About 20 percent of Boneyard Robotics’ 37-member team has autism. In fact, almost half of FRC 2682 (Winterville, North Carolina) has a diagnosis such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. At the 2019 FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas, the FIRST Robotics Competition team learned it was one of three finalists for the Chairman's Award.
"We don’t discriminate. We don’t make fun of people. We’re incredibly accepting," team member Ethan Hawley told The Daily Reflector. "Anybody’s welcome in the Boneyard."
Here are some excerpts from Reflector's story, "'More than the robot': Robotics team recognized for inclusion efforts":
"So many kids with autism can benefit so much from things like robotics,” head coach Paula Main said. “You’re giving them an automatic group of friends, an automatic group of people with shared interests."
"In his first year, he wouldn’t talk to anybody, wouldn’t get involved, kind of stood back, would be on his phone," Boneyard Robotics head coach Paula Main said. "The coaches and the other mentors told me they would ask him to do something and he would do it better than anybody else they had asked … and then he would go right back to the corner and put the phone back up." But as time went on, Jadon began to talk more with his teammates about their shared interest and to advance into leadership roles.
“A big part of FIRST is innovation,” she said. “Students initially think it’s one thing: You come in and build a robot. (But) they learn branding, the importance of data. They learn programming and design. They understand putting together a presentation and marketing materials. A lot of people don’t expect that from FIRST. They think it’s the one thing.”