For the Shawnee Mission East Robotics team, household appliances are key, doing much more than just toasting a piece of bread or blending an assortment of berries.
Well into their third year of competition, the East robotics team, better known as Sargon Robotics is off to a hot start.
After only a few years, Team Sargon is on to its third robot. The first two machines, no longer in competition, have already won numerous awards.
Their first ‘bot, made in 2008, “The Brave Little Toaster” had the simple task of picking up exercise balls while last year’s robot, “The Brave Little Blender” had the task of picking up “moonrocks” and shooting them out of its top. While the tasks may sound easy, the team spent a countless amount of hours working on these robots. With only six weeks allowed to build the machine, Sargon often faced stressful days and long nights.
“You take a bunch of kids who have little experience, and you tell them to build a robot in six weeks. You lose your patience, fight off the drowsiness, put on a band aid, and keep going,” said John Opsahl, the teams mechanical captain, “Nothing stops you from reaching sweet success, and that is why I love robotics.”
According to Opsahl, in the earlier stages of the robot, he spent 15 hours a week on it. In the last three weeks, he claimed to have put 25 hours into the teams only robot.
Recently, it was announced that the Robotics team would take a trip to the regional competition to Hale Arena inside the American Royal, right here in Kansas City.
While it’s not a very publicized event, the “Robotics Greater Kansas City Regional” is quite the competition for the young team. The only robotics competition of the year is put on by a group called FIRST, For inspiration and recognition of Science and Technology. The competition will feature teams from all over the plains region, ranging from Illinois to Arkansas.
Constructed in 2007, the team has been to the Regional competition twice before and has experienced plenty of success, making it to the quarter finals in their first year, semifinals in the second and are hoping for a championship in their third.
“We have been quite ambitious on the technical side,” senior Qi Chen said. “We’re working with a computer system that is put into missiles.”
Chen, a leader of Sargon Robotics, has been with the team since the beginning, joining in 2007 as a sophomore. Starting with a group of eight members, the team has grown to a massive 20 plus.
“I’m really proud of the team this year,” Chen said. “There’s quite a few members who really came forward and stepped up to the challenge.”
Most of the work is done behind the scenes or in the “depths of the first floor”. With team meetings happening every week, it’s no wonder that the team has found so much success.
“Meetings were Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and then people started coming in on Tuesday and during seminar and even after school,” Chen said.
But other members of Team Sargon like Tyler Cecil have learned a lot more than just robots while being with the team.
“The robotics team has really given me a purpose. Its somewhere where I can learn, teach, and be part of something thats bigger than me. It has totally shaped my veiw of what my future is going to be,” Cecil said. “It has also given me confidence, and speaking skills, and even managment skills. Just by being on this team, I feel like, right now, I could go off and run a company. All because of the skills I have gained.”
According to Cecil, even though team Sargon is internationally known, people in the immediate community don’t seem to know much about the program. To help with that, team Sargon even has it’s own public relations department that hopes to continue to get the word out about the school’s first and only robotics team.
The team will compete Thursday, March 4 2010 at Hale Arena located inside the American Royal.