FHC’s robotics team has put many hours in already this season and is hoping to see it payoff in their first competition this weekend

Gigi Sinicrope

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FHC’s robotics team has been preparing, and the first competition of the season is finally approaching this weekend. For junior Alex McConnell in his third season with the team, he is excited but can also acknowledge some of the challenges the team has faced this season. 

“We’re getting into the competition season for the 2023 season,” Alex said. “It’s going to be really exciting. This season, our biggest struggle has been time. We have a pretty young team. Over half the people on the team are new students, and there’s a core group of about eight or nine students that are trying to do a lot.”

Alex is the mechanical lead, meaning his main job is to one, lead all of the assembly and wiring out their robot and then two, bring in new students and show them what to do. He’s in charge of assembly, manufacturing, electrical, as well as helping with some of the outreach this year. 

While Alex works on the assembly of the robot, his team member and friend junior Chris Ho, who he introduced to the team, works more in the programming of the robot. This is his first year with the team.

“We’re very specialized,” Chris said. “There’s the people to build [the robot] and then the people that program. I’m on the programming sub-team.”

Creating the team’s robot takes vast amounts of time, from programming to the mechanics. For some members, this can mean 24 to 40 hours of their week in preparation for competition. For sophomore Addison Moore, this is a great challenge with being a part of the team. 

“It’s definitely a time commitment,” Addison said. “Trying to balance my school workload and being at the build space almost every day is a lot.” 

Currently, the team is sponsored by Amway, and the team’s buildspace field area is in Amway’s workspace where they can work to create their robot. 

Some may question why these students would want to spend so much time in this workspace to create this robot; however, for much of the team, they enjoy the challenge such a project offers. 

Alex validates all of his time spent working because he feels it teaches him tools that his school classes do not. And because he wants to be an engineer in his future, this offers the ideal hands-on opportunity to get experience in the field now. 

“[Robotics] teaches you everything that school doesn’t in my opinion,” Alex said. “I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned how to actually manage my time. I’ve learned how to deal with stress. I’ve learned actual leadership skills, cooperation, and then also just real things I’m going to use in my life.”

Many of the team members value the team because of its exposure to real-life situations in the fields they desire to work in. For Chris, he thinks it is beneficial in this way. 

“If you want to really go above and beyond in any industry skill,” Chris said, “the robotics team is going to give you, probably, the best experience you can possibly get before college.”

While the team does equip students for their future endeavors, the students value it for reasons apart from this as well.

“I thought it was really fun,” Alex said. “It was kind of something that actually challenged me. I’ve usually not had too many problems with things like math and science, and having something that was sort of in that same realm that actually put my mind to the test was really fun.”

For Addison, it is more about just having an outlet with something that is of interest to her.

“It’s a really interesting learning process,” Addison said, “and it’s something that’s very interesting to me and a lot of other people.” 

Addison got involved with the team in a similar way as Chris, but rather than Alex influencing her to join, it was her brother.

“I had an older brother who graduated in 2016 who was on the team,” Addison said, “and when I went to the open house before my freshman year, I decided to join because he enjoyed it.”

As the first competition approaches, the team has pretty much narrowed down their workload to fine tuning and maintenance as they hope for success in their first competition. 

“This is our time from the kickoff of the whole build season,” Chris said, “so right now, most of it is maintenance and fine tuning [to see] if the drivers are having trouble and any of the settings on the robots.”

While the team’s season is just beginning, they can hope for similar achievements as that of last year’s team when they made it all the way to the world championship. 

Alex is hopeful that the team will perform well throughout the season and that the hard work and long hours they have been putting in will pay off.

“Honestly, the best part is the competition,” Alex said. “Being able to compete with other teams and see what other teams did and then also performing well, like we have been, is super fun. Just seeing what we’ve done succeed has been really enjoyable. Last year, we made it all the way to the world championship where we were 13th in our division, and making it that far and seeing everyone around us that’s making it just as far is super rewarding.”