Robotics Club finds success in first year of operation

Shedding light on Free State's Robotics Team

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The crowds are uncontrollable as they prepare to watch robots, created by high schoolers from around the country, hash it out in the ring at the First Kansas City Regional competition.

The victorious robots often possess certain key qualities.

“The games are usually high-contact, so the best robots are a good mix of offensive and defensive features,” sophomore Becca Moran said.

Free State’s Robotics team is called 5119. It just completed its rookie year, in which it competed in one competition: First Kansas City Regionals.

At First Kansas City Regionals, Free State received an award for being the most successful rookie team. Not only that, 5119 managed to bring their robot to the seventh spot out of 56 teams with both rookies and veterans competing. Most of the other rookie teams only got to around spot 26.

The team’s success can be attributed to a year of hard work.

Some teams only took three days to complete their robots, while others use every second they have before the due date. While 5119 barely made their deadline with their defensive robot, the team members worked on it throughout the school year.

Part of their struggle to meet the deadline was a result of the newness and uncertainty of a first year program. Sometimes, after the team would build or design something fully,  they’d  discover their plan simply wasn’t feasible because of weight, height, or size restrictions; or simply logistics.

To assist in the costly construction and exhibition of their robot, Robotics club started the year with a series of fundraising events. As a result of its efforts, the team is now sponsored by NASA and the First program. It also received donations from Hyvee, Home Depot, Applebees, Six Mile Chop House, AndyMark, Hallmark and Larry Nichol throughout the season. NASA helped pay the team’s $6,000 registration fee for the competition.

The sponsors help organize the group, buy tools and materials and ensure 5119 is obeying the competition’s rules. Each sponsors’ card or company sticker goes on the completed robot.

Even with careful attention, they still came up short on funds.

“The club didn’t have enough funds to stay in Kansas City during the competition, which led to some transportation issues,” said Brandon Hernandez, Robotic’s Team sponsor.

The club meets on Mondays after school and Thursdays at 6 p.m. in Hernandez’s room, Room 201. It is made up of about 17 members, including regular attending mentors one of whom is an electrical engineer at Hallmark.

Build season started around Jan. 5 and ran through Feb. 12. During this time, the club worked ceaselessly on its robot. Construction sessions were about three hours long every day except Wednesday and Sunday. Throughout these sessions, club members designed the robot, pieced it together and listened to advice from their mentors about making the robot obey properly.

Thorough planning was everything.

 “Not only do we have to build a robot, we must program it, fundraise, do a community outreach and make a safety video,” Moran said.

After completing the construction process, the club exhibited their hard work at the First Kansas City Regional Competition.

“Teams come from all over the country, and once the robots begin to compete the cheers are deafening,” sophomore Althea Wilson said.

The robot the team builds depends on what sort of game in which it will participate. For the competition, the club built a strong defensive robot. 5119 has not built any dueling robots because the competing robots are not allowed to destroy one another, and doing so would be seen as a disgrace.

“You are meant to have a gracious professionalism and pride in robotics participation everywhere,” Wilson said.

Teamwork is definitely an important aspect of robotics. Those in 5119 rely on one another. They have programming, building  and electrical participants. Without the people in these groups, the team would be lost.

Some characteristics that the team benefits from are charisma, knowledge, passion, determination, enthusiasm and willingness to do well.

“Everyone brings something to the team. Everyone has their own talent, which we value,” Wilson said. “You could walk into robotics with an open mind but no knowledge of math and science and still change the world.”