With March also comes “March Madness”, and while basketball is definitely a big sport for the third month of the year, there is another sport that is kicking off its competitive season, during March.
Hundreds of high school students who are part of First Robotics Teams are getting ready to compete in the Central Valley regional competition. For these technologically inclined students, the competition is the start of the road, that could lead them to the World championships.
“It’s fun, and these kid find a second home at our shop,” said Dimple Ravuri with Buchanan High’s First Robotics Team. “They want to stay here. Mr. Lake has to yell at us to leave, because we don’t want to go home. We don’t want to do homework, we want to keep doing this.”
Dimple made that statement on a Friday night, when most high school students would be out with friends, or attending a game. The team calls themselves the Buchanan Birdbrains, and they are members of the World Champion First Robotics Competition Team.
“The mission of First Robotics is to try to change our culture to one where science and technology and creativity are celebrated, as much as prowess on the football team or being a movie star.” said Team Advisor Paul Lake.
The club is student-driven, with students running the show, including a Chief Technical Officer.
“I manage the entire side of the team making sure we are staying on track the six weeks of build season.” said Juan Cortez.
In addition, the team also has a Chief Communications Officer to help market the team, and find corporate sponsors. After all, competition is not cheap.
“To even finish a robot, we need both public relations side and the technical side working together,” said Dimple, “And that’s what catches people by surprise, is that even though it’s a robotics program, it teaches so much more.”
This is a club where all kids can find their place. They work in Electronics, Fabrication, Computer Aided Design, or Programming. for Patrick Youssef and another student, they are using their skills to build a computerized numerical control machine for the team.
“We kind of realized that there was a need to make parts in-house, and we needed to make them precise, so we knew we needed a computer cutting machine, and get it up as fast as we could.” said Youssef.
The team is working to build robots designed to compete, under deadline pressure. The model, of course, has to be ready in time for competition.
“When we go to the championships, and there are 600 of the best teams in the world bringing 20 to 30 students, and the St. Louis Dome where the St. Louis Rams play is cleared out for an robotics event, the scale of that can’t be expressed in words.” said Youssef.
In 2015, Buchanan High’s team ended up on the alliance of teams that took home the titled World Champions.
“We have so many great kids on this team, and I think do we just attract great kids, or do we take normal everyday kids and make them great.” said Lake.
Besides competitions, First Robotics Teams also support programs at the Elementary School level by mentoring First Lego League teams.