Robotics Team 801 Horsepower Provides Students an Edge in STEM



BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Several times a week for the past five years, Brevard County Fire Rescue Station 43 behind Merritt Island Airport has been regularly invaded by robots.

The resident firemen are not only not worried, they are actually happy to witness the invasion, for these benign ‘bots are the brainchildren of talented local high school students who are members of Team 801 Horsepower.

FIRST Robotics Team 801 Horsepower, which has a lab at one of the station’s bays, may own a complex moniker, but its goal is simple: give students an edge in STEM.

Since its founding in 2002, student-led and volunteer-guided Team 801 Horsepower has nurtured leaders, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Alumni have made their mark in fields that range from mechanical and electrical engineering to chemical engineering and game design. They have taught the next generation and served in the Armed Forces. In each case, they brought with them lessons learned at 801 Horsepower.

Between 30 and 35 students participate each season. They represent freshmen through seniors at Edgewood Junior/Senior High School, Merritt Island High School, Merritt Island Christian School, Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School, as well as homeschooled students.

The team is part of FIRST, an international organization that promotes STEM through robotics competitions held around the world.

“The matches are a blast, with people screaming, yelling and dancing for their teams,” said Kevin Brown, one of the group’s mentors.

Nicknamed the ultimate “sport for the mind,” FIRST Robotics Competition challenge participants to build and program industrial-sized robots to play a difficult field game against competitors.

Teams like 801 Horsepower work with limited time and resources to raise funds, design team branding, hone teamwork skills and build a robot that will accomplish the task at hand. Participants have called competitions “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.”

Professional who serve as mentors, such as Brown does, lend their time and talents to guide the team as they prepare for the FIRST Championship at the end of each season.

Brown, Senior Vice President of Space Prep at Merritt Island-based All Points Logistics, became acquainted with 801 Horsepower through his daughter, Kaley. Now a senior, she has been part of 801 Horsepower since junior high and is currently one of two team leaders.

Robotics Team 801 Horsepower teams are tasked with designing, manufacturing, assembling and testing complex robots that will compete in a team setting based on common rules and goals. Students devote time after school, on weekends and during the summer to create the ‘bots they hope will win.

“They motivate each other,” said Brown.

The team equipment, which fills a bay at the fire station, was assembled through ingenuity and community support. Almost all has been donated.

“They have a full-on shop, with things like drill presses and 3-D printers,” said team lead mentor, Alan Moros.

“Most of the students who attend our lab have never even handled tools, yet it is not uncommon for those students to leave with the ability to operate a CNC (computer numerical control) machine or a lathe.”

All Points Logistics, for example, provides monetary donations to help with equipment purchases or with competition expenses, since team members travel throughout the country to compete.

Team 801 Horsepower has done extremely well in competition, particularly considering their modest resources.

“They were one match away from qualifying for the world championship competition,” said Brown.

Among kudos the team has snagged is the Colorado and South Florida Regional Creativity Award, and the Finalist Alliance and the Imagery Award at Florida Regionals.

FIRST teams are presented with specific projects each season. For the 2022/2023 season, for example, FIRST teams will reimage the future of sustainable energy.

To empower these young people to lead and innovate, the FIRST challenge this year focused on ensuring access to affordable reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Housed in a fire station and with donated equipment, 801 Horsepower is teaching team members to face real-world challenges and seize opportunities. They will lean on those lessons next year, when their workspace is reclaimed.

“Brevard County Fire Rescue has graciously donated space for a robotics lab for the last five years,” said Brown.

“However, they need the space we occupy and, with ample notice, have asked us to relocate.”

With marching orders set for April of 2023, 801 Horsepower members have embraced the task of finding new digs. A team decision was made to fulfill a decade’s long goal to build their own robotics lab at Edgewood Junior/Senior High School.

“The new lab will be the only one of its kind in the area and attract even more students so they may pursue their dreams in the STEM fields through hands-on experience,” said Moros.

The dream lab will cost approximately $300,000 to build. Mentors and students have raised around $70,000, and plan to present their project to individuals, businesses and organizations who may be able to help.

Space Coast Daily will feature a profile of any company that donates $5,000 or more to the project.

Beyond the robotics lessons, Team 801 Horsepower teaches skills needed to successfully navigate life’s journey. They learn leadership, teamwork, respect, the need for punctuality and commitment, the value of hard work and they hone their self-confidence at the same time, all while having a blast with the ‘bots.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and a lot of fun,” said Brown.

The community is invited to make a tax-deductible donation to help build the Team 801 Horsepower lab. In-kind donations of materials and professional services are also welcomed.

For more information, contact Kevin Brown at [email protected] or visit