Published by Bridget White ('14) on December 15, 2011 A few weeks ago, I sat in on a meeting of the school’s Robotics Club. Upper School kids of all grades filtered in and took their respective places. This was their first meeting, and it mostly consisted of introductions and overviews. This year, the new addition was the Public Relations branch. As the club members spit-balled about marketing tactics, I realized I truly didn’t know anything about the Robotics Club, except for what the name implies.
As it turns out, last year, Seattle Academy’s Robotics Club was able to attend the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis last year. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization designed to get kids involved in science and technology, often through robotics. The Robotics Club’s team, Sector SAAS, competes in what’s called the FIRST Tech Challenge. They have several mentors to provide insight on various complications they might experience. The mentor they most frequently interact with is Larry Ryan, an alum parent (Page Ive ’10) and retired electrical engineer from HP. That being said, I still had more questions about each team member’s role.
“I write code for the driver controlled period and the autonomous period,” said Alec Guthrie ’14, who joined the club last year. The aforementioned terms, he explained, just mean when the driver controls the robot and when it is moving by itself. Alec claimed he got his start in programming in 8th grade through Max Chen ’14, whom he has known since elementary school. Max, on the other hand, claimed he had gotten his start through Alec. Both took software development last year, and the Robotics Club seemed like the next logical step to continue programming in addition to their personal side projects.
Alec and Max agreed that they do a lot of debugging code while Morgan Gellert ’13 does a lot of writing it. Morgan can’t help being good at what he does. He has been doing it since he took an elementary school Lego robotics class, the same class he now teaches in the summer. He was pretty modest about his accomplishments when I spoke with him, but other members of the club filled me in on his remarkable prowess and work ethic.
These two assets will come in handy at the first competition for Sector SAAS. They’re currently still in the design process for the robot, but they’re beginning to see each individual piece become more and more refined. When it’s finished, the robot will be able to stack storage crates, push around a bowling ball, pick racket balls up off the floor, and place items in taped off squares or storage crates. Each successfully completed action will earn points for the team, advancing them in the competition.
While the design of the robot has yet to be finished, members have noted a drastic improvement in the process and structure of the club. There is a sense of excitement among the members about the upcoming season, in addition to the actual work involved in creating the robot. For many students, the Robotics Club is one of the only opportunities for them to utilize and refine this increasingly useful skill set. In this day and age, with the search for jobs being more competitive than ever, knowledge and experience in robotics could be the defining factors in one’s application for employment. To be naturally good with technology is rare enough, but to be truly passionate about it is to be blessed with an invaluable gift. The members of Sector SAAS seem to have both the the skill and the drive necessary to go far in the FIRST Tech Challenge, in robotics, and in the real world. Those interested in learning about the Robotics Club would be hard pressed to find a better, or more welcoming, group of people to have at their very own school.