Last month, FIRST Robotics world champions, Bellarmine College Preparatory, invited Menlo-Atherton High School, as well as 30 other robotics teams, to two days of intense competition in San Jose. Approximately 1,000 attendees celebrated the culmination of months of student efforts to design, build, and refine their robot. M-A successfully focused on new driver training and exploring alternative strategies at the competition in readiness for the 2016 season.
FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international robotics organization with several tiers of competition. The FRC designation is the most advanced level. At this year’s event at Bellarmine, there were eight past and current world champions competing.
“We had a chance to show new team members how rigorous a robotics competition is. It takes everything —a year’s worth of work in management, design, and teamwork. It all goes into a two-minute skirmish. It was great,” said junior Skylar MacMillan (pictured above pushing robot), President of Team 766, the FRC team from M-A.
Witnessing the work and investment of other teams allowed Team 766 members to see opportunities for growth and improvement. “It helped us focus on where we are as a team and where we can do better. Losing all the seniors [from last season] was a setback, but I feel that we have a lot of people who can step up to the challenge,” noted Ritwik Kesavath, a senior and Club Treasurer.
Outside of scrimmages, the Robotics team has been hard at work fundraising and expanding their membership. It is a technical challenge to create a fully functioning robot in 6 weeks, but it is an equally daunting to raise the $40,000 needed to maintain a competitive team.
It is made easier with the generous assistance of local sponsors such as Google, Intuitive Surgical, SRI, and the Abbott Fund, but students must still raise over 30% of the yearly budget. The team is making some headway. On August 24th, Skylar MacMillan and this author gave a presentation to the Lions Club of Menlo Park, who generously donated $250 to Team 766.
In addition, an LED light bulb fundraiser is coming to an end, which aggregated over $10,000 for the club in the past year. MacMillan describes the effort as “…the most effective student fundraising movement that M-A Robotics has ever had.”
The team is currently looking for new recruits and encourages prospectivementors to contact them at email@example.com.