FIRST Robotics Puts Team First

Monica Mah to go to Nationals for robotics

Clark interacting with parents and students on the project’s “open house” day, August 18, 2014.

Will Petersen

Clark interacting with parents and students on the project’s “open house” day, August 18, 2014.

When building a robot there are many aspects and details that need to be thought over, everything from the electrical design to the programing to the mechanics. When Monarch’s FIRST Robotics team, Shazbots, receives their assigned task for their robot that year to perform, they must take all of this into account. This planning and construction of the actual robot takes up most of January through February for the team, logging about 17 hours a week for six weeks during what they refer to as the “build season”.

Although, the team is what really makes it all possible. “It’s not really about the competition for first robotics, it’s about the community and what you do besides robots,” said junior and assistant head Monica Mah. If the team is not able to function together then the robot will not function either.

“I think that the biggest thing is the team work. I know a lot of sports require team work, but in the robotics team if you’re not a tight team things go downhill fast. I’ve been lucky, I’ve had some really great team leaders,” said senior electrical head Mason Spong. Spong has been participating in Shazbots for the last three and is thinking about going into technology or science.

This teamwork is what helped the team win the Judge’s Award at their competition in March. Along with the team winning the Judge’s Award, Mah was also selected for the Dean’s List. Out of about 1,000 students at the competition Mah was the first of two to be selected for this leadership award and will be going to nationals in PLACE this week.

At Nationals, Mah will get to see other robots from teams around the world, be presented with scholarship opportunities,  and meet up with the Shazbot’s partners from México City for whom they built a medical clinic. “It’s a big geek fest,” said teacher and robotics advisor David Clark.

The Shazbots team does more than just compete in this one competition. For example they built a medical clinic to be shipped to México “This was really fun for me because a whole bunch of my friends came regularly throughout the summer and we would build walls, and cut insulation and just build the whole entire thing and renovate it so that it could be functional,” said Mah.

Earlier in the year the team does a “One Hour Build” where they try to build the drive-train, the part that drives around, for a robot in an hour. The team has to rush and work together to complete their build in such a short amount of time.

Activities such as this also teach hands on skill as well as teamwork. Team members have to use programs such as computer aided design (CAD) and lay out electrical boards, as well as learning how to solve problems and think things through. “Mr. Clark, the guy that kinda runs the robotics program, has always had this big emphasis on engineering and we’d come to him with problems and he would give us the answer, he would say, ‘An engineer solves his own problems,’” said Spong.

Clark also sees how robotics helps students to grow as leaders. “[My favorite thing is] watching the students. You get these students who are freshmen, who come and they are freshman, you know? They’re wide-eyed, they don’t know what they doing, they’re just kinda walking into walls, very awkward. And just to see the students progress into being leaders. So by the time they are juniors or seniors they’ve gotten the respect of other students,” said Clark.

For both members and mentors of the Shazbots team, robotics is about so much more than just a robot. Mah sums it up in saying, “One of the sayings that they have for robotics is that robotics is the hardest fun you will ever have and I totally agree! What I love about FIRST it that its not really about competing, its more about helping each other out.”