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THE HAWKEYE

The Student News Site of Urbana High School

THE HAWKEYE

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CLUB SPOTLIGHT: Robotics Team build season is coming to a close!

Deethya+Bomma+and+Aditi+Senthikumar+working+together+to+make+the+drivetrain+electrical+panel
Lily McKay
Deethya Bomma and Aditi Senthikumar working together to make the drivetrain electrical panel

Engineering, Coding, and Music? The UHS Robotics team is much more than meets the eye! Join in cheering them on this build season as they work on this year’s challenge from the organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), Crescendo!

The Robotics Team involves skills as diverse as programming and construction to marketing and design to finances and communication. According to Aashritha Amirineni (10), “The first thing you see is [that we] build [robots]. You don’t really see the other side like marketing and graphic design.”

The Robotics Team

Every year the Robotics team works together to construct a robot to participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). The three parts of the Robotics team, the Mechanical Team, the Control Team, and the Public Relations Team, work together every year to work at a chance of winning the competition.

The Mechanical Team, headed by the Mechanical Lead Aidan Shranatan, is responsible for the main construction of the robot. Those on the mechanical team focus on using computer aided design (CAD) and the robotics team’s new Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine to construct the robots. The CNC machine is similar to a 3D printer but instead of creating new material it carves into an object to make whatever parts the team needs. According to Aidan the main difficulty comes from “getting participation and time”, but for himself as the mechanical lead it comes down to, “limiting myself from participating to encourage others.”

The Control Team, headed by the Control Lead Nick, is responsible for the coding that goes behind making the robots work. They use Java and Python, computer coding languages, to tell the robots what to do. They work to learn the specific base code behind running the robots and using that to translate into physical movement in the real world.

The Public Relations Team, headed by the Public Relations Lead Richard Gu, is responsible for financing the team and advertising the teams activities. According to Richard Gu  they are also responsible for making sure the team remains sustainable for future years and that it is benefitting the local community at UHS. To raise money they design merchandise as well as writing essays and giving speeches to receive grants to go into designing their robots. Richard Gu this year received a $2,000 grant for the Robotics team from the Maryland Space Business Roundtable.

From Left to Right: Mechanical Lead Aidan Shranatan (11), Partner Relations Lead Richard Gu (11)

Crescendo and the FIRST Robotics Competition

The FIRST Robotics Competition or FRC is an annual international competition where teams compete to construct robots to compete in a set of themed competitions unique each year. This year’s competition, Crescendo, involves creating robots to shoot ‘music notes’ into ‘speakers’ similar to a game of basketball. 

The competition involves over 3,300 competing highschools across 31 different countries but the team remains confident in their ability. Sophomore, Aashritha Amirineni stated, “[The] first year we did really well in our event… This year you never know, we could go to nationals.”

It’s a long road to nationals but one the team has been through before. The team, which started work on their robot on January 6th, hopes to be finished by the end of February to make it into the competition and they are well on their way. Every weekend in March there will be a qualifying event for local regions among highschools. Highschools across Maryland and Virginia will send their robots to qualifiers and the top 30 teams that compete will move on to regionals. The top 10 teams that compete in regionals will then move on to the national competition held in Houston, Texas. 

The Robotics Community

The Robotics Team is far more than just constructing for a competition, as with any club or sport, the robotics team has worked hard to build a community as well. The team really bonds during their build season with all the extra hours everyone puts into staying after school. Outside of just the time they spend together at the school the team will also often host team building events and go out to dinners as a group.

Often for competitions the team will also have to stay overnight on location to be able to participate in a certain event or qualifier. Some of the team’s nest memories included their ties spent together during competitions. Aashritha Amirineni explained it like this, “We get to know each other well, which you don’t really get with other clubs.”

On February 4th the Robotics team also worked to organize and host the FIRST Lego League, an event where many younger students were able to come to get to see robotics done at a highschool level. It allowed promoting STEM learning for children, and it presented a daunting organizational challenge for the Public Relations Team.

Competition between students during the FIRST Lego League event February 4th 2024

Events like the FIRST Lego League, Lego Mindstorm, and Crypto-Camp are opportunities the Robotics Team creates to get more people interested in the STEM field. Many of the events aimed both at teaching as well as having a fun time have allowed many to get involved in the Robotics community. According to Richard Gu, something the team has been focusing on is increasing representation on the Robotics Team as, “STEM has under-represented various groups”. Hosting these events serves to fix this.

Furthermore Aidan Shranatan described how his first experiences in robotics came from these summer camps and lego mindstorm events. According to him these events, “[Show children] the exploration of the STEM field.” Eventually after making it to highschool and because of those events as a child he said that he “Saw an opportunity at the highschool and I took it.” 

Final Thoughts

Contrary to what many, including myself, believed the Robotics team is more than coding and mechanics. It is a club that requires a wide spread of different abilities and anyone can join and get something out of it. 

Richard Gu remarked on how much he has gotten from Robotics saying, “ It has taught me many different skills, like managing finances [and] it has taught me public speaking. “ Similarly Aidan Shranatan remarked that after being in Robotics over the years, “I have learned a lot of new skills, mechanical methods, techniques, and important skills like CNC and CAD.”

In the words of Richard Gu , “It’s not just about building robots, it’s also about making connections, making sure our team is benefiting the community, and overall it’s a really fun experience.” or in the simpler words of Aashritha, “If you want to join robotics, join it!”

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About the Contributor
Jason Holman, Reporter
Jason Holman is a Junior at Urbana High School. In school, you can catch him in the drama department where he devotes much of his time and effort as one of the assistant stage managers. In his free time--he reads, writes, draws, and even acts which is what draws him out from the crowd.     The three things he cannot live without consist of his phone, a book, and something to draw with. When asked what his death row meal would be, he would be satisfied with an Alaskan Crab with old bay, salmon, a baguette, water, rice, and fries.    Who inspires Jason to be who he is today? His mom. “She does a lot and pushes through to help a lot of people. She's a teacher,” her selflessness radiates onto her son too, who gives off such a positive energy in school.   His favorite music artist is Will Wood, an indie folk American singer-songwriter, filmmaker, composer, and comedian. The song he would recommend to anyone would be, “I, Me, Myself.”   Jason sees himself 10 years from now owning his apartment, working as a political science journalist, and accomplishing his goal of learning a new language. 

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