Robotics Team Embarks on New Competitions

  • Paul Fong ’23

SHP’s robotics team will bring together its hard work, creativity, and skill to compete in the First Tech Challenge (FTC) in a few days on November 17 and 24 while also looking to expand its program to host a competition in January of 2020. Though in previous years they have competed in First Robotics Challenge (FRC), they will be changing their focus to FTC for this season to better harness the talent of the school’s builders. 

FTC involves building smaller robots over a longer period of time, usually for the duration of several months, depending on how far the team advances. The previous competition that SHP has attended, the FRC, has a short build season while requiring a much larger robot. Mr. Clint Johns, Robotics Team Head Coach, explains that “jumping into the deep end is not the best way to learn.” Another change is the new building, which allows for more space. Rather than moving old and less advanced equipment, it was decided to purchase new and better tools in order to set the team up for success. By only competing in FTC this season, old and new members will become acquainted with the new tools, equipment, and set up that SHP is providing before competing in the more advanced FRC in the future.

The robotics team has undergone many other changes from its inception to its current state. It started with three seniors who joined together from a love of robotics. Over time, more people began showing interest, with the club’s size having steadily doubled for the past three years. Today, robotics represents over 60 people divided into four teams. Pairing this with new facilities and tools has allowed many students to expand their abilities in the new, much more extensive workspace. The new Campbell building has certainly made it easier for students to join a team or work by themselves to create anything they want. 

Many students choose to join a team for various reasons. Some want to continue robotics from middle school, while others are interested in the unique opportunities provided by the program. Behind each robot, there is a team of people focusing on hardware, software, and business. Also, given robotics’ rapid growth, both in members and the number of teams, nobody is the only “new person.” All members can improve their skills, whether they are new to robotics or have been on the team for multiple years. As a result, the robotics community has created a group where each person is looking out for others while also utilizing their skill set to help the team.

The club has many plans and hopes for the future. As mentioned earlier, all four teams will be competing in the upcoming week. Moreover, for the first time, SHP will be hosting a competition on campus on January 11, 2020. Everyone on the team is very excited to see how the robots perform. Unlike last year, all teams are ahead of schedule, with robots ready to go a month before the competition. As such, they expect to improve on their results. 

Several details are to be addressed as the school year nears the competition’s date. Many volunteers are needed, and most will require training. In addition, finding a time that fits in the school’s schedule but also fits in the competition season is challenging. Beyond the upcoming competitions, there are also other goals to enhance the experience for incoming and returning members. There will be more teams and the return of FRC in the coming years, which will allow everyone who joins robotics to discover the perfect position for themselves. 

At any point in the year, students can join the team by presenting themselves at the Creative Inquiry lab during one of their team meetings. Even those not interested in directly joining the team are still invited to support the growing presence of the robotics club on campus by taking a look at the innovations that have been made. The team will need support from the SHP community as it embarks on its series of challenging competitions and contests.

By Axel de Vernou

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