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Geneva High School’s FIRST Robotics Team Sponsored by The Label Printers

the label printers The Label Printers is pleased to once again sponsor a FIRST robotics team which has been organized by Geneva High School, Geneva, Illinois.  The ROBOVIKES have begun their sixth season of competition.

The 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) season has begun and the Robovikes are back for their sixth season. They joined tens of thousands of team members in over 90 locations worldwide who tuned in to the January kickoff via live NASA-TV broadcast and webcast for the start of the 2014 season.  A record 2,729 teams from 17 countries must now take their “Kit of Parts” and transform it into a robot engineered and programmed with the skills to play this season’s Aerial Assist game.

The FIRST program is designed so that the kids have only 6 weeks to build their robot, with no instructions – one of the many life lessons that are part of this “competition of the mind”.  That six week time frame is a significant commitment of time and effort, which this experienced Robovikes team understands very well.  Geneva High School’s team meets on Mondays and Wednesdays after school for about two to three hours, and then for about nine hours on Saturdays.  And usually even more time as the competition nears. 

This year’s game is called AERIAL ASSIST which is, as FIRST explains, “played between two Alliances of three teams each. Each Alliance competes by trying to score as many balls in goals as possible during a two-minute and 30-second match. Additional points are earned by robots working together to score goals, and by throwing and catching balls over a truss suspended just over five feet above the floor as they move the ball down the field. View the game animation.

In accordance with FIRST values, AERIAL ASSIST is about more than just robots. FRC competitions embody the fun and excitement of a sporting game, but also showcase the power of collaboration and the determination of students.”

The Robovikes are working on assembly of this year’s ‘bot, exercising the “platform”, developing the team’s first ever web site, programming, watching, talking, laughing – pretty much everything you’d expect from over 20 teenagers and their adult mentors. Now in the team’s sixth season there are a lot of veterans around the room, but also a lot of kids who have joined because their friends and families told them how much fun it is and/or because of the success that the team has enjoyed since its rookie season. And their reputation for success which comes from hard work, skill and fun is beginning to define the program.

In addition to Mary Keyzer, a teacher at Geneva High School and the Robovikes coach, the team has two other principal adult mentors who have volunteered countless hours working with the team since the beginning – Kevin Keyzer, a ceramics engineer and Mary’s husband, and Joe Kane, who is the Director of Research and Development at The Label Printers.

On this Saturday, at the team meeting being held in one of Geneva’s schools, the Keyzers and Kane are joined by team dad Jon Snurka, whose son Brad (a junior at GHS) is in his 3rd season as a Robovike and whose daughter Robyn (a freshman at GHS) is a rookie.  Brad is delighted to be the main programmer for the robot, having wanted to do so since his freshman year, but feeling that he has really big shoes to fill. Says Brad, “I’m glad Justin [2013 graduate of GHS Justin Mui] graduated, but I also wish he was still here.” Brad’s career goal is to be an astronomer. His sister Robyn likes science, and she likes how the club is run.  But she’s a Robovike mostly because it’s fun to be on the team with her big brother.

The Snurkas aren’t the only siblings on the Robovikes.  Freshman Greg Wendt joins his brother Ken, a senior. Greg has gone to previous competitions to see Ken and the team, and has enjoyed the program, but he also wanted to be on the team with his brother. Freshman Ben Deem’s brother Trevor is a recent graduate of GHS and a 4-year team member, including the first Robovikes team.  Ben joined the team because his brother recommended it and he knew that “it was a lot of fun – and you learn a lot of stuff.”  Ben’s favorite subjects are science and music, and his job is to help assemble the robot.

A few years ago, Anna Green (the Safety Captain and a member of the Build Team) was the only rookie and the only girl on the team.  But this year there are 4 girls and 16 rookies who generally got involved because of their career aspirations and/or because they had heard how much fun FIRST is – in many cases from friends who were already on the team.  Anna’s freshman idea of perhaps becoming a chemical engineer or a particle physicist has evolved into a desire to be a mechanical engineer, and she will be attending NIU in the fall. 

Ken Wendt (senior and a 4-yr. team member), Prem Desai (freshman) and Ben Maher (freshman) have created the team’s first-ever web site – [].  The site includes images and videos of previous teams, practices and game footage, as well as some basic information about the team and its sponsors.

Rachel Warren is a junior, but a rookie Robovike.  She knew about the program before but couldn’t participate because she was on the track team.  But this year she quit track and joined the Robovike team because “I’m good friends with a lot of the team. And I think I might want to be a mechanical engineer.”

But not everyone on the time wants to be an engineer or a scientist or a programmer.  Zach Gauntt is on the programmer team because he’s “pals with the other programmers and it seemed fun.”  But the future?  “I want to do something in the culinary field.”

Mary Keyzer is proud of this year’s program – both in terms of student participation and school support.  She says, “this is the first year we’ve had over 20 kids – we’ve got 27. And because of the growth, our success in competition since our very first year, and a solid and sustainable program (including our sponsors), we’re getting really good support from the school.  From the space assigned to us for practice, to financial support, to the school bus for the Buckeye Regional in Cleveland in March, they’ve really stepped up to the plate.”

Beginning in March, 98 Regional and District competitions will take place around the globe, and 400 teams will advance to the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship, which will be held in the Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri on April 23-26, 2014.  The Robovikes are aiming to be in Missouri this spring.

ROBOVIKE Team Members:

Seniors:  Anna Green, Stephan Hecht, Grif McDonell, Quade Spellman, Ken Wendt

Juniors:  Mitchell Bennett, Brandon Elizondo, Zach Gauntt, Zach Krampitz, Alessa Laserna, Jack McCloughan, Tom Miller, Tyler Rasmussen, Brad Snurka, Rachel Warren

Sophomores:  AJ Novy, Johannas Vandermeij, John Zupke

Freshmen:  Shane Allcroft, Ben Deem, Prem Desai, John Hammond, Zaymon Harris, Quinn Hensley, Ben Maher, Ethan Reed, Robyn Snurka, Greg Wendt

The Robovikes will be competing at the:

Buckeye Regional at the Wolstein Center, Cleveland, OH, March 20 – 22

Midwest Regional at the UIC Pavilion, Chicago, IL, April 3 – 5


The Label Printers, Aurora, IL, started in business in 1967, manufacturing simple label constructions in a 1,000 square foot space, with 1 employee, serving the local Chicago market.

Today, the company has evolved into one of the 100 largest converters in the United States.  The Label Printers owns and operates two facilities in Aurora, Illinois, manufacturing and distributing labels and packaging products to thousands of customers in 25 countries around the world. The company’s quality systems are registered to ISO 9001 and are backed up by their 99.6% Quality Acceptance Rating.

The Label Printers is a member of NASPO (North American Security Products Organization), CACP (Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy), TLMI (Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute) and the FTA (Flexographic Technical Association).

About Geneva High School (Community Unit School District 304)

Geneva Community High School is over 130 years old and has over 1,800 students, 150 faculty members, and offers more than 150 courses in eleven academic areas.  Students may also enroll in one of thirty-seven academic courses in the Fox Valley Career Center curriculum.  Advanced placement and honors courses are offered in all academic areas supported by the expansion of our Acceleration and Enrichment program. 

While maintaining an outstanding tradition of excellence in education, athletic and extracurricular programs, our school provides a wide variety of community service learning experiences throughout Geneva and the Fox Valley.  Our experienced administrative team and dedicated staff, along with the support of the community of Geneva, offer one of the finest educational opportunities available throughout the state of Illinois.

About the “Aerial Assist” Game:

AERIAL ASSIST [] is played by two competing Alliances of three Robots each on a flat 25’ x 54’ foot field, straddled by a lighting truss suspended just over five feet above the floor. The objective is to score as many balls in goals as possible during a 2 minute and 30 second match. The more Alliances score their ball in their goals, and the more they work together to do it, the more points their alliance receives.

The match begins with one 10-second Autonomous Period in which robots operate independently of driver.  For the rest of the match, drivers remotely control robots from behind a protective wall.  Once all balls in autonomous are scored, only one ball is re-entered in to play, and the Alliances must cycle a single ball as many times as possible for the remainder of the match. With the single ball, they try to maximize their points earned by throwing balls over the truss, catching balls launched over the truss, and scoring in the high and low goals on the far side of the field.  Alliances receive large bonuses for “assists,” which are earned for each robot that has possession of the ball in a zone as the ball moves down the field.

About the FIRST Robotics Competition:

The FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual competition that helps students discover the excitement of science, engineering, and technology and the rewards a career in STEM can bring. The FIRST Robotics Competition began in 1992 with 28 teams and a single 14-by-14-foot playing field in a New Hampshire high school gym.

"The Varsity Sport for the Mind," FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.  It’s as close to "real-world engineering" as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.

Students get to:

Learn from professional engineers B

Build and compete with a robot of their own design
Learn and use sophisticated software and hardware
Compete and cooperate in alliances and tournaments
Earn a place in the World Championship
Qualify for over $19 million in college scholarships

About FIRST:

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST ® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $15 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) and FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) for 9 to 14-year-olds, (9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S. and Canada) and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for 6 to 9-year-olds.

2011 marked the 20th season of the FIRST Robotics Competition. FIRST has grown from 1 event to nearly 60 and from 28 teams to over 2000. Much has changed over the first twenty seasons…but our key goals remain the same; our commitment to Gracious Professionalism™, our emphasis on learning, helping one another and inspiring careers in math, science, engineering and technology. 

Gracious Professionalism™ is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to