This year, the Carmel High School robotics team will be attending the FIRST Robotics San Francisco Regional for the first time on March 8, and will be returning to the FIRST Robotics Silicon Valley Regional starting on March 29 where they have previously won the Chairman’s Award.
Robotics—the technology, study, construction, design and use of robots—has been competing at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology competitions since 2006. The team not only builds and codes for the robot, but also travels to other local schools to introduce them to robotics.
Both of the regionals are held by FIRST, an organization that puts an emphasis on inspiring young people to be leaders in the science and technology field. More than 40 teams will be competing at each of the two competitions, and most teams originate from the Silicon Valley and San Francisco area, although some teams originate as far away as China and Turkey.
“Last year we won one of the most prestigious awards at the competition, the regional Chairman’s Award, for our community outreach, for what our team has done to promote STEM education,” club captain Abby Lambert says.
According to robotics coach Tom Clifford, last year at the national competition in St. Louis, Missouri, the team slipped away from first place in the seventh out of 10 rounds due to mechanical error, but placed 15th overall out of the 100 teams.
More than 50 students have worked on this year’s CHS robot.
“The first part of it is to build a robot, but there’s a lot more to it,” Clifford says. “They want you to have a team that encourages people to participate. They want you to reach out to elementary schools, to high schools, to work on fundraising, to think about it from an entrepreneurial standpoint instead of just a high school project.”
The team gets six weeks to build the robot, and each year there is a different task that the robot must achieve. This year’s objective is to collect balls (fuel) and transfer them to a container (boiler) in order to build pressure, while gears are delivered to the pilots to start the rotor for the airship. After this, the robot needs to hold onto ropes before the match is finished.
“The cool thing is that it’s not a typical school assignment, because the teacher doesn’t know what the outcome is going to be, so it is very open ended and a good learning experience,” Clifford says.
Last year, the club took 28 students—more than the team has ever brought before to the FIRST Competition that is held at UC Davis.
“I don’t care if we win,” robotics coach and engineering teacher Paul McFarlin says. “What it’s all about is what the students get out of the building and the experience and the inspiration.”
FIRST describes the Chairman’s Award as the most esteemed award, given to the team that other groups should emulate in their community outreach and robot.
“The students that like it seem to become really passionate about it, and many leave the high school wanting to become engineers,” Clifford says.
If the team clinches first place in one of the regionals, they will be able to go to the FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas, in April.
Senior Jack Brewer, the leader of the team’s construction and build of the robot, says, “We want to win our regional, which is really hard, but we’re going to go for it.”