The idea for a competitive robotics league had been talked about for a couple of years.  In late May of 2000, a proposal was submitted to Oakland Schools requesting that the Oakland County Intermediate School District (ISD) facilitate the formation of an association called “OCCRA”, or the Oakland County Competitive Robotics Association.  A committee of engineers and educators representing the ISD, eight different schools, and three private companies formed OCCRA in June of 2000.   Since all eight founding schools already had robotics teams taking part in a popular program called “FIRST” (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), much of the game and kit format was patterned after FIRST.  Over the summer, the committee planning the fall league eventually grew to over 30 adults.  Seven subcommittees were formed to address the different aspects of the task: Game & Kit, Membership, Events & Scheduling, Governance, Curriculum, Public Relations, and Ways & Means.

            The membership in OCCRA grew to 17 teams representing 22 different secondary schools by the time the kits were handed out at the official “Kick-off” on September 10, 2000.  To make the league easier for rookie teams, workshops and demonstrations were held and a 32-page “How-to” manual was written and handed out with the kits.  Students designed and built their robots in the following weeks.  League rules allowed for adult supervision, but the students had to do the actual work and precision machining was not allowed.  The first of three regional seeding tournaments was held at Rochester High School on Saturday, October 23rd.  Brandon High School hosted a regional the following Saturday and Pontiac Northern High School hosted the final regional on Friday evening, November 3rd.  The Oakland County Championship was contested at a double-elimination tournament hosted by Avondale High School on Saturday, November 11th.

            The OCCRA membership in 2001 grew to 22 teams representing 25 different secondary schools.  One school dropped when the mentoring teacher left but several more joined.  Making the league easier for rookie teams continued to be a priority.  Three workshops were run by professional engineers who were also experienced robot builders. The “How-to” manual was expanded to 65 pages and a “How-to” video was  produced and distributed to all teams.  Publicity began to pick up with coverage by local TV and radio added to exposure in local newspapers.  OCCRA received several prestigious program awards from local and statewide organizations.
The Association was fortunate to have the complete support of the ISD’s administration: they embraced the proposal, offered clerical and technical support, and even arranged financing for the league.


The main reason that OCCRA was successful, though, was because a lot of dedicated people did a lot of hard work.    Without the dedication of the many students, teachers, administrators, parents, and engineers, the league would not have succeeded.


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