Your source for everything Monarch


Your source for everything Monarch


Your source for everything Monarch


Bondin’ over bots

From heart surgery to t-shirt cannons, Robotics Club does it all

3,300 robots. 83,000 high school students.

All competing to climb to the top.

“Build a robot with your resources.”

Those are the only instructions given to students in the Monarch Robotics Club when entering annual state and national competitions. The directions stay the same whether the robot’s purpose is to perform a mock brain biopsy or shoot T-shirts into the crowd at school events.

For the vast majority of high school students, this would sound intimidating. For Zoe Kugler ‘25, the uncertainty of the challenge brings her a thrilling feeling that keeps her coming back for more. She doesn’t hesitate at the opportunity to work with her hands to create a functioning robot.

“We aren’t given any specific parts. We get to use whatever we want,” Kugler said. “So there’s a lot more room for creativity.”

The challenges that come along with building a robot go beyond just the classroom, though. BEST Robotics (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) is a competition where students are given a specific theme and a set amount of time to create a robot.

In 2023, their task was to create a robot that could perform an imitation heart surgery and brain biopsy. And it was no easy task.

It’s just completely different from what you’d get in any other classes. You can pretty much do whatever. It’s really creative

— Devin Scarisbrick ‘24

“Our robot had to simulate removing plaque from arteries and replacing heart valves,” Shane Stalter, the advisor of the robotics program, said.

The tasks assigned to students in the robotics program demonstrate important real-life situations, using nothing but the materials that they purchase online and their own hands. The students are given a limited amount of money to buy necessary equipment and are then sent on the mission to use those materials to create an accurate and functioning robot in only 8 weeks. This robot will then be put to the test against thousands of other high schools.

“The robotics competitions are usually task-based. There’s usually a theme,” Stalter said. “This year’s theme was heart surgery. Students researched how robotics are used in surgical teams.”

The stakes are high when there are 3,300 other schools working on creating a robot under the same exact theme, but it all comes down to who can use their resources the most effectively and creatively.

“We have to think of ingenious solutions in order to do BEST because there are some parts we don’t have,” Kugler said. “We have to figure out what other parts we can use to make things work.”

Robotics is about making use of all different kinds of materials. There are complex tools and materials that come into play when building and programming.

“Mecanum wheels are essentially wheels with a bunch of other wheels on the outside so it can move in any direction,”

Devin Scarisbrick ‘24 said. “Tank drive is just you have two sets of treads, and both go forward. To turn, you control the opposite wheels. Like, to turn left, you have the left wheel go forward and right backwards.”

Competing is chaotic and stressful, but the rewarding feeling of completing the task is why they continue to work hard and raise the bar each year.

“When you first look at the challenge, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have no idea how we’re going to do that,’” Kugler said.

“‘That looks so hard.’ Like, how do you get a robot to grab onto a chain and then lift itself up off the ground? But then you kind of like to break it down into small steps, and it’s really cool to see how it all comes together.”

No matter how hard the theme sounds, the anticipation and excitement that come along with competitions are the appeal for students in Robotics Club. The club goes beyond just creating robots with intimidating themes, though. After competing in the contests, club members get to play around and create any robots they want.

“It’s just completely different from what you’d get in any other classes,” Devin Scarisbrick ‘24 said. “You can pretty much do whatever. It’s really creative.”

The robotics club’s newest project is their T-Shirt Cannon. The group worked together for two months to create an exciting experience at sporting events and help the club gain new members.

“It was started a few years ago by seniors who have long since graduated,” Kugler said. “Last year we started to work on it because we weren’t competing, so we rebuilt it.”

Robotics Club is not just about the materials given or the time allotted. It’s about the teamwork. Members focus on their respective components of each creation, tailored to their areas of expertise. They communicate through text to make sure every part of the robot is functioning properly.

“It’s hard to solve the problems individually. You need many people to solve the problems that we experience through the creation of our robots,” Kugler said. “Robotics makes me a more efficient and productive communicator.”

The club teaches high school students valuable life skills that will come in handy later on. Students bond with one another and learn all of the different ways that teamwork makes things easier.

“It helps me branch out and talk to many different people,” Kugler said. “You can’t solve a lot of problems on your own.”

For the members of the club, robotics is a place of comfort; a place where they can connect through their shared interest and creativity. This is why they often stick with it for their whole high school career.
“I took Mr. Stalter’s Intro to Engineering class when I was a freshman, and I really enjoyed it,” Kugler said. “I just like working with my hands and like trying to solve things. If something doesn’t go how you want it to, you think about different ways to fix it.”

With the number of people putting their hard work into creating a robot, the project gets done more quickly, and along with it comes the rewarding feeling of a job well done. Now they have several functional robots and new, invaluable bonds with their teammates.

“We built the T-Shirt Cannon because it’s cool, but also because it shows people the cool stuff we actually do,” Kugler said.

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