Robotics starts new team training amidst COVID-19 restrictions

New robotics members received team training on Thursday, Nov. 19 for the upcoming 2021 season

Gabby Delpleash, JagWire reporter/photographer

The robotics team started their training for new members of the marketing and mechanical subteams on Thursday, Nov. 19. Team training was in-person— members wore masks and were limited to two classrooms for training, unlike previous years where the full team met and was allowed three classrooms for orientation. While training may have looked a little different from the past years because of the pandemic, their objective remained the same: preparing its members for the team’s build season.

Robotics co-president Courtney Mahugu was enthusiastic about the turnout of new members who attended training since last season’s recruitment period got cut short

“We’re still around the same number of kids that we had last year on robotics,” Mahugu said. “The hardest part about recruiting new members this year is keeping them interested, since we can’t do as much of the fun things that we used to be able to do.”

COVID-19 has forced robotics to make many colossal changes to the functionality of the team as well as the robot the team plans to compete with for this year’s season. The 2020 competitive season was suspended and then later cancelled by “FIRST Robotics Competition”, according to returning member and marketing leader sophomore Connor Bauer. As for the 2021 season, all regional competitions are currently set to take place remotely until further notice.

During a normal year, the robotics team assembles together and spends all of first semester building, wiring, and programming a brand new robot to bring to regionals during the second semester. Due to the pandemic, the team has cut their weekly meetings in half and have decided to make modifications to last year’s robot that never got the opportunity to compete.

“[As of right now] we’re not going to be able to physically attend regionals and most likely not be able to show off our robot at competitions against other school’s [robots] because COVID cases are just so high at the moment,” Bauer said. “The pandemic is almost going to completely take out the competitive aspect of this year’s season”.

Freshman Ashlyn Bellmyer, a new member of the marketing team, looks forward to robotics this year because of how it will get her more involved with the creative side of engineering and technology.

“I heard that marketing was full of different things you could do [such as] designing and photography,” Bellmyer said. “I’m looking forward to designing the new backboard for [our robot]”.

With the exception of the marketing team, leaders and mentors of the electrical, mechanical, and programming subgroups have experienced frustrating setbacks as a result of the new lack of monthly practices, according to robotics co-president Alex Whipple.

“We have meetings every other week which hurts a ton. I’m the programming lead so I do a lot of the programming side and it’s important to make sure you’re brushing up on your skills every other day at minimum,” Whipple said. “Because we only meet every other week, it makes it a lot harder for new members to grasp the concepts of programming because they’re only getting half of the training that they should be getting.”

Despite the various changes the robotics team has made during their build season, Mahugu and Bauer remain optimistic about the team’s future.

“With the modifications that the mechanical team is currently making to last year’s robot, it’s going to make [this year’s robot] a lot better and more robust,” Bauer said. “We’re able to see what we did wrong and what we could’ve done better last year so we can fix those things for this year and be more confident in what we’re competing with, if and when we go to regionals.”

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