Caroline Kuiper

More stories from Caroline Kuiper

As he walked the halls of the school last winter, sophomore Jon Pearcy was one of many bleached blond members of the Boys Swim and Dive team. As they pass him in the halls again this year, looking at their hair will remind him again of what he gave up to pursue his passion outside of the pool: robotics.

“My coaches for both sports said I had to choose swimming or robotics,” said Pearcy with a bittersweet smile. “I chose robotics, and while I regret not being able to do both, I don’t regret my decision at all.”

Pearcy’s passion for robotics emerged when he signed on for the team his sophomore year, after his friend and current University of Michigan student encouraged Pearcy to take his place once he left. The decision to quit swimming was one of many sacrifices he has made for the team, along with giving up classes and other extracurriculars to pick up other skills for the team.

“Jon is very knowledgeable about the robot and has taken the time to teach himself advanced technologies outside of our normal class sessions,” said robotics mentor Paul D’Amato. “He has taught the other team members the electrical systems, pneumatic control systems, and the software control systems.”

While those terms may sound like jibberish to a robotics newbie, to any robotics expert they translate into expertise that is essential for making a good robot. As their pre-season goes on, Pearcy’s skills are being sharpened and prepared for their competition season in January.

Pearcy, however, was not the only member of the team to dedicate themselves to robotics so fully. Captain of the team Camden Pastyrnak shares the same passion for robotics and has also cleared his schedule to focus on it. After accidentally coming to a meeting but then joining the team and falling in love with it his freshman year, he gave up Ski Team to increase his dedication and has earned a leadership position on the team.

“I’ve always loved to tinker and build things, and robotics just enables me to do that with fantastic people on a great team,” said Pastyrnak. “I love the people, I love what we do, and I love that it helps prepare me for the future.”

This future he is preparing for so vigorously will indeed feature robotics. Pastyrnak’s love for the machines has him looking at college robotics programs across the country and preparing to embark on his last robotics journey here at FHC.

“I had a great time with the robotics team, and I can only imagine that robotics in college and beyond will be just as enjoyable,” said Pastyrnak. “What I’ve learned during my time with the team will be useful and applicable wherever I go.”

Along with enjoying his senior season, Pastyrnak is helping to pass the torch down to Pearcy when he goes on to bigger collegiate teams. D’Amato is confident in not only the leadership of this year’s team in Pastyrnak, but the leadership of Pearcy and others coming up to become the new faces of the team.

“For our student leaders, the best quality is to love engineering and enjoy teaching young people,” D’Amato said. “They should be passionate about science and engineering.  They should be role models for the other students. They should understand the big picture, work well with others, and help the students who are still learning, and I know that these older kids do.”

Pastyrnak hopes to, along with Pearcy, lead the team to the same success they enjoyed a few years ago when they were invited to a national competition. With all of the time the team puts in and the dedication of Pearcy, Pastyrnak knows that it is a real possibility within the next few years.

“When a programming task comes to hand regardless of inside of robotics or out he is almost always there to help,” Pastyrnak said. “Recently we had a seven hour meet learning to use a program called Labview on the weekend, and [Pearcy] was one of only two members there. He shows great leadership. When new freshmen come in to learn how to program, he will have them going in no time.”

For Pearcy, his second season will be one he hopes to use to train the younger members of the team and better his own skills. Also looking to take robotics past high school, he spoke of searching for a robotics club in college and further finding a career in engineering where he can put his current skillset to work every day.

“I especially love seeing robots come together at the end of a long build,” said Pearcy, his eyes lighting up like the lights on his robot. “That’s why I love this so much, the payoff is so evident and fulfilling once we finish.”

Pearcy and Pastyrnak, along with D’Amato, encourage others to look into the sport and, hopefully, find a passion in something as rewarding as this robotics team.

“I think all of our members are great, and I know Pearcy along with others will be very successful using these skills in the future,” said D’Amato. “After all, robotics is the one sport where everyone can go pro.”