Helping. Educating. Creating. Inspiring. These motivating words usually describe our society’s virtues, but these words are surprisingly descriptive of robots, too. Not robots in some distant future or another hemisphere, but right here, right now in Jacksonville, Florida. Robots are usually shown as monsters, cute characters, or strange cold creatures on television. But robots really are just tools made of various materials with a defined purpose and an organized goal. Robots can even change the economical and educational landscape in North Florida.
Visionary Mark McCombs, is raising awareness for a robotic revitalization where new opportunities, concepts and ideas like this are born every day. He is acting as an emissary of change for North Florida not as a man for profit but as a leader that wants to help others in the same way he was helped in the past by the Sally Corporation.
“By year 2021 we will have over 300 robotics teams in Jacksonville alone and over 6500 participants annually.”
“Sally Corporation helped me because of the sheer brutal honesty of the people I got to work with. They are some of the warmest, best-joke-having people you could ask for who are all really hard workers. The knowledge that you got to keep working and cutting and shaping till its right and works the way you want is truly where the art meets the engineering over there. ” During his time at Sally Corporation he met a Carbon Fiber specialist named Gordon Nelson and his main robotics mentors Dave Vogel and Todd Lovelace from Team Resistance.
His training at Sally Corporation has brought him to a place where he desires to see success in Jacksonville’s future, starting with its young minds. His non-profit “Renaissance Jax” stimulates fresh interests and fosters a culture of learning in North Florida. The vision of Renaissance Jax is to create more, “Cognitive Capital” or “groups of talented individuals” in North Florida than anywhere else. The more creative people in Jacksonville the merrier.
According to Mark McCombs: ” Renaissance Jax is essentially a talent generating engine that uses FIRST Robotics for k-12 students to rocket-propel our talent generating capabilities and make sure that Jacksonville has an endless supply of very talented people who know how to work together to solve very difficult problems. By year 2021 we will have over 300 robotics teams in Jacksonville alone and over 6500 participants annually.”
Renaissance Jax is also an official Lego League Affiliate Partner with FIRST and currently manages 185 teams in the Northeast Florida region. FIRST is an acronym: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. It has several progression programs including the Lego League which is a worldwide competition held for elementary and middle school students. Every August the FIRST Lego League is tasked with solving a real world problem. Jacksonville’s youths come together to design, program and craft robots using Lego Mindstorms technology. Once the robots are built they are able to go head to head, crossing obstacles and puzzle solving on a competitive playing field.
The latest venture of FIRST Lego League is “Animal Allies.” In this contest children seek out ways to help animals using robotic concepts. Although the competition is high so is the level of fun. In fact it is very important to note that in the FIRST Lego League’s Core Values are the words: “We share our experiences with others” but also ” We have FUN!” Competitions can be tough but they also comprehensively highlight the need to share thoughts and inspirations. Lego League isn’t the only event by First in Jacksonville there is also the FIRST Tech Challenge’s Northeast Florida League Meet. This meet is a weekend event focused on students from grades 7-12 building competitive robots. It’s like a “sporting event for robotics teams.” Groups challenge each other but they also connect to mentors and other teams members.
“Personally, I want Jacksonville to come to represent what happens when you take a real look at the resources and assets of the community and make it so that everyone can rise up together.”
Overall the focus on fun is on par with the focus on programming. What may seem like tinkering or playing is really training for coveted skills in the career field of technology. From the local scene these competitions rise to regional levels. The conversations between the few become the discussion of the many. Through these events, coaches guide children by raising their imagination and gathering their spirit for teamwork. Teams research with field experts, “learn about reality” and communicate their findings to a growing society of mechanical engineers. Via their studying these young scholars are able to answer questions, overcome difficulties and find solutions. This includes figuring out how to deal with failure, learning how to make things work and pushing boundaries beyond what is possible. Robots aren’t just plastic, metal and computing devices. They are compiled strategies being used to assemble a future, a future that isn’t that far away. Hearing about kids becoming scientists and being taught advanced computer programming may very well be as common as literature, math and gym classes. In truth supporting robots in its own way is directly supporting the rise of opportunity and city wide potential. The glowing fire of curiosity is in everyone and robots are a new way to reach that part of our inner child like creativity. The world at large is changing for the better and children are using robots piece by piece and bit by bit to do it. I thank Mark McCombs for all the valuable information he has given me to understand this subject. He has an inside truth on robotic discoveries here in Jacksonville which is easy to believe since mechanical engineering is second hand nature to him.
Mark McCombs states: “Personally, I want Jacksonville to come to represent what happens when you take a real look at the resources and assets of the community and make it so that everyone can rise up together.”
As for me, I can’t wait to see children building their own R2-D2s or BB-8s. That idea alone makes me look forward to the future.
For more information, please visit: Renaissancejax.org.