One minute and fifteen seconds. That doesn’t sound like a very long time – but when you are controlling a piece of equipment in which you have put months of time and effort, those few seconds can feel like forever. According to Junior and Robotics team member Winston Cadwell, driving one of the White Mountain School’s student designed robots can be both a nerve-wracking and formative experience.
Winston and others did just this a few weeks ago at the VEX Robotics Qualifier in Cape Elizabeth, Maine on November 19th. Not only did White Mountain students (and their robot) win first place overall in qualification matches against thirty other teams, but they also won the first place prize in the play-off finals as well.
“After we arrived and had an inspection (robots have to be a certain size), we competed in about seven or eight qualification matches which were two-on-two contest with a randomly assigned partner from a different school. The goal was to use our robots to launch plastic star pieces and larger bean bag squares across a wall to the other side. Stars were worth one point and bags two – if we sent them far enough across the wall we could double those points,” said Freshman Nathaniel Clement, a rising robotics star.
The White Mountain Robotics team, this year, has endless potential. Already looking forward to the summer, Winston and Nathaniel were discussing this year’s Robotics Nationals event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, when I met up with the two of them during a robotics club meeting. “If you do well in the normal season of regional qualifier events, a team can be invited to both Nationals and Worlds…if we did as well as we did last weekend, we would have a chance to win it all,” said Winston as he adjusted a chain in his prize winning bot.
Hand in hand with its immense success, the White Mountain Robotics Team has recently magnified in size. Since the recent win, the team has grown to host a total of three robots with ten students overall in the group. These students not only build their own bots, but also write the code that gives directional capabilities between the micro controller they use and the robot itself. Basically, our students really do start from scratch when building these autonomous machines.
Like many hobbies, Robotics seems to require a lot of time and energy all for a quick one minute and fifteen second round of mechanical competition (well, there are multiple of these rounds during one robotics event). But like Winston said, those seconds can feel like forever. In watching the robotics team craft their robot, discuss the code they were writing and engaging with one another and their subject, I started to realize that the group represented, maybe, a little more than just first place finishes in regional competitions. They worked together, laughed and puzzled. they created something bigger than themselves – something that makes time itself feel just a little longer, a little less mechanical and motorized and rigid.
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By Eliot Taft, Assistant Director of Admission & Communication