Las Cruces, NM — The LCPS Project NEO robotics team reached the semi-finals at the FIRST Robotics Hub City Regional event March 6-8, 2014 in Lubbock, TX, said LCPS Director of Technical Support Services and Project NEO mentor Jeff Harris.
The Project NEO (FRC Team 1164) was seeded third of 42 teams at the end of the seeding matches, said Harris. “That made us one of the eight top-seeded team captains for the finals round. We formed an alliance with team 192 (GRT Robotics) and Team 2613 (the Protobots). Out alliance won our first two quarter-final matches to advance to the semi-finals. There we tied our first match, but it was awarded to the opposing alliance on what are called assist points. We lost our second match, so we were eliminated,” said Harris.
“During competition, our kids helped several other teams get their robots to the point they could compete at all. Three of those teams (including two from China) went on to win awards of their own. In recognition, our team was awarded the Johnson and Johnson Gracious Professionalism award - which is voted on by the other teams. I am very proud of the kids for that,” said Harris.
FRC Team 1164 began in 2003 at Mayfield High School with two students and two mentors. Since then, the team has had more than 175 team members and has competed in 11 FIRST Robotics Competitions. Among team members who have graduated from high school, about 70 percent go on to pursue careers in science or technology.
Project NEO (for New Engineering Opportunities) officially changed its status from a Mayfield team to an LCPS team in 2010. It now includes 23 members from Las Cruces, Mayfield, Oñate, Arrowhead Early College and Alma D’arte high schools, and three home-schooled students.
The team is mentored by a group of dedicated adults, most of whom come from the area engineering community. Mentors are Jeff and Kathy Harris, Rick Pierce, Randy and Deanna Rankin, Marco and JoAnn Ramirez, Michael Harris, and returning team members who are currently college students, Kyle Rankin and Alex Castañeda.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen. Its purpose is to inspire an appreciation for science and technology through a hands-on and fun learning environment. The competition, and participation in FIRST, provides students with real-world experience before they meet the real world, thus building engineers and scientists before they have even graduated from college.
To encourage more participation in science and technology, Project NEO was instrumental in helping LCPS receive a two year NM Robotics Grant. This grant was used to purchase three Lego EV3 Robotics kits, expansion kits, and one laptop for every elementary and middle school. The team has thus far trained over 40 teachers from 22 different schools in how to build and program a Lego EV3 robot. Many of the schools will be participating in a Project NEO run Lego Robot Scrimmage on April 26. In the fall the team will be hosting a qualifying event for the NM FIRST Lego
League for the new FLL teams from LCPS schools and other area teams.
For more information, contact Harris at 575.527.7124 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Contact FRC Team 1164 at email@example.com . Visit www.projectneo.net  and www.usfirst.org . You also can visit www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/content.aspx?id=16209 .