HomeClubsCHS robotics team faces challenges with leadership while preparing for February competition

CHS robotics team faces challenges with leadership while preparing for February competition

Published Nov. 8, 2023


After complications earlier this school year with establishing a club adviser following the departure of a longtime mentor, the Carmel High School robotics team is getting ready to compete with the engineering and computer science teacher, who worked with the club last year, as their lead mentor now.

Since the robotics team was founded in 2007, Tom Clifford, a computer science teacher and a founder of the robotics team, had helped and mentored the team. The 2021-22 school year was Clifford’s final year teaching, but he continued mentoring the club, Team 2035, last year. 

With a desire to pursue other things and let the team grow without him, Clifford stepped away after last season, and the position was still open this fall.

“My heart is definitely still a part of the team,” Clifford says. “I do think it’s an amazingly powerful program.”

Clymer initially expressed some hesitancy when determining whether to become the adviser for the club. The team went through an interview process to find a replacement, but unbeknownst to students at the time, their mentor had to be a credentialed teacher.

Members from Team 2035 last year work on their robot during the FIRST Robotics Competition for Sacramento Regionals. (photo by LUCIANO SMITH)

“We had some people who were interested in being mentors, so we wanted to pursue that,” Clymer says. “We set up an interview process to see what our options were…but it took a little longer than it normally would and some things slipped through the cracks.”

The early confusion within the program didn’t allow ample time to register and prepare for CalGames, a competition held Oct. 6-8 in which the robotics team usually competes. Since the registration due date had already passed by the time Clymer became the adviser, the club wasn’t able to compete.

“Usually at the beginning of the year we do a lot of onboarding stuff as well as upgrading the robot for CalGames, but we weren’t able to do CalGames [this year], and we had to postpone training until now,” says sophomore Galen Spooner, the lead programmer for Team 2035. 

The new adviser is trying to create a more structured environment for the purpose of growing and expanding the team. 

“The reason [structure] is useful is because it would allow us to grow our team,” Clymer says. “There would be more opportunities for people to be involved and contribute. One of my big goals is to create an environment where as many people as possible can contribute meaningfully.”

The team is currently preparing to compete at the Silicon Valley Regionals on Feb. 29 in San Jose and the Monterey Bay Regionals on March 27 in Seaside for the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international high school robotics competition. Team 2035’s focus is training and recruiting new students through department meetings, with these departments including electrical programming, mechanical and build.

“Now that things have smoothed out, I believe that this year will be a strong one due to our team’s growth,” says junior Roy Reneker, the co-captain and project manager of the team. “We have a lot of younger students that we hope to see participate this season, which will help keep the team going in the future.”

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