Robotics Club at Illinois Tech

As a high school student, I was a participant in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). FIRST was the best part of my high school career, and it solidified my choice to follow a path in a STEM career and inspired me to give back to the organization. Without my participation in FRC, I would not be at Illinois Tech, and definitely would not be on this career path.

In high school, I had the time of my life working with my fellow students on a team where our goal was to build a robot in six weeks. In addition to the engineering and science-related skills I gained as a part of my high school team, I also gained a lot of leadership, presentation, and public relations skills during the time I served as my team’s captain.



My high school robotics team – FRC NeoBots 2903 from Arlington, Washington


When it was time for me to decide on a college, aside from finances and programs available, one of the defining factors of my decision to attend Illinois Tech had to do with the opportunity to pursue my passion for robotics during my collegiate career. While many universities have collegiate robotics teams, I was excited to learn that Illinois Tech’s team has a threefold purpose:

  • building awesome robotic projects
  • creating an exciting and hands-on learning environment for all students regardless of academic background
  • giving back to the local community through volunteer service and philanthropic projects benefiting FIRST Robotics, the very organization that had helped shaped me as a person

Illinois Tech Robotics is also a leader in local and national FIRST activities, and many of it’s members have achieved great things at IIT and beyond.

When I arrived at Illinois Tech, I was beyond excited to join the team, and was amazed to find out how much fun it would be. I’ve gotten to work alongside many very talented students, staff, and faculty at the university, and I’ve made some great friends along the way. Even though I chose to major in Physics Education instead of an engineering discipline, I’ve still been able to continue my learning in the field of robotics and get a ton of hands-on application to some of the things I’ve learned in class.  I’ve also been able to compete in robotics competitions in a ton of cool locations (I took a trip to California for a competition last year!), as well as volunteer at FIRST events around the Midwest. More important than the cool robots or service hours earned are the awesome people I’ve had the chance to work with. There’s nothing quite like scrambling to get a part of your robot working when you have a match in 10 minutes or going out to dinner with a bunch of your best friends after an exhausting 45 hours of volunteering over three days.

This year, I’m excited to continue my involvement in Illinois Tech Robotics. I’ve gotten the opportunity to help with major event planning for hundreds of students through the volunteer work we do with FIRST. I’ve also had the chance to coordinate volunteer efforts and social media for the state of Illinois with FIRST as well as help coach my own high school robotics team in a nearby neighborhood that allows students in the city to have the same great experiences with the program that I had as a high school student. If I hadn’t gone to Illinois Tech and gotten involved in our campus community, none of these awesome opportunities would have been available to me, and I wouldn’t have the experience I have now as an educator and leader that will benefit me greatly in my future.


Illinois Tech Robotics at the 2012 Jerry Sanders Design Competition

-Kori Bowns, Illinois Tech Class of 2015


Check out IL FIRST here!


A Tech Tradition– The Pumpkin Launch!


October brings a lot of things to the life of a college student. Leaves start changing colors, weather starts getting colder, and the days start getting longer as the reprieve of winter break slowly inches nearer.  But Illinois Tech students have more to look forward to than receiving midterm grades and drinking pumpkin spice lattes—October also brings Pumpkin Launch to the IIT community!


Pumpkin Lunch is one of the most looked-forward-to events that take place on IIT’s campus. Students across a variety of disciplines build great machines designed to hurl a pumpkin as far as possible across Illinois Tech’s Ed Glancy baseball field. Each year, teams compete to win awards for distance and accuracy, and this year, a fun new award was added for crowd favorite.


Over 100 students worked toward launchers for this year’s competition, which is a part of IIT’s annual family weekend where students’ friends and families get a chance to engage in the spirit of the university. Many IIT students, staff, alumni, and other spectators come out to watch the event, but some looked forward to the blunders as much as they did the successful launchers. Some launchers catastrophically failed before completing their launches, and others occasionally fired a pumpkin backwards or even straight up into the air!


This year’s launch was a ton of fun to watch and one of the most successful Pumpkin Launches yet! Nearly every launcher had successful launches; in previous years, several launchers only shot straight up or backwards, and some had difficulty launching at all.  It was really great to see the improvement that our teams of students had. This year’s launch also had some of the most impressive first-place winners ever as well. The winner for the distance competition, Long Shot, made by a small team of mechanical engineering students, shot their pumpkin over three hundred feet, almost over the outfield fence! The winner for the accuracy competition, Mach 1, a team made up of students on the Illinois Tech Robotics team, had a launch accuracy of over 99%, where each new launch hit the remains of the pumpkin before it. Next year will surely be more impressive as these students continue to hone their skills! Pumpkin launch remains my favorite event of the fall semester at Illinois Tech.


Pumpkin Launch is a great fun event to kick off autumn at Illinois Tech, and everyone who attends the event has a blast! Students competing in the event get a chance to work with their fellow students and get a chance to apply what they’re learning in class to an exciting hands-on project. Spectators of the event get to observe impressive feats of engineering constructed by IIT students, and in addition to the pumpkin carnage, Pumpkin Launch always includes a few side attractions such as pumpkin carving and fun fall-themed food. Pumpkin Launch is just one of the many ways that Illinois Tech offers a unique collegiate experience to students.


-Kori Bowns

Pro-tip: Get to know your counselor!

As you approach the busiest part of your application process, don’t forget a very important piece to the admission puzzle – getting to know you admission counselor! Your admission counselor can help you navigate the application process, advocate for you, assist you with financial aid questions, and provide a connection to campus. Don’t be afraid to come meet with us. We LOVE getting to know our prospective students! Here are some tips on where to find us:

  1. On our campus! Call to schedule a meeting with an admission counselor any day of the week to chat about Illinois Tech, admission guidelines, scholarship opportunities, and all things IIT! We’re available at 312-567-3025.
  2. At your high school. Our admission counselors visit many high schools in almost all 50 states! We send out notifications via email if we’re coming to your school and have your contact information, but you can also check with your high school counselor to see if we’ll be in your area or email us to see when we’ll be visiting. See our list of counselors to see if we’ll be in your area.
  3. At high school fairs. NACAC fairs are the biggest and are found in most major cities. Check out when and where they are hosted here. (I know I’m very excited to participate in the Denver NACAC College Fair this Saturday, October 5th!) We also try to attend local fairs as well. These fairs will provide a list of colleges attending, so you can plan who you’d like to speak with ahead of time.
  4. Through social media, email, or by phone. As a last resort, if you can’t make it to meet us in person, please at least send us a note to introduce yourself. See our list of counselors to find who your counselor is and get the conversation started!

Getting to know us can benefit you in so many ways. We’re happy to help you with:

  • application questions
  • financial aid questions
  • connecting you with faculty members
  • connecting you with Illinois Tech students
  • helping you set up a visit
  • learning about exciting events on campus
  • and pretty much everything that will help make your transition to college easier!

There are many ways to connect with us and we look forward to meeting you!

-Sam Sleva