Mount Everett Area Schools Robotics Club students and club mentor Chris Thompson pose with the robot they created. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Sheffield—— Since 2008, students at Mount Everett Regional School have learned about technology through the school’s robotics club. This year’s club is made up of 17 middle and high school students who come together to design and build robots and compete against other New England school clubs.
When Berkshire Edge visited the club on Wednesday, January 18, students and club instructor Chris Thompson were busy assembling their robots for the VEX Spin Up competition at Middletown, Connecticut High School on Saturday, January 28, VEX Robotics is a national program that includes competitions and programs managed by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation.
“We have some very busy kids,” Thompson said, as some students scrambled around the clubhouse to assemble parts of their robots. “Robotics involves computer science programming and mechanical engineering. These are things that are likely to happen in the future in terms of student employment. But beyond that, critical thinking skills and teamwork all help kids use robots creatively. The general ability to express oneself.” Thompson said robotics involves more than just learning technology. “Putting the robot together also builds confidence,” Thompson said. “Assembling robots isn’t just about the technical side. It’s also got a lot of the human side. I think throughout the time that this club works, the students tend to grow as a person. But the whole idea of competitive robots is to try to bring out the pro sports leagues in our culture. The attention, the interest and the excitement we get in the world, but take it to the sciences.”
For the upcoming competition, the 17 players will be divided into five different teams, each controlling a different robot. Each robot will compete against other robots in a 12-foot by 12-foot arena where the robots pick up and shoot discs into hoops for points. “It’s kind of like Frisbee golf,” Thompson said.
Students who join the club learn a variety of skills, including 14-year-old freshman Ben Vella. “I learned a lot about engineering skills, especially problem solving,” Ben said. “Our robot encountered some difficulties here and there. However, we have been able to overcome these difficulties and solve them by coming up with great solutions.”
Ben said that he intends to work in the technology field in the future. “I’m looking forward to getting into this club and maybe even going into my senior year,” Ben said.
“Assembling a robot is a difficult thing,” said 14-year-old freshman Kai Hohlstein. “But if you have a good team, it’s more fun. I learned a lot about the importance of practice on the technical side in order to make things work. It’s a different medium than what I’m used to, but it’s fun. “
Student Sophie Delmasto, 15, said she learned a lot about time management as part of the club. “It’s all about time commitment,” Sophie said. “It’s also about a love of engineering. As a kid, I really enjoyed playing with Lego. It’s nice to play with bigger Lego.”