Dean Kamen's 2013 Homework Assignment for Teams

What is Dean’s homework assignment?

Create a two-minute mini-documentary on how FIRST has impacted you, your team, your school, or your community. Remember: your video is about impact, so use the two minute limit wisely. Craft your story for maximum impact by including specific examples about how you’ve seen FIRST change lives. The mini-documentary should focus on the impact on people – whether that is an interesting story about one person or a life-changing story of a group of people.

What does my team need to do?

  1. Watch the FIRST video describing the homework assignment.
  2. Read the video production tips provided below.
  3. Create your video submission.
  4. Submit a completed/signed copy of the submission agreement. Note, the deadline is November 1, 2013.

How do I submit my video to FIRST?

  1. Please name your video with program (FRC, FTC, FLL or Jr.FLL), team name and team number. Example: FLL_Funky_Monkeys_Team_555
  2. Provide a short description about your impact video in the description field in the Submission Agreement.
  3. Email the completed/signed Submission Agreement to teamstories@usfirst.org.
  4. Upon receipt of the Sumbission Agreement, you will receive a separate email containing a Box.net invite with access to the Dean's Homeowrk folder for uploading your video file. Box is a free file-sharing web service. 

Submission Form

Word Version (complete electronically and email as attachment)

PDF version (complete by hand, scan and email)

Related form:  Video Consent Form for Participant/Parent Signature



Tips for Creating Your Team Story Video

Would you ever build a robot without a plan? Of course not! And the same thinking should go into making your Team Story video. Discuss different ideas with your team, come up with a plan, but don’t start building your video until you know what you want to create.

Professional equipment isn’t needed to get great results. Just look at what you’ve accomplished this season with your creativity and resourcefulness. To help you along with this project, we’re sharing a host of tips from professionals in the field on how to get great results.

Your success is dependent on mastering three elements in the following order:

  1. Story
  2. Sound
  3. Visuals

#1: Story

Your story is the number one priority. You can have great audio and video, but without a good story to tell, you’ve missed the point. As you build your video, consider the following:

- Does it have a beginning, middle and end?
- Is there a compelling central character (or group)?
- Is there tension/obstacles/drama? What did the central character or group overcome to achieve their goal?
- Answer the question: what is the impact of FIRST on your main character (or group)

#2: Sound

This isn’t a typo; audio is the second most important element of your project. If people are struggling to hear what is being said, or there’s excessive hissing or microphone noises, chances are, your audience will be too distracted to understand what you’re trying to tell them. 

#3: Visuals

We’ve listed visuals instead of video because still photos, drawings, animations, and graphics can all also be used to complete the job. Any imagery you use, whether it’s full, high definition video recordings or hand-drawn pictures, should all support and reinforce #1, the story. If you do decide to shoot original video content, we have a great rule of thumb to follow: If it’s difficult for you to see with your eyes, your camera will have the identical problem.

And now a word about Copyright:

We want to push your creative buttons and encourage you to make all original content. This will demonstrate how to respect the work of others, and also allow you to reach out to others to create original artwork, and even music.

Top 10 Technical Tips to Make a Great Team Story Video

1. Steady Up

Unwanted camera motion often makes viewers queasy and can take away from the story you’re trying to tell. If you have a tripod, use it. If you don’t, get creative and look around for things that will allow you to safely hold your camera steady. Bean bags, chairs, or short ladders can all be used to help stabilize your shot.

2. Solid Sound

We understand that not everyone will have access to professional recording equipment, but don’t let this stop you. Things like shooting in quiet rooms and getting your camera microphone as close to the action as possible can give you great results.

Connecting an external microphone can in most cases, really improve your sound recordings because they are isolated from any subtle sounds the camera person might make when shooting. There are two major categories of microphones, directional and non-directional. If you use a non-directional lavalier (body mic) in a loud arena, you might actually get worse results than if you used your built-in camera microphone. We understand that not everyone has access to the same kinds of equipment but this doesn't mean you can't come away with professional results.

Learn as much as you can about the equipment you have and try a variety of things to get the best results.  One trick is to show footage from the noisy environment but use audio from places where you had control over the sound.  Listening to someone talking about something but showing something else is done all the time in television and news."

3. Zero Zooming

We find the best videos are often done without any kind of lens zooming when someone is speaking on-camera. Chances are the stories you’re telling will be more impressive than trying to make some big Hollywood shot with a long zoom in. We try to tell people to simply frame up the person and don’t touch the camera. The viewer’s mind will often focus/zoom in on the content better than your lens.

4. Vivid Video

FIRST teams never have a shortage of colorful outfits and robots, but this isn’t always the case when recording other people. White walls and plain white shirts don’t always reflect the energy of your subjects. Consider bringing colorful elements into your scenes, or maybe even bring a variety of team shirts other people can wear while telling their stories.

5. Do it again

If you just recorded something and think it went great, do it again. Professionals call it getting a “Safety,” and it’s done purely for back up. You don’t always see or hear issues that pop up during recording, and doing things a second time gives great flexibility when it comes to editing.

6. Wait or move

Extreme lighting conditions are often a problem for cameras. If what you’re shooting is too dark or too bright, consider waiting until conditions change or simply move to a better location. If you have no choices, it can be fun to try shooting from extreme angles (very low or super high) to avoid undesirable situations.

7. On the Level

Watching video from a camera out of level is just as annoying as a crooked picture hanging on the wall. Many tripods have built in bubble levels just for this purpose. If you don’t have one or are shooting hand held, just be sure things are straight before hitting the big button.

8. Count to TEN

If you’re video recording miscellaneous people and objects to be used in your project (also called B-roll), hold every shot steady for a solid ten second count before moving on. This doesn’t always make sense to people until they begin the editing process, so you’ll just have to take our word on this.

9.  Have purpose

You wouldn’t stick parts on your robot just because you had them lying around, right? The same approach is true for your video project.  Editing software often has thousands of effects available at the click of a button, but only use them if they serve a purpose.

10. Do it

We want you to participate and, above all, for your stories to be the highlight of this homework. Video and audio are simply the tools to share them. You’ve built your robots using both great tools and not-so-great tools, but in the end, you were proud of the end result.