Featured Charity: Screaming Chickens Explorer Post FRC Team 3997

My friends, the one and only Screaming Chickens at the World Championship in 2013!
Hey readers, I want to introduce you to some really cool geek kids that are totally into robotics and are doing big things in San Antonio: the Screaming Chickens FRC Team 3997! These guys have a Fundly campaign going on (which explains the campaign card in the upper right corner...) and I humbly ask you guys to help me raise them some money so they can keep doing what they do: build crazy t-shirt shooting, basketballing robots!

Just yesterday, Caroline Crosson, the Executive Advisor for the Screaming Chickens informed me that the team has left the 2014 Lone Star Regional in Houston and will be competing at the World Championship again, for the third time in a row. Keep in mind though, gentle readers, that this FRC team is only three years old! Three world Championships in three years!

Now all they need to do is come up with $8,000 dollars to cover travel expenses to St. Louis.

Crosson is understandably very proud of her kids, saying "These kids are AMAZING and wow me every day that I am with them. At the end of this month we have to come up with travel money - about $8000, half of what the registration and lodging will cost. We are reaching out to the community and businesses and hope that we will not have to say not to attending.

I am still in shock that in the 3 years we have competed, we have won 6 awards when team of 10+ years haven't even won that many. I am even more surprised by the friends and connections we have made. One alliance team from Florida has mentors who are now life long friends because we share the same goals with our programs. 

I can tell you how this program changes these kids, but it changes me too."

Who are the Screaming Chickens, and why should I donate to them?

The Screaming Chickens are dedicated by design to encourage enthusiasm, learning and leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, open to girls and boys equally, non-discriminatory to any race, orientation, or religion. Crosson, the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team Advisor, who puts in her time outside of class to organize this team, puts it best.
Our mission is to prepare future generations in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields by teach all aspects of engineering, from design to build to programming, providing hands on opportunities by building robots. Team 3997's utilizes participation in FIRST as a building block for entering the real world as able and talented individuals. We use our abilities to arouse the next generation to come into engineering and science and fill the shoes of our predecessors. We learn from one another and ourselves as a team as we exemplify gracious professionalism and cooperation to set precedence for future generations to make respect and trust common work place methods. Team 3997 believes that today’s young people are tomorrow’s future and its diversity will be its strength.

They're an Explorer Post...

The Screaming Chickens are also known as Explorer Post 42, and are the ONLY Engineering Explorer Post in Texas, and 1 of 5 in the nation. The Explorer Posts are one of seven programs of the Learning for Life Corporation (part of the Boy Scouts of America), which supports schools and community-based organizations in their efforts to prepare youth to successfully handle the complexities of contemporary society and to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and self-esteem. Explorer Post 24 meet weekly throughout the year to teach their kids problem solving, CAD (Computer Aided Design) building, mechanical and electrical engineering, programming through JAVA , C++, and Labview. Then they take all the knowledge accumulated throughout the year and apply it through designing and building a robot designed to do a specific task. That robot is taken to competition.

Crosson adds "We focus on team building in a positive environment, allowing the engineering process to flow from start to finish, and we even add marketing skills to the mix." Yes folks: marketing skills! These kids are learning real world stuff here!

The team isn't doing it alone. They also have mentors that help the kids deal with the frustration of design and testing, and coach them for the rigors of competition.

They are inclusive...

Crosson adds "By preparing the teens of South Texas for the workforce or to attend college, we know that their enthusiasm will be contagious as we meet with younger kids to encourage them to continue participating in STEM subjects through numerous community events." And they mean every teen, even home schooled kids and girls. Yes, as you may know, girls are somewhat poo-pooed by engineering clubs: but the Screaming Chickens provide a safe, gender-bias free environment for girls to excel!

They teach...

At first blush, the Screaming Chickens build robots. I'm not just talking something could build out of a watch battery and a paper clip. I'm talking large, fully radio controlled robots that have complex programing and serve a function. There are robots that can launch discs, shoot t-shirts, pick things up, and other amazing things.
at  a San Antonio Elementary school, where they were getting kids
excited about engineering killer robot armies!! Mwhahah! 

Crosson says "These kids leave with hands on work experience, prepared for mechanical jobs and programming jobs and they are leaps and bounds ahead in college because they learn the same programming languages taught in engineering courses and their real world experience."

You might wonder "how does another t-shirt launching robot help the world, or these kids for that matter?" Well, I'll tell you.

When they set about building their robot, it started with an idea: "How are we going to build a robot that can 1) move on its own and 2) shoot t-shirts in any direction." From that concept, they began to build. They had to draw up plans. They had to type lines and lines of code. They had to physically put their designs together and test them. They made mistakes, and had to go back in their designs to find the problem and create another solution. No doubt they had to redesign dozens of times, but in the end they were successful.
What is the end result of all that labor? Problem solving skills. When they are employed as engineers, and their boss needs a product redesigned, they will already know what to do: design, test, redesign. They will have some experience with machines and code: they will know some things that work, and some things that don't. Like every skill in life, engineering and problem solving requires practice.

Your donation  buys time to practice solving problems with STEM for South Texas teens, among other things. This can apply to anything, from engineering, to software development, to scientific research, even all the way to creative arts (writing good fiction takes practice)

At their Racing into Robotics Camp at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in '12,
which was a huge success!

They encourage....

The Screaming Chickens pay it forward with trips to the Witte Museum in San Antonio and other places in town .They have encouraged over a dozen elementary schools to start robotics clubs and mentor a few elementary and middle school leveled groups, include a FIRST Lego League (like FRC, but with Lego Mindstorms products) and a FIRST Tech Challenge Team.
Mentoring an FLL Team
Mentoring an FIRST Tech Challenge Team

High in the clouds at Rackspace's Cloud seminar
(if you're from SA, you know these guys are doing big things!)

At the Witte Museum's Build It Fair!
At KLRN's (San Antonio's PBS station) SciGirls Club and we had a blast! The SciGirls is a wonderful animated program on PBS to encourage girls to investigate STEM activities. We need more girls in science!
With a shirt like that on a kids that happy about it,
how could you not shell out some dough? How about a dollar? This kids needs a dollar...

At Tech Star's San Antonio office at the Geekdom super-tech think-tank building....  
at the Boy Scouts of America Roundtable in August , with their competition robot!

At the University of Texas at San Antonio's Brute Squad event,
where much fun was had randomly shooting 3-pointers with their competition robot.

So you can see that the Screaming Chickens don't just sit on their laurels and loaf around. They get out there and encourage more STEM learning. The teachers and professors who read my blog know what I talk about when I say that STEM fields need more people, and I can't think of any other group that does more STEM recruits than my friends at the Screaming Chickens.

They compete... and WIN!

The Screaming Chickens are one of the FRC teams in San Antonio, Texas, and last year went all the way to the World Championship, and only as a second year team! They won up to the quarter-finals in Newton division, which is unprecedented for a team of their age!

This year, the Screaming Chickens participated in the Texas Robot Roundup in Austin and the Remix in The Woodlands, were they made it to the quarter finals and made a few friends! They did the Texas Robot Roundup in Austin last year as well, and had to do emergency repairs when the 2 speed transmission on their robots had sheered a set screw. The Screaming Chickens stayed up until midnight changing the 2 speed transmissions to the single speed transmission and reprogramming the robot. Even on no sleep and no practice with the new transmission, they ended up in the playoffs and finished as a semi-finalist (4th place), winning the Safety Award and a Mentor Award as well. They also attended an off-season mini competition where we showed off our double barrel t shirt cannon.

They are already trying to get money...

The Screaming Chickens are not waiting for a handout. They are applying to several foundation already, and in fact if they can show that they have raised a little money, then they can count that as "matching funds" in their next application, which makes foundation feel better about donating $8,000 dollars to them if they can show they can also raise $8,000. Your donation therefore helps them get more money, so even $10 can go a long, long way.

At the Boy Scouts of America Friends of Scouting Breakfast...

What else do they do?

1) Screaming Chickens get scholarships! 100% of all Screaming Chickens have gotten into the universities of their choice and have won some scholarship money because of participating in this group! Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona in particular loves the Screaming Chickens (why). Also, FIRST in Texas gave $18 million dollars in college scholarships to FIRST participants, so getting to go participate has very practical perks for the kids involved.

2) They spend their time wisely. Being in an FRC team is a great alternative to other after school pursuits. This probably isn't the best venue to say "it will keep kids off those video games", but to parents concerned that their child is spending to much time controller-in-hand in front of the TV (or doing the right thing by playing on PC), this is a good alternative. On a more sober note, building a robot is alot less illegal than doing drugs or being in a gang, and I don't say that to be cheeky.

3) Being a chicken looks great on a resume. Employers know that every child must have at least a public school education, so they are in no mood to employ someone for doing the minimum. IF a teen chooses to spend time in an extracurricular, educational activity, it makes them stand out as a self-starter, which means they are more likely to have new ideas, do work without needing to be monitored, and help other coworkers. Imagine being the HR department for a big software company, and looking at two identical resumes, different only in that one went to FRC. Which one would you pick?

4) It looks shiny on a college application too. Universities can be picky, and when it comes to competitive registration, little details like FRC participation make a big difference. Also, even if a Scream Chicken doesn't have the perfect SAT score, she or he may still be accepted into a great school because they can show activities like this on their application. Engineering colleges would prefer to accept a student who has already shown dedication to science and mechanics.
What will Screaming Chickens do with my money?

The Screaming Chickens annual budget is $35,000. They have gotten support directly from FIRST for the first two years, but now they need our help to raise $20,000 to keep going. Registration for these competitions is $5000 each regional and then we have to find money for materials (build material and electronics), software/laptops, and travel.

How can I support them?

Best way is to just click on the Fundly campaign card in the upper right of my blog. I'll include another card on the bottom of the post too. Just follow the directions, its really simple and very secure (I have donated on Fundly myself), and give them a little money. Then share your contribution on Facebook, so everyone can see what a great guy you are and stop calling you Scrooge McDuck or something.

Fundly is like Kickstarter, only for non-profits and other ventures that don't make money, basically. Fundly takes out less that 5% of the money you donate, and the rest goes to them. They can pull it out at anytime, so if the campaign "fails", it doesn't really fail.

Unfortunately though, if the Screaming Chickens don't get enough money this year, its curtains for them. This $2,000 will help cover some costs, but I will be putting up another Fundly campaign for the rest soon. Bear with me here.

The Screaming Chickens also have a cool online store, if you actually want to get something for your trouble. They got auto decals and t-shirts, so you can have proof that you support the robot overlords of the future! They might spare you if they see you wearing the shirt.

Why is this on my favorite blog (I know I'm your favorite..)? What does this have to do with roleplaying or writing?

This has nothing to do with roleplaying or writing, but this does have everything to do with something that is important to a goodly portion of my readership:

Some of these kids are Roleplayers!

So here were are, with this great opportunity to help out some kids, fellow hobbyist like ourselves, do something that we only simulate being able to do in roleplaying games: build robots. These kids aren't rolling dice and adding Craft (robots) skills, they are getting their hands greasy, doing the hard math and building the programs to really get what they want out of life. They will be able to show the world just how high their crafting skills are too, at the 2014 world championship, if only we can help!

But even if they were roleplayers, they are still learning how to build the robots we have dreamt about. Our fandoms, especially for us science fiction fans, are being made more real by these kids. Theses kids will be the ones to finally create cybernetic arms that resemble real arms. These kids will be working on our spaceships and power suits. Screaming Chickens is like an academy for the pioneers of the  manifest destiny of science fiction as we know it.

If you love robots, and if you use them in your games or your writings, and you donate, then in my opinion you will have shown your love in an extremely, unfathomably profound way. You are really helping kids do something literally constructive for their lives, that may lead them to a job where they engineer the Next Big Thing, that serves as the inspiration for the Next Big Thing in science fiction.
If you know what this is, and you lurve it, please donate! No STEM nerds, no mecha. Screaming Chickens = more STEM nerds.
It is that idea, that us geeks can "put our money where our fandom is" that I have posted this on my blog. I know I can reach hundreds of people here, like I reached you. I can tell hundreds of people all over the world that there are some kids that need some help, and not unlike the adventurers you are, you can come do that saving with your donation, big or small. I posted this here because I know some of you guys are as nuts about robots as I am, and you can share this with others who might donate and share this blog and so on. I know that you guys can make this happen.

Why is Murky Master doing this?

For my part, I am doing this for free. The Chickens aren't paying me, aren't promising to build me a Chobit or sparing me from any world domination schemes or anything. I just don't want to see another bunch of kids have to go home and watch paint dry when they could be building a robot that shoots things in RL.

We only need to raise $7800 or so dollars. I can bring this article to 7800 people easily, and if each one donated a dollar, then we could get this done.

Again, if you don't like fundly, then go to their online store at

In closing, if you love science, or robots, or engineering, or mad scientists or happy kids that are shooting t-shirts instead of people then prove it!

Thanks for reading this guys. It was a doozie, but I really love the Screaming Chickens, and I seriously hope you consider donating to them. Have a nice day!

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