Robotics Team Advances to State Competition" />
The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Robotics Team Advances to State Competition

As Larry Gewax, Vice-president of the Board of Boosting Engineering Science and Technology (BEST), announced the 14 teams that would proceed from the regional competition to the state championship, senior co-presidents of Hockaday Junior Engineering Technical Society Mackenzie and Megan held their breath and waited for “Hockaday” to be called.

And, for the first time since 2009, JETS was announced as a state robotic team. Just six weeks ago, Mackenzie had debated how to tweak the 14.6 lb robot so that it would be capable of lifting five more pounds of weight up a pole.

During the six-week preparation period before the Regional Texas Boosting Engineering Science and Technology Competition, Mackenzie and her teammates pondered such dilemmas.

Their efforts paid off at the Oct. 26-27 competition. The team won second place and advanced to the Texas State BEST Competition which was held at a Garland Convention Center on Nov. 10.

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This year’s theme, Warp XX, challenged Texas high schoolers to defy gravity. Rather than simply navigating flat surfaces, robots were expected to transport objects such as one liter bottles and whiffle balls up and down a 10-foot pole.

Mackenzie said that adapting to Texas-size competition while balancing other school work as a major challenge for the team.

“The level of the competition is very high,” she said. “People are really good at what they do. Some have a lot more time than we do.

The robotics team also faced the challenge of choosing the “right strategy,” Megan said. The team had to frequently figure out the most feasible strategy to carry out through the project among many different choices of approaches.

In addition to facing intellectual challenges, the team spent time bonding and celebrating successes along the way. Team dinners, according to Megan, gave the team opportunities to learn about each other outside the lab.

Mackenzie said she enjoyed having more influence over the design and building process this year as a leader of the team.

“In the past, I have been more like an onlooker,” she said. “This year I have a lot to say. Running the whole thing has been very difficult but fun at the same time.”

In addition to designing, constructing and attempting to perfect their robot, the team compiled a project engineering notebook to explain their design process and constructed a booth to share their work with the judges and other students at the competition.

Leon de Oliveira, Upper School Science Teacher and JETS sponsor, said that every step, including the design, documentation and the fabrication of the robot, was the students’ work.

“I am their adviser and resource to ask about how to figure out how to design something and teach them some more physics they already know,” de Oliveira said.

De Oliveira pointed out that The Upper School robotics experience helps everyone find a place and enjoy working with a team.

The team’s qualification for the state competition this year encouraged Mackenzie to continue pursuing robotics. Mackenzie said that robotics has allowed her to experiment with her passion for engineering, which she plans to study in college.

“I’m interested in doing mechanical engineering or something engineering in college,” she said. “JETS is real world application of engineering; it allowed me to see what engineers do.”

Megan added that robotics also prepares students to pursue fields other than engineering by allowing them to practice the fundamental skills required in various careers. Megan commented that in both engineering and medicine, one needs a problem solving mindset.

As her time on the robotics team comes to an end, Mackenzie said she hopes that the team can become increasingly more innovative in future years.

“In the past we have designed robots that are quite basic,” she said. “I’d like to see something more out of the box in the future.”

-Cassie

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