Benjamin Chatman passion for programming lead him down a path filled with technological promise


When junior Benjamin Chatman was invited to join a meeting for the robotics club by a close friend, he wasn’t thinking too hard about how it would affect, change, and improve his life. Now, a whole year later, he is returning for a second season with a vigorous attitude, and drive for success.

“I had a friend who [has been] on the robotics team ever since middle school, and just this summer I decided to join in,” Benjamin said. “During the off-season of robotics was when I was taught how to program and do the things I need to do to be on the team.”

The robotics program offered at FHC is a relatively individualized and involved activity. It is primarily a student-run operation with the main leaders of the project being either senior members or program leads, whose main goal is to keep track and teach younger members how to do their roles successfully.

The program often meets about two days a week during the summer—their off-season—which is typically around the time new members join. 

Joining members are not required to have any prior skills with coding or machines. New members are actively taught how to program from the basics to some of the most complex codings, and older members dedicate a lot of time to guiding recruits.

“I basically started at square one when I came onto the robotics team,” Benjamin said, “and they’ve taught me everything I needed to know in probably the perfect way possible.”

I joined [the FHC Robotics Team] because I’ve always been interested in programming, and when I learned you could program on the robotics team. I thought it was a great way to be able to learn and apply my skills.”

— Benjamin Chatman

In the program, interested students from several schools in the district—like Forest Hills Northern or Eastern—are invited to join a team of student engineers who work to build and program a functional robot within guidelines for tournaments they compete in.

Tournaments typically happen around the beginning of March, where upwards of 30 teams compete. Each round consists of three groups, two of them are put against each other, and then they try to complete the game or objective by scoring game pieces.

For example, last year, Benjamin and the rest of the FHC Robotics Team successfully assembled and piloted a fully-operational robot whose task was to launch and dunk a basketball in the hop at least four times. The team accomplished the goal by programming the robot to aim at the ball where the reflective tape was located around the rim of the hop.

“I think [robotics] is one of the biggest team-building activities you can probably do,” Benjamin said. “There’s room for so many different types of people to be in the robotics team. If you want to be a programmer, you can be a programmer. If you want to build a robot, you can build a robot, and if you’re a person who likes marketing, you can help us get sponsors. There’s a place for everybody.”

For someone who has always been fascinated by the prospect of the programming world, Benjamin couldn’t have been more up to the task.

Ever since he was young, Benjamin has always been fascinated by the technological world, and while he does admit that his father’s love for the building may be one of the reasons for his hobbies, he ultimately believes his love for programming is something unique to him. 

“I joined [the FHC Robotics Team] because I’ve always been interested in programming,” Benjamin said. “When I learned you could program on the robotics team, I thought it was a great way to be able to learn and apply my skills.”

One of the main inspirations behind Benjamin’s interests is particularly pinned on the video games he used to play. Benjamin used to spend hours as a kid on his computer, glued to the screen in excitement, watching pixels move across the screen.

However, his true passion for coding and technological art truly shines through from the robotics team and beyond.

“I like the feeling of turning a kind of inanimate object into something that moves around and actually drives,” Benjamin said. “The feeling of making something work gives me a dopamine rush that’s incomparable to anything else.”