Category: Award Submissions

Aug 15

PTC CReo Grant Submission

“Wyatt, our lead PTC Creo programmer for 2014-15, discusses the advantages of design before build and PTC Creo helped us succeed at that this past year.”

Jan 15

Awards Submissions 2015


Coming Soon!


Mar 14

Woody Flowers 2014

Woodie Flowers Award Nomination 2014


Dedicated and encouraging, positive and patient, and relaxed and easygoing with the perfect touch of gritty realism, Aaron Jackson is a powerful, unique mentor. More committed to the students than the technical side of FIRST, Coach Aaron is a young, positive, friendly mentor who values the education of his students more than winning a competition. With expertise in the art of communication and the technical experience of a professional engineer, Coach Aaron is the perfect mix of teacher and mechanical expert.


Coach Aaron received his bachelor’s degree in 2006 at Cornell University, New York, in material science and engineering. He continued his education by attending the University of Illinois, where he obtained his PhD in 2011. During college, he interned with fuel cell companies to gain job experience working with self-healing polymers. Now he works at the Army Research Laboratory, developing a cost-efficient polyelectrolyte membrane in fuel cells.


Coach Aaron has experience from years of working and teaching. His interest in material science began in high school, when his senior research project required him to build a fuel cell. He graduated in 2002, and since then has been interested and actively involved in material science and engineering. His teaching experience started with helping younger students during a National Chemistry Week and mentoring his younger brother’s Science Olympiad team in 2012 and 2013; in 2013, his brother’s team placed 5th in state. Soon, he was developing teachers’ curriculums for summer camps. He built a curriculum and founded a week-long summer camp of his own, GLAM (Girls Learning About Materials), on alternative energies. From there, Coach Aaron went on to teach classes on the subject to teachers in the fall of 2012. Now a published author on material science, Coach Aaron uses his experience to teach students to communicate effectively.


Coach Aaron has a passion to educate people, especially youth, about science and technology. As a recent graduate, his relative youth helps him relate to younger audiences. Coach Aaron has been a part of AZE since the beginning: He joined AZE 3 years ago, its rookie year because he loves teaching and taking the lead on projects. Coach Aaron understands and appreciates that FIRST is more about building experience than building robots. He says, “Each meeting should not be focused solely on the competition and accomplishing our robot goals, but should be more about enjoying what we’re doing and learning from it.” Coach Aaron’s overall philosophy is that learning from failure, and building teamwork and leadership skills, is more important than winning a competition. He teaches student members to lead team meetings, proofreads media team notebooks and drafts, and helps students along every step of the way for each technical challenge in the robot.  Coach Aaron is able and willing to help students in any area of the robot build process, media challenges, or electrical work.


Aaron Wants You

Aaron Wants You

Feb 14

Chairman’s Short Essays 2014


All Absolute Zero Electricity students are enabled and empowered to pursue STEM in college and career.  We offer hands-on engineering experience, pursue community outreach, and encourage communication skills. 90% of our graduates go on to study in STEM fields in college. They have been accepted to prestigious colleges such as the University of MD, MIT, and Drexel.  65% of our alumni have gone on to mentor FIRST teams, including AZE, and spark STEM interest in the next generation of students.


Since the beginning, TechBrick has involved over 520 students from 36 schools in our area. In the past 5 years, TechBrick and AZE hosted over 60 demos including open houses and demonstrations at several local schools and the NI Days professional conference. We also strive to inspire children from underserved communities to become professionals in technological fields. To this end, we started and continue to work with LET’S GO Boys and Girls clubs to serve the next generation of engineers.


One of the ways we spread FIRST is through creative outreach. We threw first pitches at several Aberdeen Ironbirds games, hosted LEGO boat races, assisted with robotics merit badges, and gave live musical performances while displaying an FTC robot at the Open Door Café. In addition, our 2013 robot recently performed in Beauty and the Beast, a ballet with the Harford Ballet Company. Finally, we offer help to teams around the world through a comprehensive website, Facebook, and Instagram.


Our team’s strongest characteristics are dedication, cooperation, and open-mindedness. Our dedication is shown through our members’ willingness to meet for a total of 20 hours every week. Our cooperation is shown every meeting when each stub-team writes notes about what they learned. We use the notes we collect for outreach. Open-mindedness has led us to develop a partnership with the Maryland School for the Blind, and the Highlands School, a school for the learning disabled.


Through our first 3 years, we have used every new experience we encounter to help start other teams. Our founding members are creating a book to help prospective and new teams called “Lessons Learned Rookie Year”, to share our experiences with those teams. One of our alumni is a founding mentor of Team Illusion 4464, which won a regional Rookie All-Star Award last year. We helped FRC 4464 prepare by sharing notebook and essay strategies and we continue to mentor them through this new season.


With TechBrick, AZE and its alumni helped to start 62 new FFL teams, 12 FTC teams, and 1 FRC team locally. In addition to our local influence, we are one of the direct contributors to the establishment of FTC in the Netherlands.  The global impact we have on teams is immeasurable; teams in every country supported by US FIRST utilize TechBrick’s website.  Hundreds of teams thank us for our involvement in starting their team through the resources we provide.


Our partnerships with other FIRST teams span the globe. We are currently pursuing a partnership with 6 FIRST teams in China. Through Skype, we mutually demonstrate robots and share FLL research projects. Over 920,000 people have utilized TechBrick’s website, which contains documents and tools to aid FIRST teams. On AZE’s website, we offer our past award submissions and helpful links to other FRC sites. We are constantly looking for ways to reach FIRST teams through media outreach.


By mentoring other teams, we build the STEM community in Harford County. We encourage new FLL and FTC teams through training days. By having Allie Hruz, also a student member of FRC 3941, act as a liaison for TechBrick FLL, we further develop our FLL program, the flagship FLL program in Harford County. To assist underdeveloped teams, we have mentored FLL teams from the Maryland School for the Blind, Boys and Girls clubs, and the Highland School. AZE and its alumni directly mentor 19 FIRST teams.



As AZE progresses as a team, we also grow our sponsor base. The industries represented by our sponsors include defense, education, software, and technology. Our primary sponsors are:  NDEP, Dresher Foundation, Enktesis LLC, National Instruments, Nehemiah Communications INC, O’Bryon Group, RED BAG Solutions, SURVICE Engineering, Tie Point Engineering, White Marsh Brewing Company, PTC, MD FIRST, and STEM Action. ARL is particularly important to our program, providing materials and meeting space.



In addition to funding for parts and competitions, we have developed outreach and education partnerships with several of our sponsors. The Army and Education Outreach Program at ARL shares facilities with AZE at the STEM Education Outreach Center at APG. In addition, 7 of our mentors work at ARL and Aberdeen Proving Ground. AZE worked with National Instruments to develop better programming skills through seminars. In return, we shared our FIRST story with National Instruments at a conference.


With FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), we make it happen. FIRST is a worldwide organization that educates, motivates, and challenges young people. FIRST teams are highly competitive and yet supportive of both their robotics and local communities. The FIRST environment enables those involved to lead and learn via an innovative approach to STEM. The FIRST community of today will make it happen tomorrow by setting the stage for future generations of engineers.


AZE is a third year team with an impressive resume. AZE is the budding executive leadership of TechBrick, LLC. The AZE and TechBrick partnership is a FIRST Robotics organization that positively influences teams worldwide. We encompass dozens of FIRST teams and hundreds of students and mentors of all age groups, from JrFLL to FRC. We propose that bringing the Chairman’s Award back to Harford County will promote and electrify our STEM community by setting an example for local teams.

Feb 12

Rookie All-Star Essay

The following is our long essay submission for the 2012 Rookie All-Star Award.

At Absolute Zero, Electricity flows without resistance. TechBrick’s inaugural year in FRC has our team off the starting blocks and charging at full speed. Supported by TechBrick’s rich history of US FIRST involvement and promotion, Team 3941 Absolute Zero Electricity (AZE) has the electric potential to derail low expectations, pulse waves of STEM education throughout our community, and boldly bring the message of FIRST to places it has never gone before. This is just the beginning, and what a beginning it is.


TechBrick started in 2003 when 11-year old Amy Ciavolino received a LEGO RCX system. She was instantly captured by the mechanics and programming required to run the robot. Watching one of the early MD FLL Championships, she said, “I can do this.” And so, the family entered the world of US FIRST.
Amy’s father, Marco, mailed an invitation to homeschoolers in the region. Thirty eager young engineers showed up for the first meeting. This became the start of our first FLL team and what later became a monthly Friday Night LEGO Club which served as a feeder for new teams.

In 2004, our first FLL and Jr.FLL teams were formed. From there we grew, adding multiple FLL teams each year. After two years of FLL, our initial team members entered high school; thus, TechBrick chose to engage in FVC and continued for two years before taking on the new FTC program. Over its 9-year history, TechBrick has fielded 9 Jr.FLL, 15 FLL, 7 FTC, and now 1 FRC team. Our FTC teams have earned trips to the World Championships 5 times; the FLL teams have won major awards at the MD Championships every year. Each of the TechBrick teams has been comprised of 5 to 21 students, totaling over 238 student years of education.

TechBrick opens its doors to all students who want to develop their STEM skills and teamwork in a fun, value-centered environment. Consequently, AZE is comprised of students from three Maryland counties with multiple home schools and high schools represented. Our mentors have a wide variety of backgrounds and occupations; we have been aided by knowledgeable and committed engineers, scientists, business leaders, and manufacturers from organizations like the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), CACI, Verizon Wireless, and DAP Products.


From the beginning, the mission of TechBrick and AZE has been clear: we exist to teach students to solve technological challenges while building their character, growing them into stronger, more productive individuals in a faith-based environment. All we do reflects the virtues and values of FIRST. Inter-team communication and respect is an integral part of our team structure; each member’s ideas are graciously acknowledged and considered. The respect our team members have for our mentors and their professional experience facilitates learning and quality work. Working on a kind, purposeful team instills confidence in our students; they realize that there is no challenge too large for them to tackle. TechBrick has a long record of generosity towards other teams demonstrated by our FLL and FTC teams. We have provided hundreds of FIRST tips to teams in the U.S. and 50 countries via our comprehensive website, and we exercise coopertition by helping competitor teams solve last-minute mechanical and programming issues at events. Alongside our eagerness to help comes a willingness to learn from others. All our members appreciate the advice and aid we have received from more experienced teams, including teams #365 (MOE), #836 (the Robobees), and #1980 (the Brigade). Additionally, we realize that the help we seek and receive from our numerous sponsors is what makes our FIRST teams and local STEM initiatives possible. Those who know their values and stand by them inevitably become leaders; TechBrick’s commitment to openness, virtue, learning, and community involvement has made TechBrick FIRST’s most influential organization in Northeastern Maryland.

Even though AZE has only existed as a team for a few short weeks, we have already become a close-knit, cooperative, and dedicated group, and have actively sought to promote FIRST through a team open house and direct contact with sponsors. AZE strives to continue TechBrick’s longstanding pattern of excellence in leadership through building team relationships and spreading the FIRST message to as many members of the local community as possible.


Innovation: it’s what we do at TechBrick, not only in constructing robots, but also in reaching our community and the world with FIRST’s core values. Over the years, we have performed countless robotics demonstrations to promote FIRST and STEM education at a wide range of venues, including local churches, schools, the community Boys and Girls Club, and Baltimore’s African American Heritage Festival. Notable among these were our “Bristle Bots” expos at the Good Shepherd school in Perryville and the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) Youth Center. Our FTC team has helped run tutorials for other teams at the New Jersey robotics workshops, Maryland kickoff workshops (2010 and 2011), and a spring 2011 workshop at Harford Community College (HCC) for new teams. Topics included starting a rookie team, public speaking and effective communication, developing an engineering notebook, and programming in NXT and Robot-C. Also, FTC #7′s Hot Shot! robot threw the opening pitch at an Aberdeen Ironbirds game. Other channels of outreach include a Sea Perch robotics event (in 2011), and numerous appearances in the newspaper.

An annual TechBrick event to promote FIRST and STEM is our LEGO Boat Race each June. In this event, kids in grades K-12 make motorized boats from their own LEGO collections and race them across a swimming pool. Participants are rewarded for their creativity, ingenuity, and effectiveness at solving the engineering challenge of making a floating, moving boat.

One of our more creative methods of spreading the word about FIRST is our Applebee’s Breakfast Fundraiser held at the local restaurant. TechBrick students serve breakfast to the community, let kids drive our robots, and discuss what we are learning. The fundraiser is popular, having reached over 500 people with the message of FIRST and raised over $3000 for our robotics teams.

The most far-reaching outreach endeavor TechBrick has undertaken is its website. has had millions of hits since its creation, and receives another 100 to 400 global visitors daily. Thousands have utilized’s documents and tools to improve their FIRST robots and teams, and many have thanked us for our online resources.
AZE strives to continue the legacy of innovation in communication. Our website contains a record of each of our meetings, links to FIRST resources, and (soon) a help section on nutrition. We continue to seek venues to demonstrate our robot’s performance and talk about FIRST and its importance.


Absolute Zero Electricity is situated in a highly technological community?Aberdeen Proving Ground is just minutes from our team’s headquarters; in a close proximity to us are the Edgewood Proving Ground, dozens of manufacturing plants, and Peach Bottom nuclear power plant. Despite the area’s focus on STEM innovation, Harford and Cecil County students have had limited STEM opportunities. TechBrick effectively opened the door for local students to be part of FIRST and brought STEM education squarely in the community’s line of sight. We have developed FLL teams at the Aberdeen and Edgewood Boys and Girls Clubs and FTC teams at Havre de Grace and John Carroll High Schools. Today, there are dozens of Jr.FLL, FLL, FTC, and FRC teams in the area (and around the world), all of which can trace their existence back to TechBrick’s first FLL team in 2004. Local government entities and businesses now have an increased interest in STEM promotion, such as ARL, which provides internship opportunities for middle and high school students. STEM education and FIRST in particular have become an integral part of the culture of our region due to the efforts of TechBrick.


TechBrick has partnered with ARL which provides mentors and funding through the National Defense Engineering Partnership. We are fortunate to have ARL mentors who help connect our work to their valuable research for the soldier. AZE also benefits with a grant from the jcpenney’s store in White Marsh, MD, and we will be displaying our robot at the store in May. Also, Canby Motors has graciously allowed us to use their storefront to build our FRC robot.
TechBrick was also an integral part of the early formation of LET’S GO Boys and Girls, a STEM education program for underserved children in out-of-school programs. Our mentors have helped the organization write more than a dozen publications which are being used to bring STEM education to thousands of urban children.


TechBrick members are eager to further their STEM education. Founding member Amy Ciavolino is now completing her degree in Computer Science at UMBC. Two current members just received acceptance to study engineering next year at the University of Maryland.

Absolute Zero Electricity also looks to the future. TechBrick is currently working with local community colleges to receive accreditation to award credit for students’ active participation in FRC.


As Absolute Zero Electricity progresses through the season, we remember our history, look to our future, and never stop living out FIRST’s message. Although this is just the beginning for our team, we have already come a long way. Our potential is vast; the switch has been flipped; we will run our race well to shine FIRST and its values throughout our community, our state, and our world.

AZE’s Social Media