CHAIRMAN’S VIDEO 2017
CHAIRMAN’S ESSAY 2017
MorTorq launched in 2003 as the Science Club. The next year, we became rookie FRC Team 1515. Now in our 13th year, we have won 45 awards, trained future STEM leaders, and become a veteran team in the FIRST community.
Considering our formidable challenges, our successes are remarkable. During the 2008 recession, we lost nearly all our mentors and sponsors. During this tough period, we intensified our efforts to attract sponsors via sponsor banquets, spirit packages, and advertising. We regained most of our crucial support network and bounced back to win the Chairman’s Award in 2010.
In 2007, a MorTorq member was confined to a wheelchair due to Muscular Dystrophy (MD). We organized several MD fundraisers in his honor, raising thousands of dollars. This is just one of the many ways MorTorq acts not just as a team, but as family.
Despite frequent teacher turnover, MorTorq triumphed in winning the Chairman’s Award in 2013 and 2014 and L.A. Regional first place and the Engineering Inspiration Award in 2015.
MorTorq overcame severe budget cuts threatening its existence. When our district was forced to eliminate funding for all Regional Occupational Programs (ROP), our members quickly responded. At a Board of Education meeting, over a dozen members gave speeches defending the program’s importance for our school and community. The Board, inspired by our determination, voted to preserve MorTorq, transferring its oversight from ROP to Career and Technical Education (CTE). MorTorq also succeeded in designating our team a University of California-accredited entrepreneurship and engineering class to safeguard against future budget cuts.
MorTorq’s trials have brought out the hidden leaders in all of us. We find strength and courage in each other because our accomplishments have convinced us that no matter the odds, MorTorq’s future is always bright, and we will always persevere.
Females in STEM
MorTorq empowers young girls to become the next STEM professionals. Our first media effort targeted at girls, Hopper, is an original comic book created by MorTorq. The book’s protagonist, Hopper, is ostracized by peers because of her interest in gadgets. Then, she discovers FIRST Robotics and applies her skills to solve problems.
MorTorq even pioneered its own “Celebrating STEM” event. Through three annual events, we exposed youth, particularly girls, to the many STEM opportunities available. With participants from the four K-8 schools in our district, Alamitos Intermediate, Johnson Middle School, Mesa View Middle School, Mirman, Pioneer Middle School, South Lake Middle School, and Tustin Memorial Academy, we nearly doubled the number of attendees this year from 90 to 175 guests.
We partnered with Hacker Fund, Girls Scouts of Greater L.A., MorTorq alumni, National Association of Professional Women, Society of Women Engineers, and Toot App to bring STEM professionals as guest speakers. We also invited other clubs—including Aerospace Club, Math Club and Medical Science Academy—to demonstrate STEM activities. Community leaders came to show their ongoing support for MorTorq. During our presentation, we showcased the team subgroups, explained the gender imbalance in engineering, and conveyed the impact that FIRST has on students.
This year MorTorq finally achieved its goal of 50% female membership. We will relentlessly recruit girls until we have equal male-to-female membership in each subdivision.
MorTorq’s alumni clearly reflect the success of our program. Compared to our school’s 63% percent college matriculation rate, MorTorq’s matriculation rate remains a steady 100%. Over 75% of our graduates major in STEM fields.
The exemplar of MorTorq alumni is Justin Brezhnev, founder of the non-profit Hacker Fund. Hacker Fund creates international mentor communities that provide resources to students to develop their own programming projects. Hacker Fund exemplifies the powerful relationships we have with our alumni. MorTorq and Hacker Fund collaborated to host a Hackathon at our school. Brezhnev uses skills he learned in MorTorq to recreate his formative STEM experience for the next generation of students.
Furthermore, five recent MorTorq graduates not only joined local tech startups, but also returned to mentor other FRC teams, volunteer at regional competitions, and continue the MorTorq legacy.
We take an active role in spreading STEM and FIRST ideas in our community. MorTorq hosted a Teachers Versus Teachers Basketball Game to raise funds for and awareness about our team.
MorTorq is fortunate to receive overwhelming support from the community and strongly believes in giving back. We have participated in the AIDS Walk, ALS Walk, and Vahagn Setian Walk, and we were the first team ever to bring our robot to “walk” in any AIDS Walk. Our canned food drives donated over 900 items to the LA Food Bank, while our hygiene drives collected nearly 300 sanitary items. Furthermore, continuing our 10-year tradition with the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House Charities, we cooked dinner for the charity’s residents and presented our robot to them. During the holidays, we made cards for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center patients, putting the “A” in “STEAM.”
In addition to public outreach through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, MorTorq has made lasting connections with local and international FIRST teams. We assist rookie teams by providing start-up kits and sharing our business plan, notebook, handbook, comic book, picture book and videos on our website. We have mentored FRC teams Corazon de Chileno, Bridges Academy, The Milken Knights, Ace Charter School, RoboWarriors and Noho Robo. MorTorq helped start local Jr. FLL team Go Evergreen NJB by making weekly mentoring trips.
MorTorq also utilizes STEM education to spread FIRST ideals. We negotiated with the Board of Education to add a STEM class for over 1,000 middle school students. Additionally, other FRC teams such as the Robotics Alliance of West Covina (RAWC) are adopting our University of California-accredited business and engineering class model.
MorTorq educates youth about STEM and FIRST to inspire them to pursue STEM careers. Notably, MorTorq ran an interactive STEM booth at Overland Elementary School’s Family Math and Science Night, with over four hundred students attending. MorTorq also gave a presentation at Sinai Akiba School complete with coding lessons, robot demonstrations and competition videos.
At our local library, we hosted Robomania, where over 100 youth listened to STEM-themed books and designed their own robot. For our Egg Drop event, we challenged participants to build a contraption that would prevent an egg from breaking upon impact. The Egg Drop perfectly captured the spirit of experimentation that propels our own members to achieve. Through these events, MorTorq nurtures youth creativity and shapes future STEM professionals.
In the past three years, MorTorq has made great strides to innovate the FIRST.
experience. In 2014, we introduced MorScout, a scouting platform that provides a central database for FRC teams to compile information. Updated in real time based on users’ input, MorScout promotes efficient collaboration among FRC teams.
Our next major breakthrough was MorTeam, a communication and organization app to streamline team activities. MorTeam allows team members to chat, share files, create events, take attendance, assign tasks, and form subdivisions. Users increased from 22 teams and 128 members in 2015 to 172 teams and 667 users in 2016.
Lastly, we created MorMap, a utility that enables FRC teams to locate, engage, and mentor local teams. MorTeam integrates MorScout and MorMap and is now on the web, Apple App Store, and Google Play Store. Our applications exemplify our innovative work and reflect our dedication to propelling FIRST into the future.
MorTorq promotes FIRST through a variety of media outlets, both locally and internationally. We circulated print editions of our comic book, Hopper, to local schools and libraries and translated the book into twelve languages to spread Hopper’s message. We also distributed digital editions of Hopper to schools abroad and to 117 FRC and FLL teams worldwide.
In 2014, MorTorq created Rob and Doc: a STEM-based TV show hosted by two charismatic puppets. Rob and Doc use quirky drawings, real life examples, and visuals to explain complex topics such as waves, electric flow, and fractions to kids. MorTorq TV is a student-hosted TV show that uses comedy sketches and animations to promote FIRST. Rob and Doc and MorTorq TV are broadcasted to over 35,000 Beverly Hills residents and are accessible via YouTube.
Last year, MorTorq created Roboradio, a robotics-themed radio show that combines music and STEM. We also released our first digital and print STEAM comic just one month ago. MorTorq posted the digital version on our website and handed out the print version to our guests at “Celebrating STEM.” MorTorq will continue to expand its media activity and explore new mediums to most effectively convey our message.
Local media consistently seek out MorTorq because of our record of outstanding events and projects. We have been featured by our school’s KBEV television network, Highlights newspaper, and Radio Airlift station. MorTorq has also been spotlighted by The Los Angeles Times,The Beverly Hills Courier, ABC Channel 7, and Channel 35 News. We use these opportunities to spread FIRST ideals and to showcase our team.
MorTorq makes FIRST more accessible to youth, improves FRC communication through innovation, and uses media to spread STEM worldwide. MorTorq’s vision is, and always will be, “to inspire students and younger generations to explore careers and pathways in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to leave a legacy of innovative, inclusive, and competitive world-class leaders.”