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Taking no prisoners: The Full Metal Jackets Robotics Team

May 10, 2019 By: Bill deMink

Taking no prisoners: The Full Metal Jackets Robotics Team

When most people hear the words “Full Metal Jacket,” they think of the famous movie that covered the intensity of the Vietnam war.  However, with the recent success of the Full Metal Jackets 5205, a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team from Concord, that name association may soon change.

The Full Metal Jackets 5205 started in 2013, and one of their first priorities was learning the rules of the FIRST competition. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” In order to meet FIRST Robotics Competition requirements, team 5205 was challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” work on teambuilding skills and construct and program an industrial-size robot to play a challenging field game against stiff competition. All under strict time limits.

In 2015, Caster Concepts and their family of companies, including Conceptual Innovations and Fabricating Concepts, started supporting the team and have been with them ever since.  Every year, Caster Concepts and company provide the Full Metal Jackets team with:

  • More than $8,000 of robot parts and supplies
  • 200+ hours of hands-on mentoring
  • Thousands of dollars of in-kind manufacturing support such as laser cutting, powder coating, and welding
  • Summer internships that offer team members valuable experience in the fields of engineering and design and manufacturing

Bright Lights and Blue Banners

 The dedication from Team 5205 members is remarkable, and through some highs and lows and a lot of hard work, the successes are coming. In 2019, the Full Metal Jackets competed at the Lakeview and Jackson Regionals.  This is their 3rd year in a row that they have qualified for both the Michigan State Championship and the World Championship held in Detroit. 

Team 5205 also won their first blue banner this year at the Lakeview Regional and were a finalist at the Jackson Regional.  In the past three years, the team has steadily developed key foundational skills such as CAD and programming that have helped them in their competitions.  The team has also established a set design and development process to be able to completely design, build and test their robot within the mandatory six-and-a half-week build time.

 “Support for our local FRC team has been an important investment for Caster Concepts, and we see this as one of our strategies for developing local engineering and manufacturing talent,” exclaims Elmer Lee, Full Metal Jackets mentor and Director of Engineering at Caster Concepts and Conceptual Innovations. “By finding, growing and enhancing talented high school students who have deep roots in our community, we believe we can grow our talent pool and develop new business markets in high technology industries.”

The advantages of real-world application.

Dr. Lee has always had an interest in helping young engineers develop their skills and knowledge, and his insights into robotics have been invaluable for the team. As a highly accomplished and innovative engineer, Dr. Lee has earned Ph.D., M.S. and B.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also appreciates the education that comes from a real-world application. “In my three years of mentoring, I’ve seen a huge difference in the talent levels and abilities of our kids. We are now teaching concepts that I learned as a graduate student to sophomores and juniors in high school.”

Caster Concepts and Conceptual Innovations support Full Metal Jackets with mentorships, financial support, and manufacturing support, and they are always enthusiastic when new students want to join. Experience isn’t necessary. What is required is the passion for learning, the determination to see the project through and a strong desire to be challenged. And the way things are going, the real possibility of competing in another world championship.

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