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Lake Reflections

Students Leading Innovation

Falcon Robonauts Team Heads to World Championships

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The button-up shirts and thick glasses of every 80’s movie have been thrown away. Nerds are no longer a fringe group, they are the sleek inventors of tomorrow. Robotics is a cutting edge and highly technical club designed to prepare students of any age to immerse themselves in the elements of the STEM field. The program revolves around the VEX competition, which consists of over 16,000 teams in 40 countries.

“Part of the draw is the power you feel that you can build something that can work at your command,” sponsor Alex Jordan said. “It’s a pretty powerful feeling.”

Jordan is a math teacher at Lake and this is his first year sponsoring the two robotics teams at Lake and he has no prior experience with the robotics program, though he says that’s not a problem.

“Honestly, they know a lot more about robotics than I do,” Jordan said. “I mostly take care of the administrative stuff, like signing them up for tournaments, getting parts, and moral support.”

Courtesy of the Lake Robotics team

The Robotics Club is split into two teams, both with independent robots in the VEX competition. The Gemini team is comprised of four students and the Apollo has seven. These students represent all grade levels and bring something unique to the design.

“We are always tweaking the robot,” sophomore and co-pilot Jared Foltyn said. “Before school we made a robot and then we disassembled and and started refining it.”

The process to prepare for the competition is extensive. Beginning in April when the competition is announced, students are expected to build robots to reach set goals. This process is extensive and is completely organized by the students. The robots must be finished in time for fall competitions.

Courtesy of the Lake Robotics team

 

“There is no official build schedule, but we just start working,” junior, co captain, and drive coach Steven Wu said. “If it’s early on we’ll be prototyping and looking for ideas. If it’s like now we’ll be refining and developing better ideas.”

The Clear Lake Robonauts team devotes time after school and on weekends to perfecting the robot’s design.

During the designing months freshman co-captain Mamta Korwani said that students would be working two or three hours each week. Closer to competitions the hours are longer, sometimes working six hours or more after school each day.

The robot is continuously being adapted, with parts being scrapped and rebuilt as the team tests it.

“We don’t scrap the whole thing; we only scrap components of it,” sophomore driver and co-captain Sofia Diggins said. “So we might keep the wheels but change the arm.”

 The main competition is a minute and 45 seconds for two different teams to achieve the most points. Points are earned by picking up 6 lb cones and placing them in different zones. Another match is only a minute long and involves only one team at a time. Other competitions include the build of the robot itself where the students submit an engineering notebook that shows the process and math behind the robot. At the first competition the Robonauts won this award, along with the highest skill score and the overall champion tournament.

 

Courtesy of the Lake Robotics team

“It was pretty surprising. Whenever we go to these competitions you always expect someone who lives and breathes robotics as well,” Wu said.

Although the robotics team is humble, they are fierce competitors. This is the first year that Lake has had a VEX program. The Gemini team reached state semifinals with their robot, while Apollo has won the state championship and will be progressing to the world competition.

“Learning about STEM while also having a competitive atmosphere is one of the best things [about robotics].” Foltyn said.

Beyond competitions the students are also learning skill sets that they can apply to careers in the future.

“It’s made me a better leader and problem solver. You either have to rebuild or keep fixing it until it works.” Diggins said. “Robotics is the future, so it’s a good career to go into.”

The Lake Robonauts will continue to strive for excellence in the upcoming world competition taking place Louisville Kentucky during April.

 

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