The robotics team builds their way to victory

Addy Cousins

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Alex McConnell

Here is a picture of the robotics team after winning their first competiton of the season

Senior Zachary Moore is a new member to the robotics team but has looked forward to joining for a long time. 

“Well, part [of the reason I joined] is because my brother used to be a part of the team,” Zachary said. “He graduated back in 2016, and I saw the competition, and it seemed really cool, to be honest. It was kind of a lot of energy in a way, and it seemed fun. I tried to get on [the team] freshman year, but at that time, they were more particular, but now they’re like, ‘Okay, we need people.’ I saw my sister was trying to join—she is in her freshman year—so I was like, ‘Okay, we’ll join.’” 

Zachary has looked forward to the competition aspect of the robotics team since freshman year, and he was finally able to compete at Calvin College with his fellow team members. 

“[Our first competition of the season] was pretty exciting, to be honest,” Zachary said. “Knowing [what to expect] from when my brother was on the team and going to his competition and knowing it would be a lot of fun [helped make me more prepared]. It was pretty exciting.” 

To prepare the robot for the first competition of the season, many test trials were held. The prospect of a complete breakdown of the robot was in mind for all team members. The robotics team did their best to prepare knowing anything could happen. 

“I don’t think I would ever say you can be [fully prepared],” Zachary said. “You can prepare for a lot of things, but I don’t think you can ever be prepared for everything. I guess when we were nearing the end of the competition, [the team and I] were feeling like, ‘Yes, we had this,’ and like we were going to win.”

I don’t think I would ever say you can be [fully prepared]. You can prepare for a lot of things, but I don’t think you can ever be prepared for everything.”

— Zachary Moore

In the end, Zachary and the rest of the team had been nearly fully prepared and won the event. They fared better than many other teams with their robot only having a few minor issues. 

The win was another helpful factor in bringing the team closer together. 

“It’s a big, giant group of people that all have one interest in mind: robotics,” Zachary said, “but we all mesh together quite well. Having about eight weeks together building a robot, you definitely get to know one another a lot. By the time the first competition hits, the whole team is kind of friends.” 

Zachary was not the only team member to be elated at the early win. Sophomore Kayla Compton expressed her merriment at the first win of the season. 

“We were just really excited to be there,” Kayla said, “and have all these teams show up to a competition pretty early in the season. We were just excited that Calvin was able to give us their venue, and then we won. It was just an overall great time.” 

Kayla and Zachary’s similar sentiments over the win aren’t the only similarity they share. Kayla was also exposed to the robotics community by an older sibling.  

“My sister was on [the team] before me,” Kayla said. “She would always come home and tell me these cool stories, and I thought that it looked really fun.” 

Kayla is newer to the team, and though she is still learning, she attempts to help as much as she can. She is living out the stories her sister used to tell her. 

“I just joined, so I try to help as much as I can and learn as much as I can to be helpful, but I mostly do electrical and build,” Kayla said. “I wasn’t very much help in the pit—that’s where the robot goes if it gets broken or anything. I was mostly in the stands doing scouting, looking at other teams, seeing how good they were, and seeing if they wanted to join our alliance.” 

Kayla explained that an alliance is three other teams you work with during the competition; she also elaborated on what she is looking for when scouting. They are looking to see how many shots other teams’ robots make and whether or not they can climb over monkey bars like rings. 

Each year, the game changes. And this year, the robots must shoot an enlarged tennis ball into a basketball-like hoop and then climb rings that resemble monkey bars. After she elaborated on the specifics of the competition, Kayla explained her day at Calvin College. 

“We got there right as the doors opened—it was about seven thirty in the morning—to get good seats so we could watch it,” Kayla said. “For this competition, it was different for us because we were the team setting it up, so we went a day early to get the field and the pits set up for every team that went there. Then it was just like any other competition: we went to the stands, we set up our own pit, we got our robot ready, we had to get it checked by the inspectors to make sure it followed the rules and everything, and then most of the team was scouting, like me.” 

Kayla was not alone in her delight at the competition. Sophomore Alex McConnell was elated at the prospect of competing, and winning was a boost that he had not expected. 

“Well, it was really nice because for the last two or so years, because of COVID-19 and everything, we haven’t really been able to have a real competition season,” Alex said. “So finally being able to get [to go to a competition] and doing so well really helped cement that I wanted to [be on the robotics team].”

Alex found his love for robotics in a different way than Zachary and Kayla. He started in seventh grade. 

“In seventh grade, when I started, my mom saw an article saying the robotics team had done really well,” Alex said. “There was a sign up for the middle school team, so I ended up doing that, and ended up really liking it. So after middle school, I joined the high school team.” 

Alex had been waiting nearly two years for a competition due to COVID-19 so he was ready to bring his all this season. His fellow teammates felt the same. 

“We were kind of thinking this year we were going to be pretty competitive,” Alex said. “We had a really good group of students, and we ended up going to the event at Calvin [College] and winning the whole event.” 

The win was a welcomed surprise. It spurred the competitiveness in the team by validating their efforts. 

“It felt really nice [to win] because of the time we put into it,” Alex said. “We spent around two months of at least twenty to thirty hours a week building and programming our robot, so it felt really nice to get the recognition for it.”

The robotics team is ready to face more competitions. They are also open to more members and would like to open the door to a new hobby or passion for any student. 

“I think [the robotics team] sounds a lot more nerdy and weird than it is,” Alex said. “It’s a really fun kind of group feeling, and it’s a really competitive activity that a lot of people do, and it’s really fun to be a part of.”