Robotics Club Wins Trophy for Collaboration

Robotics Club Wins Trophy for Collaboration
Posted on 01/18/2019
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Launched last year, the HSWCHS FIRST Tech Robotics Club will advance to the State Competition after earning a “Connect” trophy from a recent competition. A “Connect” Trophy was earned by our team of eight because of their outstanding efforts to “connect” with other students. At HSSD Robotics Clubs at our HSJA and Gardner STEM Magnet School, and even at surrounding schools outside the district, club members have collaborated with younger students to engineer their own robots and practice engineering skills. Success and popularity of the program has lead to the development of an academic robotics class at the HSWCHS, to begin in the 2019-2020 school year. Also exciting, thanks to newly established robotics club at the HSWCHS and the HSJA, students at the HSSD can participate in robotics through established clubs in K-12th grade.

FIRST Tech Challenge teams (which can include up to 15 team members, in grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots. They attend events where they compete in teams with other schools to complete specific robotic skills and challenges provided by a panel of judges, with robots that they have designed, programmed, and built. Our HSWCHS Robotics Club has attended three competitions to date. The program kick-off is in early September when the season's game is announced - which this year was “Rover Ruckus.” The “Rover Ruckus” game included prompts based on an environment on Mars. The design and build period for teams runs from September to January. Tournament season overlaps some with that time period and usually runs from November - March. Our team members point out that oftentimes they rebuild their robot multiple times, usually at least once following each competition. They rebuild pieces or entire robot models based on mistakes made at competition, or observations made for how to improve the performance of their robot.  For example, before state competition, the team intends to rebuild an arm of the robot so that it better hooks into a landing module [on Mars] and pulls itself off the ground, which is one of the challenges offered during competition.

Science and Computer Teacher Mr. Vincent Mathews is the organizer and mentor for the group. He credits HSWCHS student Khynnedi  Murry for creating the club, which began after she requested that a high school level team exist because of her participation and interest with the program from a young age. “When I get older, I want to be a robotic engineer, so this helps me develop those skills. And, I just think it’s fun. I enjoy building things, and meeting new people. This is about more than robots - it’s about bringing people together. You don’t have to be good at robots necessarily, because our team works together to help you,” Khynnedi explains.

At competition, judges expect a full Engineering Notebook from each team, which includes the plan and strategy for building robots, explanation of how the team is working to promote engineering and other STEM skills with other community groups and partners, and an outreach strategy for how the team will talk about and promote their robotic activities to the surrounding area. The team presents the Engineering Notebook to judges. Then, they enter the robotic challenges portion - which is everyone’s favorite part. Robot challenges are provided in an alliance format, which means that our team worked with another team to form an alliance, and then competed with an alliance of two other teams. All points earned are won in group settings. Finally, the group notes that a spirit of “gracious professionalism” is present at each event. That unspoken rule is evidenced by teams helping other teams when robots break or malfunction, or when any type of general confusion or dilemmas take place.

“I’m not the best guy for working on the robot. I found that the engineering notebook is my thing. I can do math well, and I can write well. I support our team by being a strategist, and communicating our work through our book. There is something for everyone here,” says HSWCHS student Jacob Heffington.

“This is a great way to get diverse people together. We all like robots, but we are all very different and good at different things. This is a good way to bring us together. We are like a family,” says HSWCHS student Canaan Caterina.

Because of newly established robotics programs like this, HSSD students now have an opportunity to be part of a robotics club from K-12th grade. At the #HSSD Gardner STEM Magnet School, Mrs. Sarracini has a well established FIRST Lego League Robotics Club (learn more, here), which is an elementary level of this program. At the Hot Springs Junior Academy, Mr. Michael Willard has recently organized a FIRST Tech Robotics Club to provide an extension from skills learned in FIRST Lego League, and to provide a direct connection from our HSJA to the HSWCHS for students that want to remain in robotics competitions throughout their education. Besides club competitions, the HSWCHS will soon offer a Robotics Class, which will allow team members to work on robots during classroom activities, and allow all students to be part of developing engineering skills, coding, and mastery of other systems and programs in this field.

Learn more about the FIRST Tech Challenge, here. Learn more about the HSSD Hot Springs World Class High School, here.

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