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FIRST Robotics has been a family affair for the Rohl family of Indianapolis

April 2, 2013

by Marianne Messina

Codey Rohl 

Valuable Lessons: Perry Meridian High School student Codey Rohl stepped up to the microphone to give announcements during a recent FIRST Robotics competition. Developing personal confidence and life skills are among valuable lessons coming from these events. (Photo provided)

All three boys in the family have been members of Perry Meridian High School's Cyber Blue team in the annual competition that provides an excellent start in hands-on robotics, problem-solving, and the application of science principles.

However, the boys' mother, Brenda, has been pleasantly surprised with the important "soft skills" that the program has instilled in her sons.

"Everybody thinks about all of the engineering skills, but I look at the life skills," says Brenda.

The family's youngest son, Codey, has helped design Cyber Blue's Omicron robot that will be competing in the Crossroads Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, being hosted by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Thursday, April 4, through Saturday, April 6. All events are free and open to the public in the college's Sports and Recreation Center.

FIRST Robotics opened opportunities for oldest son, Corey, in a challenging job interview process while in college. He attributed his success to "going through robotics and knowing how to go through the interview process and selling my skills."

Brenda adds, "Students have to interview to be on the team, they have to put together their resume, and they have to sit in front of mentors." Each team member must also solicit a specified amount of sponsorship money. So, students sell get up the courage to get donations from the family dentist and doctor. Corey's dentist was a big contributor this year.

During a recent competition, Brenda was delighted "seeing [Corey] out on the field, speaking for the team, knowing he's helping lead the scouting." She points out that these experiences, the strategic planning process, and the experience of juggling schedules and jobs provide valuable life lessons for all team members.

And, while Corey is involved as a team member, Brenda is a parent crew leader. This can mean anything from planning team dinners—helping slake off some of the stress from the six-week "build season"—to making enough sandwiches to feed the 1,500 robot enthusiasts that arrive for the Indiana Robotics Invitational, which Cyber Blue co-sponsors each July.

"This has just become a part of my life," says Brenda. "We've been involved in band, cross country, and wrestling. I believe for building life skills, there is nothing that has done more for them than being involved in robotics."