Team 535

Team 1501 is not the first FIRST team that Huntington, Indiana has seen. Back in 1999, a group of local engineers partnered with Huntington North High School to establish Team 535. Team 535 operated out of the high school and an unoccupied store building that was located next to the school. After a few years, however, the team was dropped by the high school and became disenfranchised.

Team 1501

Team 1501 was born shortly after Team 535 was disenfranchised because of the long standing support from many of our community sponsors. UTEC Huntington was the primary drive to not allow the FIRST team model to fizzle out in Huntington, Indiana. Al Thorn from UTEC decided to approach Huntington County 4-H to see if a robotics team could be formed under the 4-H umbrella in Huntington County. A meeting was held between UTEC engineers, Huntington County 4-H Youth Educator, Linda Alridge and a few other engineers from PHD at the public library in the summer of 2004. An agreement was reached between Huntington County 4-H and UTEC that a robotics team could be chartered under 4-H as a “special interest club”. Huntington County 4-H Robotics, the community name given to the team, became the first chartered US FIRST Robotics team in the State of Indiana, November 2004.

The team began it’s rookie season in 2005 with the primary support coming from UTEC. Al Thorn from UTEC held a call out meeting at the public library to the public to recruit other engineering mentors from the community to restart the FIRST robotics team in Huntington as Team 1501, but this time chartered under 4-H. During the first rookie meeting, Chris Elston was named President of the team and Al Thorn served as Vice President the rookie season in 2005. The nick name “Team T.H.R.U.S.T. 1501” was given to the team as an acronym originally during this initial meeting. T.H.R.U.S.T stands for Thundering Heard of Robots Using Student Thinking. The aviation theme was selected for the team as a way of branding the team due to the aviation background from one of the key mentors on the team and fellow co-founder, Jerry Smyth who was a retiree. The other core founders of Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 where: Chris Elston – Shuttleworth, Al Thorn – UTEC, Wayne Doenges – UTEC, Casey Drudge – UTEC, Curt Henderson – PHD, Scott Thorn – PHD, Terry Pinkerton – PHD, Mike Smyth – PHD, and Harley Henline – Henline Towing. Other key mentors were: Matt Wenger – PHD, David Williams – PHD, and Tracy Townsend – UTEC.

A recruiting session was held at Huntington North High School in 2005 to recruit students for the team. Nine students signed up that year with ten core mentors to lead the way for Team 1501.

Getting started in 2005 was difficult for the team due to the fact that the team had no home, no computers, no foundational resources other than the backing of UTEC, and several mentors. Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 found a home in the basement of Good Shepherd Church in Huntington, Indiana where the rookie robot “Sidewinder II” was built. In the basement of the Good Shepherd Church where several old wood-working tools the monks used back in the 20’s and 30’s. Due to our startup team nature, Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 did not have any machinery tools to use, such as modern day drill presses, mills, or cnc equipment. Jerry Smyth introduced a construction process called “monocoque” to the team that fit in with the aviation theme. Monocoque is a structural approach whereby loads are supported through an object’s external skin, similar to an egg shell. The technique may also be called structural skin. Most all aircraft designers today use the monocoque technique to construct a flying airplane. Jerry saw this method of manufacturing as an easy way to teach the kids how to make a robot using only “tools from a monk’s wood shop.” This approach worked and fit into the team branding.

Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 competed at the inaugural Boilermaker Regional in 2005, which was the Regional’s rookie year as well. The season ended well for Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501, having competed in the elimination rounds and losing in the quarter final matches.

In 2006, Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 enlisted 18 students with about the same mentors from the previous year. Al Thorn was named President of the team, and Chris Elston served as Vice President. During this year, Sonnie and Harley Henline purchased a new warehouse space on Sherman Street and offered a small portion of the shop to Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 to call their new home. The team moved from Good Shepherd Church to Henline Towing in the summer of 2006. This would be Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501’s home for the next eight years. Still starting out slow with resources, the team still opted to fabricate the robot with mostly hand tools without the use of machinery, which the team did not have at the time. Jerry and Mike Smyth continued to mentor the team using the monocoque methods. That year, the team produced the robot named “Scorpion” which competed at the Boilermaker Regional and won second place over all in the competition. That was an exciting year for a two year old robotics team to rise to the level of almost winning an entire regional event. The team also received the Delphi “Driving Tomorrow’s Technology” Award as well as the Regional Finalists Award.

Before the 2007 season could start, Jerry Smyth passed away on May 20, 2007. It was a sad year for everyone on Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 that year, but Jerry’s legacy continued as the team still adopted the monocoque methods and continued to make Jerry proud of them. Al Thorn was still the President of the team and Chris Elston was serving as Vice President. 22 students returned for the 2007 season. The team was starting to establish themselves well in the FIRST Robotics community as the team with the “cool looking sheet metal riveted” robots. If you look at a picture of each robot in our history, as compared to any other FIRST Robotics robot, Team 1501 robots standout due to the pre-colored sheet metal and riveted look. Most robots made by the team have over 2,000 rivets in the chassis hand pop riveted by the team. In 2007, the team competed at the Boilermaker Regional and become number one seeded robot for the event. In the team’s third FIRST Robotics season, the team had risen to the top in the rankings but still needed to play the double elimination bracket rounds. Tragedy struck the team in the quarter final matches as our alliance partners fell of the robot’s ramp which led to the 8th seeded team defeating the number 1 seeded team, Team 1501. Due to the World Championship ranking system in 2007, US FIRST contacted Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 and offered them a position to play in the World Finals in Atlanta, Georgia, to which Team 1501 accepted. This was the first time the team had played at a world competition level. The team made it to the elimination rounds but were defeated in the quarter finals that year to wrap up the 2007 season.

Continuing to grow a little each year, 25 new kids signed up in 2008 to give a go at the forth season. Al Thorn left the team that year due to his transfer position internally from UTEC to another state. A new UTEC mentor named Paul Hart was named President of the team with Chris Elston serving his third term as Vice President. The team built a robot called “Phoenix” that year and competed once again at the Purdue Boilermaker Regional. That year the team focused on making our shop a safer place to work due to one of our student’s sleeves catching on fire while welding. He was not burned nor injured but it caused several students to become passionate about safety that year. This passion was rewarded when the team won the Underwriters Laboratories Industrial Safety Award at the Boilermaker Regional. Once again the team competed in the elimination matches but fell short in the semi-finals that year. There was a scary start to the competition because some metal shavings fried the entire computer system on the robot. The team, however, recovered and still went home with the safety award.

For the 2009 season, Chris Elston was named “Engineering Mentor Leader” in an attempt to re-organize the team to compete for the season. With Al Thorn gone, several of the other UTEC mentors got transferred that year which meant a lot of mentor loss for Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501. Typically a successful FIRST Robotics team needs a 1:3 ratio of mentoring, one adult mentor to three students on the team, to be an efficient team. Even with the shortage of mentors that year, a new marketing mentor, Sondra Fowler, helped establish the first “business” structure of Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501. Sondra introduced the rondel logo that year along with an entire new look for the team. The team now had two separate major sub groups: the “robot arm” of the team and the “business arm” of the team. 27 committed kids where part of the 2009 season and produced the robot called “Skyhawk”. The decision making process of the team was a democracy type structure which the team realized was not the best process. The team came in dead last at the Purdue Boilermaker Regional that year marking the teams lowest, low in team history. However, the team was selected to play in the elimination rounds only to be defeated in the quarter finals. Even though the team seeded in last place, we still won two major awards: Imagery Award for the best looking robot and team and the Underwriters Laboratories Industrial Safety Award.

After having the summer of 2009 to think about a better structure for the team, Chris Elston proposed a new smaller group of leaders for the 2010 season called Strat-X. Strat-X operates on the same principle as a board of directors for a company. Making all the decisions and giving direction on the team. Strat-X was born to help dig the team out of the rut of not having enough mentors and a declining interest from the students. That summer of 2009, Strat-X formed a plan to help recruit more students into FIRST Robotics. The LEGO team, Thunderbirds, was founded the fall of 2009 and an alliance was formed between Huntington County 4-H Robotics and Crestview Middle School Science teacher, Travis Bolinger. Team 1501 mentors, Chris Elston and Sondra Fowler, and Travis Bolinger led the Thunderbirds team in their rookie year.

The 2010 season started with 24 students under the new direction of Strat-X. Strat-X was equally divided between student leaders and core mentors totaling 13 in all. These 13 individuals equally led Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501. This would be the team’s first year to build two complete robots and compete in two regional competitions. The team won the Engineering Excellence Award sponsored by Delphi, the Industrial Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories as well as the Entrepreneurship Award sponsored by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers at the Purdue Boilermaker Regional. The team were Regional Finalists and came in second place once again at the Northeast Connecticut Regional. The team won the Entrepreneurship Award for building a totally custom-made police robot for the Huntington City Police Department that year. The City Police Chief approached the team about building a robot they could drive around and “shoot” at for practice. The team drafted a business plan and held a fundraising event to build the $2500 robot for the City Police and donated it to them. It was a very successful year for the team and the second time the team had almost tasted gold.

2011 saw another sad year for Team 1501, as Dee Henline passed away. She was like a mother to all the students on the team and was always there for them no matter what. Strat-X was adopted again that summer and the team went to the Purdue Boilermaker Regional once again. Once again the team won second place by becoming the Regional Finalists as well as Chris Elston, winning the regional Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, the highest award a mentor can receive at a regional event. Still following the principles of monocoque, “Taranis” was colored in flat black and looked like a Stealth Jet. This was also the first time Team 1501 built a six wheel drive robot. The speed of “Taranis” was 10 feet/second which was the same speed as “Phoenix”. We really liked the simple drive system this year. We also built another amazing community project during the year. We built an animated float for Bippus State Bank.

In 2012, the team was fortunate enough to attend two regional competitions once again. At the Smoky Mountain Regional, we won the Imagery Award in honor of Jack Kamen for our robot “Dee Bomb” which we named after Dee Henline. We also competed at the Purdue Boilermaker Regional, where the team “cleaned-house” by winning multiple major awards, as well as a student award. Student, Adi Ben-Yehoshua won the FIRST Dean’s List Finalist Award. The team also won the Industrial Design Award sponsored by General Motors as well as their fourth Industrial Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories. To top it off, the team won the regional. This was the first time the team had won a regional event in it’s history as a team. It took eight years to develop the team, resources and planning to become a competitive team in Indiana. It was a major accomplishment for the team to finally bring home the gold medal for the first time in history. It was also the first time the team had qualified by merit for the World Championship in St. Louis. The team did not play in eliminations that year, but was more excited about just attending championship that season.

Of course 2013 was an exciting time for the team after the gold win from 2012. The team found out really quickly how hard it is to defend the “gold”. Continuing the new tradition of building two robots and attending two regional competitions. The team attended the Purdue Boilermaker Regional and the new Cross Road Regional. The team won a new award at Boilermaker called the Gracious Professionalism Award sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. We helped several other teams that year by offering a new program we called the “Pit Medic” help team at the regional competition. We did not win any awards at the Cross Road Regional and at both events, the Indiana competing teams knew  Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 was defending gold from the previous year and did their best to keep us at bay that year. At both events, we exited the competition early in the quarter finals of the elimination matches.

2014 was another exciting year for Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501, having decided to not play in Indiana at all. As we knew that the FIRST Robotics event system was moving from a Regional level play to a District level play in 2015, we decided to travel out of state for both of our regional competitions. The team traveled to the St. Louis Regional where we won our second regional, seeded #1, and was undefeated in the qualification rounds. An unbelievable competition for the team already, the team also won the Quality Award sponsored by Motorola. Continuing onward to the Greater Pittsburgh Regional, the team won once again the Quality Award sponsored by Motorola and became Regional Finalist, going home with a silver medal from Pittsburgh. This earned the team a spot in the World Championship where played on the Curie Field. The team did not get selected to play in the elimination matches at the World Championship, but had a lot of fun that year.

2015 was the season of change for Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501. We moved out of the Henline Building into a new home called the Vocation Technical Center (later renovated and renamed the Community Learning Center). This season the team had decided to try a lot of new things, including stepping away from monocoque and trying other manufacturing methods. The previous summer, the business arm of the team was totally reorganized as well as the robot arm. The leadership went from one person to three people per major subgroup. Those six mentors held an automatic seat on Strat-X along with students who were voted on in the summer. The team built a giant of a robot named “Otis”. The State of Indiana switched to the District system this year, which allowed Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 to sign up for three competitions, the Purdue District Event, the Kokomo District Event, and the Indy District Event. At the Purdue District Event, Team 1501 ended qualification matches seeded number 2. and were eliminated in the semi-final matches. Team 1501 once again ended qualification matches seeded number 2 at the Kokomo District Event and were eliminated in the semi-final matches. At the Indy District Event, we were seeded 10th after the qualification matches and were selected by the 7th seeded to team to make up alliance number 5 in the finals. After many hard fought rounds, Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 went on to win a gold medal as the Indy District Winners. Switching to a District System meant that there was now a State Championship Event in Indiana that the team qualified to attend. We finished qualification matches seeded number 3 at the State Event. Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 made it into the Finals where they were defeated by the number 1 seeded alliance. Being State Finalists along with all the other points collected from the District Events, earned the team a spot in the World Championships once again. This time, Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 was chosen to play in the elimination rounds by the 3rd seeded alliance. It was an exciting time but they were eliminated in the semi-final matches. Overall 2015 was a great season for our first time playing in the District Events. Due to the move during the summer, the team did not have enough resources to run a LEGO team in the fall, as most of the fall was spent moving the team to the new building and re-organizing for the following season.

In 2016, we started our second season at the Learning Center. Not much had changed this season as we continued to grow as a team. We built a robot called “Invader” and played in three district competitions. Our first was in North Carolina. We came in second place in NC. We came back to Indiana to play in two more district events where we came in second place again and also earned a spot at the Indiana State Championship. We came in second place at the State Championship which earned us a spot at World Champs. At World Champs, we played in St. Louis on the Archimedes field. There where 75 other robots on the field and we seeded #1!!! We picked 1986 and 5050 to be our partners and ended up winning the Archimedes field in a shut out 2-2-2 !!! We made it to the Einstein Field for the first time ever in Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501’s history . It was an exciting time for all. The first match we played was tough, it was against 2056 which was a Canadian team with something like a 20 blue banner streak. But we won the quarter final matches and moved on to the semi-finals. Our winning streak ended here when we lost by 11 points in a double elimination and finished 7th in the world. It was an incredible run for 1501 and the first time in 8 years an Indiana team had made it to the Einstein Field. In the fall of 2016, we added a second LEGO team, the Blue Angels, to the group. Now Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 sponsored 2 LEGO teams.

In 2017, we started our third season at the Learning Center, and a lot of the students stepped up in leadership this year. Curt Henderson retired from our team in 2016, which only left 3 of the remaining original mentors that started Team 1501: Chris Elston, Scott Thorn and Wayne Doenges. Strat-X decided to try our hand at hosting an event so we put in a bid and ended up winning the bid to host the State Championship at Huntington North High School. This saw many parents and volunteers becoming active supporters of the team as there were many roles to fill. Meanwhile the team played in 3 district events that year winning one and placing second in another. This earned us a right to play at the State Champs that we hosted. Unfortunately we were plagued with electrical problems during the qualification matches. We figured out our electrical issues but it was too late and we seeded 22nd at State Champs and ended up losing in the semi-finals. We did not make it to World Championships that year. In the winter of that year we were fortunate enough to host the first ever FLL event at College Park Church. We hosted 12 LEGO teams that year. So you could say this was the year of hosting events!

In 2018, we started our fourth season at the Learning Center. We signed up for two districts this season and went to the State Championship. Our first district event was the St Joseph District Event which earned us a silver. Our second district event was the Tippecanoe District Event where we won the gold medal. This year we built the fastest elevator in the community. It was talked about on Chief Delphi many times over and over. The elevator was powered by 2-3 mini-CIMs and can move a 5 lbs load 95 inches in 850 m/secs. The whole concept of the elevator was new to us this year but worked out in the end. We also went to State Championship but ended in the Quarter Finals. The summer of 2018 saw the team hosting a LEGO BATTLE BOT camp. This was a week long camp that took place at a local church that culminated in an actual Battle Bot competition where only one bot was left standing. In the winter, we once again hosted the FLL event at College Park Church.

In 2019, we started our fifth season at the Learning Center. We signed up for two district events and one regional. We returned to the St. Louis Regional where we WON THE EVENT! We won with team 4500 whom we won with last time we were there back in 2014. We also attended the St Joseph District event where we once again won a silver medal. By winning the St. Louis Regional, we were qualified for the World Championship once again. It was our first time to travel to Detroit to play since we played in St Louis in 2016 where we made it to Einstein. At the World Champs, we were selected to play in the elimination matches but got out in the quarter finals. In the summer of 2019, Team T.H.R.U.S.T 1501 leadership wanted to give back to it’s community who have supported them all these years. The team took on the challenge of keeping clean a two mile stretch of highway that runs through the town. Our other community involvements include working at a local soup kitchen once a month and helping to clean up a local park area. With all the community events, we did not sponsor the FLL event in the winter of 2019 but our Blue Angels LEGO team is currently working hard on their robot.

2020 was the year when COVID hit and shut down most of the competitions. We were able to attend 1 event in early March at Bloomington. We were district finalists and won the Autonomous Award at the Bloomington District.

There were no events to attend in 2021. FIRST decided to hold virtual contests. One contest that 1501 entered was the Game Design Concept. Our team won the Concept Award for our game design entry.

In person events came back in 2022 and 1501 attended 2 district events. We were District Event Finalists at the Kokomo District. We also won the Industrial Design Award there. At the Tippecanoe District Event we won the gold medals and secured our ticket for State Championships.