Much has happened since the formation of the Highland Robotics Team. In 2008, we became involved in the FIRST Robotics program. In our team’s first year, we only had eight students and a few adults. The schools’ new technology teacher, Mr. Matheou, informed us of the opportunities the FIRST Program had to offer. Once the school decided that the Highland Robotics program would become a reality, word spread. Anybody who heard about the program from Mr. Matheou eagerly jumped in at the opportunity to participate and, more importantly, learn. What really drew these students in was not just the idea of being on a beneficial team. The thing that appealed to our original members was the newfound opportunity to apply the math and science skills they never had a chance to use at any other time in their lives.
Even today, the students on the team are attracted to these aspects of the program. The Highland Robotics Team provides students a chance to utilize some of the most important knowledge taught in school to create something worthwhile. At the same time, these students learn how to solve problems with the new understanding and skills they obtain by actively participating. This team has helped multiple students become better leaders, students, and enthusiastic learners.
The Robotics program has helped us grow as a team. It has provided an environment for meeting like minded people and also showed us how to properly work with people of differing personalities. It has even helped us learn how to work with others in stressful situations because of constant problems we are faced with, such as trying to meet deadlines despite an endless list of technical setbacks. It is evident in the students’ performance on the team that they enjoy this type of hands-on learning and taking on these difficult challenges.
Many things need to be accomplished to build a functional robot. This program is especially rewarding because students in every level of the high school can participate. From the young freshmen, who are just beginning to develop their skills needed to succeed in life, to seniors, who are only months away from graduating, all students can use their knowledge to help create something incredible. The goal of producing the best robot and the inherent need to cooperate and work together with their peers has provided the members of the team with valuable lifelong skills and lessons that will help them in the future.
The Highland Robotics program has served our students well. Through this program, students can improve the skills most important to them. Students who programmed their calculators have joined the programming team and learned advanced programming techniques ranging from applied calculus to toggle buttons. Students who tinker with their computers, over-clocking and swapping ram cards, are now playing with spike relays and electronic distribution boards. In the weeks prior to the build season, every sub-team goes through an intensive student-lead teaching regiment to learn the concepts of their respective sub-teams. The students are given an outlet for their talents and creativity in a place where they can thrive.
FIRST Robotics sent a flurry of activity into motion for the love of technology and science. Shortly after the formation of our first team, the same students who were participating in FIRST Robotics were working with their younger siblings and other middle-school students for Robofest, another robotics event sponsored by Case Western Reserve University. The desire to try different positions and roles that FIRST has to offer eventually led to the creation of a robotics class, which focuses on allowing students to try everything from programming to physics. The second semester class participated in VEX and a large portion of the team went to the world championship in the first year, and placed in the top 25%.
FIRST has given a vision of fair play to many people on our team. The ideals of gracious professionalism are accepted by the teammates wholeheartedly. Last year, while waiting in line to compete, one of the competitors’s robot lost communications. We stepped up and connected them to our driver-station to help diagnose the problem which was successful even at the cost of disrupting our own robotic communications. Even though this was a risk to our own competition, we were happy to help the other team. We were able to solve our own problem in time to continue competing. We lost this round but we all agree it was better than wining or losing because of technical malfunction. We offered the coder our website involving abstract programming constructions. This ranged from programs utilizing calculus to prevent slipping to ones that make the robot drive in a straight line. We compete with everything we have but fair play is important when helping a fallen comrade.
FIRST has taught many of us leadership skills that are invaluable. We are a student lead team, with students leading each of our sub-teams including mechanical, electrical and programming. We had 2 eagle scouts during this time and we strive to develop both people and time management skills. The 6 week build season means organization is critical to success and so each team leader generates reports containing challenges and successes they are currently dealing with and makes it available to other members of the team. This is important because it allows all team members stay informed and communicates the progress of each team.