Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 8:58 pm

Clubs: Robotics Team

Time: Monday thru Friday, 3 6 p.m.
Place: Room 361
Sponsor: Erik Lodal
President: Eric Huang
Senior Katherine Bertaut stands on a table with a gaggle of noses staring up at her sneakers. "In case you hadn't noticed, it's the last week of build season!" she says, and if the room was loud before, it is a circus now.

Thus is the scene at Robotics Club, a student-run team whose mission is to dissect and discover firsthand the anatomy of a robot, the end result being local and national competitions. For now, their focus is on the US FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Overdrive competition, which takes place every February. "Essentially the fall is build-up to the FIRST build season," says Bertaut, team captain.

The FIRST competition involves a different game each year, and the challenge is to build a robot that suits the parameters of the game. In January, the team receives specifics from FIRST, and the next month and a half is a fast-paced whirl of robotic design. "We have six weeks to build a robot, then we ship it off and we don't see it again until the competition," Bertaut says.

For those six weeks, the approximately 20 team members see a lot of each other. They meet at least six days a week - every day after school and for six hours on Saturdays. "A lot of us get over 100 hours here," says junior Karin Luk, a "veteran" member who joined her freshman year.

But the time constraints do not outweigh the benefits of the experience, Luk says. She can only describe the feeling of being at a competition as "awesome." "It's chaos all the time. But it's the cool kind of chaos," she says. Among hoards of talented and like-minded youth, sportsmanship is key. "Everyone helps everyone else. It's part of the game."

The 2008 game involves a giant track ball, about the weight of a small child, according to Luk. At the competition, robots will be required to move the ball around the course or toss it over a bar; the Blair team must brainstorm with both skills in mind. To ease the building process, the club is divided into five specialties: drive, electronics, programming, specialties and scouting. Each group tests pieces individually, and the team can then pick and choose their favorite parts.

Because Blair's team lacks the major funding and resources that some of its competitors have, it has not seen much success since the club started in 2000. Luk calls it a "win-win" situation though, because "we've certainly learned a lot."

For more information, including videos and a weekly blog, visit the Robotics Club's web site , which is maintained by members of the team.

If interested in joining Robotics, please contact senior Katheine Bertaut or junior Karin Luk.

Club beat by Sophie Schwadron