“I like the students to think of [Robotics Team] like a sport,” said Robotic Team advisor Thomas Cooper. “They come every day to practice so they can build something.”
Mr. Cooper has been running the robotics team for several years now, but for him, running the team usually means just going along for the ride. He likes to watch his students figure out how to solve the problems they encounter, driven by the thrill of competition.
“We’re growing as engineers, students, and friends,” said senior Duncan Park, the captain of the team, with a bit of a joking tone. But as cheesy as that may sound, it’s actually true. When I came to observe their practice Thursday afternoon, I expected to be greeted with a bunch of kids silently programming their robots. Instead, I found them all laughing and joking with each other as they worked.
The team is doing a lot of really incredible stuff. They design, build, and program their own robots in the Makerspace, and they bring them to local competitions to battle with robots from other schools.
Junior Nikita Gupta told me that at each of their tournaments, they have won two rounds and lost two rounds. “We’re still trying to figure out our strategies and our programming,” she said.
As for strategy, Mr. Cooper sees himself as a facilitator rather than someone who tells them what to do. He’s comfortable with them failing on the path to getting things right.
According to freshman Davis Haden, this freedom to fail “helps with critical thinking.” He likes that his time in the makerspace is more interactive than many other school activities.
Not only that, but it also builds on knowledge they learn in the classroom. “It’s a good way to apply all of computer science and math and physics classes I’m taking,” Duncan said. Now in his fourth year on the team, he is starting to look towards his future in college and beyond, and he is considering a possible career in engineering. For now, he gets to have fun with his last year of Robotics Team.
For Duncan, the essence of the team is getting to “hang out with great people, build stuff, use tools, and think through mechanical problems.”
They asked me to say that the Robotics Team is looking for someone to serve as team manager. They do not have to know how to program or engineer or anything like that: they would just take stats and scores for the team during their weekend competitions. If you’re interested, contact Mr. Cooper.
At the heart of it, the Robotics Team is just like any sports team: they work together, figure out their techniques, and have fun hanging out with each other.
“I enjoy being on the team because I get to hang out with my friends,” said sophomore Xander Williams. At that point, two more of the team members came into the Makerspace, and Xander joked, “Nevermind. They’re frustrating people!”