Reflecting on 2016 Season

2016 was a pretty successful year for the Killer Bees. This year was the 21st year of our team being around. We attended two district competitions, The Michigan State Championship, and The St. Louis Championship. We had a good performance overall at all of these events.

2016 Bag Day Pic6

Our first competition was at The FIM Waterford District where we had an average OPR of 34.55 and seeded second overall. Our robot didn’t connect to the field for the first 3 matches, but we overcame that problem! We gratefully accepted an invitation to join the first alliance with Team 67, The HOT Team and Team 4003, Trisonics. We played against the 8th alliance consisting of Team 3773,  Team 5662, and Team 3302. We won in quarterfinals by a 54 lead in the first match, and 101 point lead in the second match.  In semifinal matches we played against the 4th alliance consisting of Team 201, Team 3667, and Team 4779. We won by 70 points in our first match and 66 points in the second match. In the final matches we played against the 3rd alliance,  consisting of Team 5860, Team 355, and Team 5048. We won by 67 points in the first match and by 83 points n the second match! In addition to being the District Event winner, we also won the District Chairman’s Award! Overall this event was very successful!


Our second competition was at the FIM Troy District where we had an average OPR of 55.05 and seeded first overall. We requested the assistance of Team 1718, The Fighting Pi, and Team 5068, The Outsiders. We played against the 8th alliance consisting of Team 4961, Team 6120, and Team 862. In quarterfinals we won by 32 points in the first match and 53 points in the second. In semifinals we played against the 5th alliance consisting of Team 2851, Team 573, and Team 6108. We won the first match by 32 points and the second by 24. In the finals, we played against the second alliance consisting of Team 2337, Team 3539, and Team 6013. We won the first match by 9 points and the second match by 22! In addition to being the District Event winner we also won  the Quality Award!


Our third competition of the year was the FIM State Championship. At MSC we met Rick Snyder and Don Bossi! We had an average OPR of 61.47. We gratefully accepted an invitation to join the 1st alliance with Team 2767, Stryke Force, and Team 1684, The Chimeras. We won our first octofinal match by 67 points. Sadly we lost the last two matches by 7 and 2 points! After we were eliminated we managed to get all the changes we wanted to do at St.Louis Championship done before pits closed! We were able to qualify for the World Championship! Congratulations to our friends 27 Team Rush, 67 The HOT Team, 1718 The Fighting Pi, and 6086 Igniton!


Our fourth competition of the year was The St. Louis Championship! We were placed in the Tesla Division. We met up with the other IFI teams and learned about each others robots and took a great photo! Our average OPR was 62.08 and we were the first pick of the 3rd alliance. We teamed up with Team 2834, the Bionic Blackhawks, Team 1756, Argos, and Team 329, Mohawks. We played against the 6th alliance, consisting of Team 4391, Team 5117, Team 2337, and Team 5854. We won quarterfinals by 67 points in the first match and by 29 points in the second match. We played against the 2nd alliance, consisting of Team 2451, Team 1806, Team 1306, and Team 2194. We won semifinals by 98 points in the first match and by 57 points in the second match. We then played against the 1st alliance, consisting of Team 2056, Team 1690, Team 3015, and Team 1405. We lost quarterfinals by 65 points in the first match and by 40 points in the second match.  Thanks to our alliance to help us be the Tesla Division Finalists! Also Congratulations to the 1st alliance representing Tesla on Einstein!


Overall, Buzz XXI had a successful year! Thanks to all our mentors, sponsors and our parents who made everything possible!


What Did I Get Myself Into?

On the Killer Bees, new students have an interview to see if they will get on the team.  When I signed up for my interview I was  a mix of excited and scared. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. As a freshman, I signed up for (too many) clubs so the only time I could get an interview space was the last slot of the day. I sat on the couches in the main triangle waiting for someone to come get me for the interview. I was greeted by Jim Zondag. I had no idea who he was at the time. As my interview progressed, Julia Green along with Tim Grogan finished their interviews so they joined me in a large conference room. I was so nervous. 3 main mentors were interviewing me! I was a awkward and hyper little freshman so I didn’t really know how to act. I answered the questions I was asked timidly (in a really awkward and excited way of course.) Towards the end of my interview Jess and Ellen, two of the upperclassmen on the team,  walked into the conference room. They started raving about how great robotics was and how much fun they had. This was the moment I knew I had to be on the team. I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into, but I knew it was something good. 🙂

From FLL to FRC

When I was in the fourth grade, I was told about an exciting club I could join called FIRST Lego League. At the time, I had no idea what FIRST was, let alone what FIRST Lego League was. I was told it was just building a Lego robot and running missions with a team of kids my age. I thought it would be nothing more than a way to pass time with some friends, but it ended up being so much more. FLL was the gateway to my current love for robotics and learning and teamwork. My experiences from FLL opened my eyes to the awesomeness that was right in front of me: FRC.

The first time I had ever heard of FRC was at my first FLL competition. The Killer Bees came to my school’s mini-tournament. They were an amazing sight for a wide-eyed ten year old to see, completely decked out in bright yellow t-shirts while driving a giant metal machine around my cafeteria. I couldn’t believe high school kids had built that contraption, but I did know I wanted to be just like them when I grew up.

That chance came my sixth grade year when my older brother joined the Killer Bees. I finally got insight into the “big-kid” robotics that was hopefully in my future. I went to every FRC competition the Killer Bees went to and spent my time either cheering for the Bees or checking out the pits. I knew once I was in high school, this is where I wanted to be. The competitions were even more energetic than the FLL ones and the matches were at a faster pace, keeping me hooked the entire day. Every single Killer Bee I saw had a huge smile on their face. I could tell how thrilled they were to see their hard work finally put into action.

Over the next few years, I kept up with my FLL team. I attended an FLL summer camp run by the Killer Bees and then tried to stay focused as my eighth grade year came to an exciting end. Before I knew it, I was applying to Notre Dame Prep, always adding robotics to my extracurricular interests. When the time finally came to join the Killer Bees, I was proud to have a few years of FLL to back me up. Without FLL in elementary and middle school, I don’t know where I’d be today. I’d like to think I would have found the Killer Bees in all of their glory anyway, but FLL definitely fueled that fire.


The lost blog from 2014

The Lost Blog from 2014….

We have several team members committed to writing about their experience as a Killer Bee, and if you know the Killer Bees, you know that anything could happen here!


April 2014


The district season is over and the championship events are gearing up.  What makes the Killer Bees good?  Lots and lots of hard work. What kind of work do the students do?

Students in the stands – We stand and cheer at every match, even the matches we predict are not going to end in our favor.  We scout every match, using a paper system to build a complete picture of every robot. These data are compiled on spreadsheets by other students in our stands.  During our weekly meetings, the lead scouting mentor works with this group of students to improve the data reliability and refine our custom scouting sheet.  Some students will watch matches to record data and some students will watch matches to look at strategy.  Other students will record match videos for our drive team to review.

Student Ambassadors – Often, special people will come to our events and want to see everything that happens at an event.  Our student ambassadors will take these VIP’s (from grandmas to governors) and answer their endless questions, tour the pits and point out interesting things at the event.  Our awards mentors works with this group to prepare answers to common questions.

Student Presenters – Students on our Chairman’s Award presentation team and other students work to prepare formal and informal presentations for spectators, sponsors and judges who stop by our pit.

Pit team – Students on the pit team are responsible for the subsystems on the robot. They set up the robot for each match, perform system checks on all systems, swap the batteries and do any required maintenance. The pit crew takes the robot through all parts of the inspections process and must know the rules   On the practice field, they are responsible for working with the drive team to make changes to the robot. They are led by a mentor designated as the “Pit Boss”.  This team also prepares and presents formal and informal presentations for judges and visitors.

Drive team – Students on this team are responsible for the robot on and off the field.  Before the matches, they read scouting reports, work with upcoming alliance partners and plan strategy with other teams.  They set up the robot and driver station for each match, plan and execute game strategies, load and unload the robot on the field and bring the robot back to the pit crew after each match.  They drive the robot and give feedback to the pit crew and mentors on the robot and subsystems.  Students on this team must know every game rule and potential penalty and be able to work with other teams, mentors, field personnel and key volunteers. During elimination rounds, the driver may also be the alliance captain, keeping track of the other teams and timeout coupons.

March 27 2014 The Killer Bee Team Rules
We live by Rule #10 – Never give up!”
KB Top 10 Rules


March 9 2014

Week 1 and 2 of the competition season are behind us. Lots of robots have played Aerial Assist and the robotics community is creating statistics, apps to track teams and discussion strategy. What we do is about more than a machine – a few years ago, Dean challenged the FRC community with a homework assignment to connect with our team alumni and we had a great response.  Need some inspiration? Read our alumni responses here. The alums that responded represent a wide range of graduation years, some all the way back to our rookie year.  And yes, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.


February 25 2014

How did this much time go by without an update?  Building robots will do that to you!

In case you missed it – here is what we have been working on:

And we have some more things to publish and a competition to get ready for in only 3 days and a Chairman’s presentation to give and the writing team has had very dirty hands lately with all of the grease, glue and paint that have been around.  We will make them get back to the writing and publishing soon.


January 22 2014

It that’s part of the build season where we are waiting on parts. CAD is being done… lots and lots and lots of CAD. So CAD… designs are being created for the robot. It’s that time of the year again where everything is planned but it feels like nothing is created. Meanwhile in the BATMAN Room, students are working on website, the Chairman’s Award, Executive summary, and so much more. While we anxiously wait for the supplies to come in, antenna are being created. Lots and lots and lots of antenna… Much to be done, little time to do it. One thing is for sure… we are not dithering…while we are on the lookout for FedEx, UPS, Amazon Prime Air, US Mail, and even the pony express.


January 8 2014

Another snow day for the students and some lessons learned with prototyping. New Bees are building a kit chassis while design and prototyping are being done by more experienced team members.  Sometimes working in a secure facility is a pain, but the good part is that we have been able to work this week and have not had to postpone a build meeting due to weather.


January 7 2014

Nothing disrupts a wrap-up like the “no school tomorrow” text. Students are out of school, mentors are working. We are working with our “sister” team, FLL 33 in Oklahoma during our snow day.  Their tournament was postponed due to an ice storm, and we are using our experienced FLL students to mentor them remotely.  It is very interesting to see how other teams build FLL robots, outside of Michigan.


January 6 2014

Today’s work:  Understanding the game, playing Aerial Assist with human “robots”.  Answering the question: What does our robot need to do?  And there was homework, even though we didn’t have school.

Advice for New FIRST teams – Jim Zondag’s presentation

Killer Bees Freshman Book

And something you won’t see very often – a clean Jim bench…Something you will only see once per year!

Everything but the Robot

The first thing that always comes to someone’s mind when they hear you are on the robotics team is the robot.  There is more behind this team then the robot. We’re like the stage crew. Were behind the scenes, make everything run, and we wear all black (maybe a little bit of yellow). In the place we like to call The PR Room, there are students working to achieve goals separate from the robot…. They are going to make the robot look pretty. That is one of the parts. We do much more than that. Back in our little hive we make videos, draw diagrams, and organize community demonstrations.

Most people assume that a video is a short script and filming. Those people are wrong. A short video can take up to one month; a long one about two months. In our video process we write the script, we draw the scenes, edit the script at least 20 times, film the video, revise the video, and post the video.

The most complicated part of The PR Room is a little thing we call a vinyl cutter. It is one of the most amazing things when it works…. However when it is frustrated, we’re frustrated. To start, the magic of it working is a great feeling. All you do is insert paper, load your image, and go. The machine cuts and brings your image to life. Bask in the glory! When it wants to be annoying it is one of the most complicated things to perform. Whenever the vinyl cutter wants to calibrate it takes forever. We sit and wait, sit and wait, and sit and wait. The calibration finishes it goes back to being b/a.

For the people who are not engineers, this is a place to learn and experience new things. You create videos and let your imagination come to life. Lifelong friendships are made and kept forever. Seeing the way technology is used throughout engineering helps create a better future in the job world for us. The PR Room is the place that you experience the world of creation.

-Sabrina Lasota

VEX 2014-2015

The VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) is a robotics competition designed to teach middle school and high school students engineering and problem solving skills. The competition is designed in the form of a game that is created every year. Each robot must be no larger that 18″x18″x18″ at the start.

This season’s Vex challenge is called VEX Skyrise. This game is played with four robots, two on each alliance. The scoring object for this game are 14 Skyrise sections and 44 colered cubes. The scoring objects are split in half between the two alliances. To score, an alliance can build their Skyrise one section at a time for 4 points each or put their cubes in a floor goal for 1 point each, on one of the 10 posts for 2 points each, or on the alliance’s Skyrise for 4 points each. The alliance with the highest cube on a post will recieve a 1 point bonus. The game starts with a 15 second autonomus section. The alliance with the most points scored at the end of that section recieves a 10 point bonus. After the bonus is given, the driver operated mode begins. This lasts for 1 minute and 45 seconds. The alliance with the most points after this section wins.

This season, the Killer Bees will have teams with 4-5 students per team. One of these will be the “freshman team,” meaning that team will be new freshman students with help from the other teams to build a robot that can compete and possibly win a competition.

St. Joseph Outreach

On June 6th, the Killer Bees visited St. Joseph School in Lake Orion, Michigan to talk about outreach and demonstrate our robot. We presented to the whole school. We talked about we do. We are high school students who compete in FIRST robotic challenge. We have a shop at the Chrysler Tech Center. We have been competing for nineteen years. We have won local, state, and national competitions and awards. We showed the children our reveal video and then started to drive our robot. We explained how the collector, wings, and catapult work. We explained how we have a new game and robot each year. We explained to the children that you don’t have to Notre Dame Prep to join robotics. Almost every high school that children from St. Joseph School attend has a robotics team.  We also explained how you don’t have to be a nerd/math person to join robotics. We talked about the public relation side of our team.  We explained that people are needed to make videos, write essays, design this BEEutiful website, document the robotics season, and update social media. As a team, we participate in much outreach. We participate in the purple alliance, knit hats for the homeless, mentor FLL, FTC, FRC teams, and host VEX tournaments.  We demonstrate our robot at schools and Maker Fair. We told them that you can do robotics with other school activities. We stressed that robots are fun! We drove the robot around. We even had a few children throw the ball into the robot or roll the ball to the collector. We also had children catch the ball with the help of our human player. Overall, the St. Joseph demonstration went well.

Social Media Presence

The Killer Bees strive to make sure everyone on our team knows what’s happening and when it’s happening. We have a Facebook group for all members of the team where they can post questions as well as discuss design and game play. We also make sure to keep an accurate and updated team calendar on the Team 33 website. This helps students, mentors, and parents plan their days according to the meeting and competition schedule. In order to keep in touch with sponsors, the Killer Bees publish a newsletter several times a year. This newsletter contains articles about competitions, upcoming events, outreach, FIRST, VEX, OCCRA, and just generally about being on the team. The newsletter is also put on the website for anyone else to read if they want to.

The STEM community doesn’t just exist by the Killer Bees home; it’s all across the world. Along with our private Facebook group, we have a public Facebook page for anyone to like in order to learn more about the team, who we are, and what we do. The Killer Bees also have an account on Twitter which we update often. While what we do best is live-tweet each competition, we also update in the offseason and on weekdays. If you ever want to know what the Killer Bees are doing on a given day, just check our Twitter. In addition, the Killer Bees have a YouTube account with all our team videos. Looking at our account, you can find past Chairman’s, reveal, and wrap-up videos, as well as the recently published Make It Loud video made for Dean Kamen’s homework.

The Killer Bees, like most other FIRST teams, have their own website. The website contains the newsletter and team calendar, as well as links to our Facebook and Twitter, but it also holds much more. On the site, you can learn all about the team history, sponsors, and mentors. In order to help new and old teams, we have our “White Papers” where we publish technical documents, code, CAD designs, Chairman’s award, Woodie Flowers award, and Dean’s list resources for other teams in order to get ideas and improve by using. We add our photos and videos to the site as well, under the “Media” tab. One of our newest additions is our “Buzz Blog” where we post what we do during the build season.

Getting word out there about our team isn’t all by us. The Killer Bees have been publicized many times. This past year, Chrysler published a video about their sponsorship of many FRC teams. While this video was about multiple teams, Team 33 was in it many times, and it ended with an iconic Killer Bee line, “I’m Ellen Green, and I’m awesome.” In addition, our team was featured in a PBS program about how technology changes the world. One of our biggest publicity moments was a news spread in MOPAR magazine. In it, Team 33 talked about engineering experience while covering the pages with our iconic yellow shirts in pictures.

Because of our presence in social media and publicity, the Killer Bees are known by people all over the world.


HIVE Foundation

HIVE stands for the Hands-On Incubator for Vocational & Emerging engineers. The HIVE Foundation was started when parents realized what a problem fundraising was for the teams, since it took a lot of time away from the team. Parents found it unfair that sports teams and many other clubs were funded by the school or school district, but there was no option for FIRST teams other than sponsors and fundraising. The HIVE Foundation was formed as a non-profit organization to fund all existing teams in order to allow mentors and students more time to focus on robotics and not being able to pay for robotics.

In addition to funding teams, the HIVE Foundation seeks to keep students in STEM after high school. They pursuit opportunities for internships as well as careers in order to strengthen STEM in the community for years to come. The HIVE Foundation strives to keep students in STEM from early elementary school to adulthood.

Visit the website for more details:

If you have questions, feel free to contact us.


HIVE Foundation

c/o Don Watza

7 West Square Lake Road

Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302


General Inquiries:

Technical Teams & Mentors:

Database questions:



The Organization of the Bees

Part of what makes the Killer Bees so successful is the team structure. Through the recruitment, “minions” system, and student leadership, the Killer Bees have proven their sustainability.


  • Mini-Teams
    • Shop
      • These students work together to build specific components of the robot. Multiple mentors with years of engineering experience work with the students to teach them how to apply math to the robot. But the mentors don’t get to have all the fun. The students are the ones in really charge. Experienced students get the privilege to pick and choose less experienced student “minions” to help them. The “masters” get to teach and learn alongside the new Bees. Two heads are better than one, and six heads are even better. With everyone working together, the robot slowly comes together piece by piece.
    • BATMAN
      • The BATMAN group ( Business and Technology, Marketing and Networking), is essentially the everything-but-the-robot team. They work on computers rather than a drill press, but are important to the team nevertheless. They handle award submissions, website content, documentation, outreach, and more. Just like the shop Bees, these Bees work together to finish essays and take pictures to meet deadlines and document the team’s service and competitions through the years.
    • Mentors
      • Last but not least, the mentors are the backbone of the team. As high school students, we can’t run a full team all by ourselves. Although student leadership is a major part of being a Killer Bee, the mentors are there to keep us in line and, of course, teach us what we need to know to be successful in FIRST and out in the real world. They go out of their ways to dedicate time and effort into this team and the students on it.

A view from a student on how this really works:

How Upperclassmen Teach Underclassmen on the Killer Bees

Any member of robotics can tell you that mentors are absolutely essential to every FRC team, but the incredible value of student leaders often goes unappreciated. The Killer Bees are fortunate to have many upperclassmen who both take on the responsibility of dedicating themselves to building the robot and also help in teaching underclassmen. Our team is structured uniquely because no one person is designated to be a team leader. This is done in order to encourage any student to show leadership and guide their peers. Thankfully, a number of students have successfully risen to the challenge. Many student leaders still rely on mentors for guidance and instruction, but they have been able to explore their newfound leadership by leading sub-groups of underclassmen. Naturally, at first some students struggled with the process of sharing the work in order to teach others, but eventually all became able to both manage a team and get work done. Having upperclassman teach underclassman is beneficial to all involved because it not only teaches the younger students about engineering but also teaches upperclassmen about leadership.

I have also personally experienced how valuable student leaders are to the team. My freshman year I joined the Killer Bees with almost no technical or mechanical skills; however I consider myself especially fortunate to be on the team with so many people who worked hard to educate and help me. I remember that Ellen, now our senior driver, was the first to teach me how to properly bolt two pieces of metal together, and has taught me so much since. I can’t even begin to list all of the things she has helped me with. Ellen continuously works with everyone to patiently explain new topics and is a great role model through her hardworking attitude. Emily, a current senior, was the first person to show me how to use the drill press and sander when I first arrived on the team. At first I was timid around her, but I soon found that her skill with tools was matched only by her enthusiasm and friendliness. Any time I work with Emily she is able to explain concepts in a way that is easy for me to understand. Being taught by other students is one of the best ways to learn because they also remember how complicated new things can be and explain things in a way that makes sense. Upperclassmen educating and helping underclassmen like me is just one of the many things that make me absolutely love being a Killer Bee.