPAs by two entire points.

The Rookie All-Star Award is granted to the team that, in the judges’ estimation, best represents a model for other teams to emulate and which embodies the goals and purpose of FIRST. It remains FIRST’s most prestigious award for rookie teams. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an annual international competition designed to build science, engineering and technology skills that inspire innovation and foster well-rounded life capabilities, including self-confidence, communication and leadership.

Corporate and individual sponsors have provided grants to fund the Jackson High team’s entry in the regionals and its trip to Atlanta. In addition to Boeing, founding sponsors include Altair Engineering, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Fluke Corporation, OSPI Washington and Terry’s Machine. Newly added sponsors to support the team’s trip to the national competition include BAE Systems, Computer Concepts and Platt, as well as all the parents of team members and other personal donors.

Jackson High is one of six teams to qualify for the Atlanta finals from the Microsoft Seattle Regional, and will be one of hundreds of teams vying for the final round of competition in Atlanta. The biggest reward for the team members and advisors, however, may be what they have learned about teamwork itself.

“I have learned a ton about the incredible potential of a group of dedicated students and the potential influence that working with a group of professionals has on students,” said Thorleifson. “Personally, I’ve learned how amazing it is to work with a team on which all are focused on a common goal. It makes ideas more brilliant, effort more worthwhile and mistakes more fun.”

Junior Bryan Kim said he’s gained valuable skills in time management. “I’ve always been lazy,” Kim joked, “but FIRST Robotics taught me how valuable time is. It’s short!” Kartik Rishi, also a junior on the team, said, “I learned that teamwork is essential to accomplishing a task. To really experience the regional, to find out we are all part of a big community of future engineers, is empowering.”

“This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” remarked Christian Bundschu, a Jackson sophomore. “I see how successful you can be as a team.” Patrick Woolfenden, a junior, added that he learned a lot of technical information, some structural mechanics and enough about finite-element analysis to begin using Altair’s OptiStruct software to support the design of next year’s robot entry.

Bob Yancey, managing director of Altair Engineering’s Seattle office, commented, “It was great to see the enthusiasm of the students on this team and the many hours devoted by the students and mentors to achieve success. The FIRST Competition is a terrific program and well aligned with our goals to build interest in math and science with our young people.”

Jackson’s team earned the Rookie All-Star Award specifically for its team spirit, promoting FIRST at local middle schools, participation in community events, securing college-credit opportunities for local students involved in FIRST, and other activities.

The Jackson High team is still raising funds to offset the costs of the three-day Atlanta trip. To make donations, please make checks payable to:

Henry M Jackson High School
Attn: JHS FIRST Robotics Team 2910
1508 136th St SE
Mill Creek, WA 98012

Phone (425) 385-7000, Fax (425) 385-7002
Tax ID #: 91-6001542

Maggie Thorleifson can be reached directly at 425-385-7183

The Jackson High School team members include:
  • Seniors Colin Bundschu and Brian Stephan, Mike Tomber
  • Juniors Natasha Gendran, Monica Ilich, Bryan Kim, Arwen Reeves, Kartik Rishi and Patrick Woolfenden,
  • Sophomores Christian Bundschu and Charlie Franklin
  • Freshmen Jeff Goodhue, Tyler Hittle, Michael Yagi and Kai-Hwa Yao.

Team mentors are:
  • Jackson High School Teachers: Maggie Thorleifson, Richard Graham
  • Boeing Engineers: Brian Gattman, Joel Lopez , Joris Poort, and David Wilson,
  • Fluke Engineer: Dave Mumaw

About Altair Engineering
Altair Engineering, Inc. empowers client innovation and decision-making through technology that optimizes the analysis, management and visualization of business and engineering information. Privately held with more than 1,300 employees, Altair has offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and Asia/Pacific. With a 20-year-plus track record for enterprise analytics, product development and advanced computing, Altair consistently delivers a competitive advantage to customers in a broad range of industries. To learn more, please visit www.altair.com.

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