Congratulations to Episcopal's KnightVision 3991! The Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Upper School robotics team recently won the 2017 Red Stick Rumble held at Woodlawn High School on August 26.
If you’ve never been to a robotics competition, imagine a high energy, intense, competitive atmosphere with students scrambling to complete delicate tasks with a robot they only had six weeks to build. This season, students had to program their machine to cross the field of competition, pick up gears and place them precisely to activate a group of rotors. Once complete, the robot then had to finish by hanging upside down in the arena - no easy feat for 100 pounds of metal! Did I mention, these are teenagers who are building, programming, piloting, driving and working together to accomplish these feats?
It takes tremendous teamwork to bring these amazing machines to life. During competition season, we eat, sleep and breathe robotics. Team members spend countless hours together outside of the regular school day fabricating and testing the robot. Team parents bring us snacks or run to the store for extra parts. For everyone there is a sense of pride and ownership that comes from working toward a common goal.
In robotics, teamwork also extends well beyond individual schools and teams. In the final rounds of any competition, teams are paired up into alliances comprised of three teams which then compete for victory as one larger team. This setup allows for unprecedented teamwork and cooperation in a competitive setting. For example, KnightVision was able to come to the rescue of a fellow Red Stick competitor by loaning them a piece of equipment they needed to complete their next round. We were also the benefactor of such teamwork when our robot’s gears began to heat up during the last rounds and another team stepped up to help us with a quick fix, allowing us to continue on.
The Red Stick Rumble victory was especially sweet for our KnightVision seniors. “We’ve gone to the same competitions for four years and we’ve made it to the finals every year and were just barely out. It’s good to finally win,” says Rohit Gondi. There are 20 students on team KnightVision, spanning all four years of Upper School. These students take on roles such as pilot, driver, programmer and drive coach. Team members Will Bodron, Marcus Botos and Logan Robertson all reported a sense of accomplishment after the win. “This is something we’ve worked on since January,” said Bodron, who is in his senior year. Logan Robertson, who is also a senior and a new member of the team, says he’s glad he joined after seeing the action.
Aside from creating camaraderie and a cohesive team, robotics is also a great opportunity for students to flex their future engineering muscle. While Bodron, Botos and Robertson may have different feelings about math and science they all agree that robotics makes learning fun. Meanwhile, Gondi says he most enjoys the competitive environment, the constant need for improvement and the workload during the season. All of the time and dedication poured into a robotics team can certainly have long term benefits as well. Listing participation on a school’s robotics team is definitely a plus for students when applying to a college. In addition, there are millions of dollars in robotic scholarships available each year.
On August 26th, KnightVision wasn’t thinking along those lines. The team was simply focused on getting the robot to obey their commands. Our first Red Stick Rumble victory caps off the end of this season’s robotics competition and we will retire this robot on a high note, having put up the highest scoring match of the day several times.
A new season kicks off again on January 6th when the teams are issued a new challenge to build a new robot to accomplish new feats. Like this past season, we’ll have six weeks to build the machine and prepare for battle in hopes of making it to the Einstein round of the world finals. As Gondi puts it, the team will need to strategize better and work faster and more efficiently in order to compete at this level. I know we are up to the challenge!
If you’d like to join us in next year’s challenge please contact me or any member of the KnightVision team
Melissa Estremera is the Upper School Science, Math and Creativity Instigator for Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. In this position she helps enhance curriculum, develops inquiry based lessons and assists teachers in integrating STEM into their classrooms. Additionally, she is the head mentor for FRC Knightvision, Episcopal's high school robotics team, and directs the ESTAAR program, a supervised science research program for Upper School students. Although Melissa originally worked in research and development in the medical industry, she transitioned to education because she loves working with students and developing their interests in research, computer science and engineering. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and a Master of Education in School Administration from Regent University.