Zachary VanKirk teaches physics, calculus, and robotics at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. He has a Master’s degree in Physical Ocean Science and Engineering from the University of Delaware and a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Political Science from the State University of New York at Geneseo. He is interested in teaching science through inquiry, involving students in applied research projects, and advocating for equality in science and engineering.
We estimate that we used over 5000 aluminum and steel rivets in building (and rebuilding) this year’s FRC competition robot. Our team members spent well over 600 hours brainstorming, designing, building, programming, testing, rinsing, and repeating. Their passion, dedication, willingness to learn from their mistakes, and unrelenting optimism enabled the team to achieve its best results to date: a regional victory and successful trip to the World Championships in Houston.
On Wednesday April 19th, 11 young engineers (and a few old ones) from the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge loaded into black vans and made the journey to the George R. Brown Convention center in Houston, TX. There, approximately 400 of the best teams from around the world gathered to form alliances and compete in this year’s game, FIRST Steamworks. KnightVision joined teams from Australia, Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, China, the United Kingdom, and other nations. Six game fields filled the entire bottom floor of the almost absurdly large (over a quarter mile long!) building, each field named after a famous scientist or engineer. We were placed in the Roebling division, named for the designer and builder of the Brooklyn bridge. It was a powerful and awe inspiring experience for myself, Coach Bowman, and the team. The Knights made a very impressive showing in competition, achieving a record of 5-4-1 and ranking 26 out of 66 teams in our division. Although we did not advance to Einstein Field at Minute Maid Park, we are sure that our indestructible bot, expert driving, and all around great performance played some role in preparing the winning alliance from our division to eventually win it all.
Teachers at Episcopal are constantly working to make classes more project based and student driven. The robotics team defines these ideas. Students learn because they are passionate and each failure is a stepping stone to success. This year’s robot is truly a product of the students who designed, built, and programmed it. I am proud and thankful beyond words for the students, parents, sponsors, mentors, coaches, and administrators who made this journey possible. Congratulations KnightVision!
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