After competing in the FIRST Championship in Houston, the Anthem-area RoBeagles are looking for new students and mentors.
A competitive high school robotics team, students from all schools are accepted. Along with four mentors, the 10 RoBeagles students represent Ridgeline Academy Charter School at Anthem, Boulder Creek and Sandra Day O’Connor High Schools, Union Park School and homeschoolers.
After winning Rookie All-Star, Highest Rookie Seed and Rookie Inspiration awards at their local competitions in Scottsdale and Flagstaff, the new team received an invitation to compete in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Championship in Houston .
FIRST is an international organization that supports STEM and robotics programs – like RoBeagles – for students of all ages by engaging them in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, inspire innovation and promote well-rounded life skills, including self-confidence, communication and leadership.
There they competed with over 450 of the best teams from around the world. They had an average performance, but the experience was more important.
Every January a new challenge is launched and under strict rules, with limited time and resources, high school students and their professional mentors raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills and design, build, and program an industrial-scale robot to play a challenging terrain game with like-minded competitors.
This year’s robotics teams were tasked with building a robot capable of picking up tennis balls and tossing them into tiered bowls, with height and size restrictions for the robot.
The team spent around 20 to 40 hours a week developing Toto, the robot for the 2022 season.
Dylan Whiting and Nolan Locke, both incoming freshmen and members of the RoBeagles, said attending the FIRST Championship was great.
“It was so fun to meet people from all over the world this year. Not just in the United States, but we’ve met people from Israel, Turkey and a bunch of different places,” Dylan said.
“I think it’s a really cool experience that I’m going to do this, and I think it’s a good experience for anyone who’s willing to work hard to do this.”
The members were especially excited to compete against such a diverse, equally dedicated group.
“I think it was fun seeing all the other teams because all the top teams go to the world championships,” Nolan said.
“And a lot of them, we’ve been following them through the season, like watching what they’ve done with their robots, and it’s fun to see them in person.”
The team said the final robot was no easy task and involved a lot of trial and error.
“While we were coming up with designs, we actually came up with a completely different idea for a design,” Nolan said.
“But it was too complicated for what we were trying to do and we worked on it for the first three weeks before going back to our current design.”
Looking ahead to next year’s season, Dylan and Nolan said they felt a new sense of preparation and excitement for what was to come.
“I have some pretty big goals,” Dylan said.
“I just looked at other teams and tried to understand their robots. Then I also looked at previous competitions and looked at these types of robots to see how you would build a robot to do this kind of competition. And I expect next year we can build more cool robot, more competitive robot is better, especially with the knowledge we got this year on how to build robot.
“There are a bunch of things this year that, being our first year, we didn’t even know existed or didn’t even know there was potential to do. But next year we know we can move on to more difficult things like that,” added Nolan.
Emily Locke said she appreciates that the organization emphasizes collaboration between teams, so that children succeed.
“It’s just, to me, an amazing part of FIRST is that it focuses as much on education and cooperation as it does on the competition itself. So it’s a big, big organization to be part of.
The North Phoenix families founded the RoBeagles in 2021 as FIRST Team 8745 for their children, passionate about STEM and the opportunities and experiences the organization provides.
Emily Locke, the team’s lead mentor, said the RoBeagles learn skills such as JAVA programming, mechanical engineering, marketing, business development, web design and management skills during the season.
“I think it’s been amazing,” Locke said.
“I mean, the way FIRST runs the programs is really like running a small business. The kids created the logo, did all the branding themselves, they created a team website, some of them are involved in the finances of the team, they did community outreach and more of all the engineering programming skills they’ve learned, so it’s really a well-rounded program that prepares them for all aspects of life after high school, not just engineering.
The RoBeagles also fundraised for the team, visiting numerous companies for sponsorships and writing grants to various organizations.