Robotics team utilizes online tools to prepare for upcoming competitions

The robotics team celebrates during a 2019 competition.

The robotics team celebrates during a 2019 competition.

The 2020 robotics team is looking a little differently this year because of COVID-19. The team meetings and competitions have all been impacted as well as welcoming new members. Head mentor Kenton Swartley and returning 525 robotics member sophomore Hannah Batterson share ways the team has coped with these changes. 

“At this point, FIRST is not planning to have in person FRC competitions this year. They will reevaluate in January to see if the situation has improved enough to allow for these events in a modified form. If they do end up approving the events, they will be smaller events with fewer spectators and teams. They will likely also be scheduled for later in the school year,” Swartley said. 

With the uncertainty of FRC competitions, they have alternated to other features within FIRST, one of them being a Innovation Challenge. This allows the teams to find a problem within the community and work together to solve it and submit a proposal of this solution.

“One of our new features for teams is to work together to design a robot game for a future season. Teams can submit their proposals, and awards will be given to teams with the best submissions,” Swartley said.

“A third feature is At Home Robot challenges that teams can do with their robots. This will involve teams showing the capabilities of their robot and submitting this information,” Swartley said. 

The team has had limited in-person meetings at their build site with a 10 student limit and have made use of Zoom although they have faced some complications with participation and attendance within these Zooms. 

“This has made it much more difficult to welcome new team members and get them connected to our team,” Swarley said.

FIRST members are rolling with the changes, and Batterson has been looking at it as a time to learn. “Although it is sad to not be able to attend in-person competitions, I am excited to continue learning with my team about all the aspects of FIRST and helping other teams do the same. I would say I’m handling these changes well!,” Batterson said. 

With these challenges, Swartley said he wants to keep his students involved and learning. “We are looking for ways to engage students, especially by planning Zoom sessions for some of our work groups to get together. We have held some in person sessions with limited numbers and masks required. We are also doing more training sessions through Zoom to help students learn, especially with CAD training,” Swartley said.

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