Hovering over a lifted robot, sophomore Tommy Crow checks that it’s functioning correctly. He pulls wires to make sure there are no loose connections to the voltage meter and makes sure the wiring is in the correct place. Sophomore Geoff Pillman transfers programs and commands through cables that will allow the robot to receive commands.
Sophomore Gabi Case checks their various social media accounts and attends community events representing the team. All are vital in determining whether or not their robot, “Brave Little Mammoth,” can reach its goal of doing well in the First Robotics competition.
Despite the fact that these students hold different positions in the club, their joint efforts and personal bond come together in creating team of individuals and a finished product.
Bonding is a key factor in the success of the team according to Case.
“We would probably get so much worse [if we didn’t have personal bonding].” Case said. “We wouldn’t be able to work as a team. You spend that much time around someone and you’re bound to fight. But we have these jokes, our own playlists; we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We’re kind of like a family.”
The club members try to play video games or have camping trips and team dinners at least once a week. They also connect through volunteer work. The robotics team goes to elementary and middle school math and science nights and mentors fourth graders of a Lego robotics team at Briarwood Elementary twice a week. This summer they are starting a camp for incoming freshmen to learn about robotics and what it takes to join their team.
Since robotics receives no funding from East they are technically considered a club, but the personal relationships between students create a bonded team. Next year they will potentially be recognized as a team by the district. The club will require tryouts aiding in the overall performance of the robot, based on skills and positions held by members.
The positions the robotics club members hold are based around four basic aspects that go into building the robot.
“We learn robot programming, electrical, building and have a business aspect to our team,” Vincent Miller, lead robotics teacher’s aid.
The team has to find fundraising through local businesses in the community. The business group of the club contacts local companies who would be willing to either donate money or sponsor the team. The money the team receives through their fundraising and sponsors is used towards parts and materials for the robot. It is also used towards the $5000 entrance fee to the First Robotics Competition.
“An example [of a sponsor] is Honeywell,” Crow said of the company that produces commercial and consumer products. “They’re a business that…sponsors a lot of robotics teams.”
The First Robotics Competition took place at the beginning of March, but the team only gets six weeks of building time.
Although training begins in September, the team only gets six weeks of building time before the First Robotics Competition in March. The competition releases their game or task on January 4. After the six weeks, the team ships their robot to the competition. This year the club named their finished product Brave Little Mammoth.
“We named [the robot] Brave Little Mammoth because it has tusk-like shaped parts that can pick up a ball and throw it too”, Crow said.
These tusk-shaped parts assisted the Brave Little Mammoth in scoring 52 out of 58 in the First Robotics Competition at Metropolitan Community College. In a series of competitions, robots from different teams assisted each other in moving balls down a field in order to score into a 10 foot high goal. The more the robots assist each other, the more points both teams received.
Even with their limited building time, the East team placed the highest out of the other four Shawnee Mission high schools that competed.
“See, the struggle is that we only have six weeks for build season to build it,” Pillman said. “It takes a lot of hard work, and close bonds are required to get it done. To do well in the competition is pretty much the goal [of the club]. But…along the way, even if we don’t succeed, the friendships we make are pretty cool too.”